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Is it possible to connect 20 thin clients to a modern desktop pc(core i7) and 4CB of ram? Does this pc able to run those clients?-These clients will not run all day and the main application they would run is a simple web application(Online exam)

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yes, if everything is well tuned absolutely yes.

Consider that some years ago we were using servers that were much less powerful then your Desktop. Just keep in mind the availability of the Desktop PC.

An hardware crash can compromise for several hours/days your application, in fact the main difference between a Desktop and a Server is in the redundancy of the hardware itself, like raid, double power supplies and the mother board is made to support some minor hardware failures (in some cases even critical failures).

At least consider to buy a UPS and if you have room to spend around $150 (even much less if second hand), you can install a SATA RAID controller and install an additional disk to setup at least a simple mirror. If you don't have budget just perform often a backup

If high availability it's not a big issue for you, yes, you can and I'd advice a GNU/Linux for obvious performance, stability and educational purpose (easier to learn low level concepts). A GNU/Linux will also preserver more your hardware as the graphical interface is not needed to run the server (you can use it to configure and then exit the X session if you like)

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Do you mean this question came up in an online exam and you are trying to get us to answer it - or that you're trying to build a platform to support computer based exams?

The hardware has little to do with it. What is important is the OS, the provisioning on the clients (some thin clients do not have browsers and would rely on a remote display mechanism), and the concurrent usage. You've provided none of these. An awful lot depends on the nature of the application too. It's a very poor question.

I've seen servers with less than 1% of the CPU and memory supporting hundreds of concurrent users. OTOH, I've seen applications where that spec would be sluggish supporting a single user.

Note that the skills of those implementing the system are as important as the complexity of the task in determining provisioning.

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Keep in mind, if you run a non-server version of Windows, you will be limited. XP Pro's limit was 10 inbound connections and Win7 has a max of 20.

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If you have these PCs/thin clients already hooked up, you can test the setup

download Knoppix CD - live Linux distribution (runs form CD you don't need to install anything).

Boot the Desktop from that CD and start Terminal Server (there is an item in the main menu)

Then boot the Thin cliends (PXE boot) and see the performance

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