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Am I correct that Ubuntu desktop and server are the same os but that desktop runs X and lacks things that a server might have like dhcp server, mysqld, apache, etc.? And that if I add those items it would in fact be a server with X instead of just the command line that is given with the server?

Thank you.

EDIT: Is this pretty much the same with all linux distros? I like Fedora, but I only saw Fedora Desktop. I can update it to become server, right?

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13 Answers 13

up vote 17 down vote accepted

The differences are just in what's bundled as a default packaging to make things easier. In reality the difference between a server and workstation are just the purpose they're used for; Linux is Linux in either case (indeed Windows NT variants were largely just differences in packaged tools/dll's and some registry hacks to enforce licensing differences for how much you paid for your license...the kernel was the same and the base OS was the same).

In other words, Ubuntu Server and Ubuntu Desktop are two sides to the same coin. Server was just meant to run by default with some packages to make it easier to set up a LAMP server or file server by default while desktop looks nicer and has office tools/GUI/etc. for desktop users.

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As everyone stated, you just need to apt-get the correct packages to make your Ubuntu Desktop "become" an Ubuntu Server.

However, there are differences in the installation process when you opt for the Server edition. For instance it allows you to install Ubuntu on a LVM volume, which the Desktop CD doesn't support.

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the alternate cds for the desktop install support setting up lvm and other things. – Zoredache Aug 14 '09 at 18:42
looks like ubuntu desktop 11.10 does support LVM – Boinst Feb 3 '12 at 1:43

That's correct. The default install of a desktop installs the ubuntu-desktop meta-package, which pulls in the normal GUI interface stuff. It also includes metapackages ubuntu-minimal and ubuntu-standard, which together comprise the basic Linux utilities.

Play around with the program tasksel if you would like to deal with server stuff; also note that Ubuntu has a separate server install CD if you wish to use that.

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Correct... Its basically a package thing.

I know of several folks who install SERVER version then add on the desktop GUI for ease of use.

Play around with it... have fun. :-)

Note: I'm not recommending one way or another. I personally like my servers to run with as little as possible. Less moving parts usually means less that can break.

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Even if you are using Ubuntu desktop 86_64X you can convert this into a sever by installing

sudo apt-get install tasksel

You can see here the basic Ubuntu server is disabled or not installed. You can install it by pressing the spacebar and hit enter.

If you want to add more just issue the command tasksel

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For Ubuntu, yes. the difference is only the default packages.

for Fedora... is there a 'Fedora server'? RHEL is a different thing, only remotely related to Fedora.

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There is no official server spin of Fedora, though you can just strip the desktop out and add the server packages. If you're looking for a free RHEL decedent to run a server on, check out CentOS. – MDMarra Aug 14 '09 at 23:36

dmityugov is correct, but further to that, the kernels have different compile time options for things like raid, ethernet bridging, routing, etc...

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You can use tasksel for something like that.

apt-get install tasksel
apt-get install `tasksel --task-packages server | xargs`

That will install all the needed packages for the given task.

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Yes, you can basically install all the different software that you want (eg apache, mysql, etc)

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Yes Ubuntu desktop can become server by installing following packages

LAMP server (Linux, Apache2, MySQL, PHP), Mail server & OpenSSH server

Execute this command in terminal to install above packages (don't forget ^) :

sudo apt-get install lamp-server^ mail-server^ openssh-server^
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Yes, you are correct to say that basically they are both the same. However, I can mention at least 2 reasons why people create desktop and server version of an OS:

  1. Security: Server versions are designed out of the box to be more secure than desktop. Unnecessary services will not be available and users have final decision of what will be installed there. So they (should) know the potential vulnerabilities their server have.
  2. Performance: Not just because unnecessary services are not installed, but because the build will be optimized for performance. For example the kernel might be compiled with different option compared to desktop versions.

To take an extreme example, I don't think people will want to run a production web site on Windows 7 instead of Windows Server 2008 even though it's capable of doing that. But with Windows, I can see that there's monetary incentive to do that. Windows 7 is less expensive compared to Windows Server 2008. With Linux, I believe using server version is a lot easier rather than using desktop version and then optimizing it to match a server version.

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Ubuntu or any Linux OS is basically built with group of packages. The desktop version have packages more suitable to desktop users where as server installation have packages for server users. Now the question is if someone has installed Desktop then by installing which packages the system can also work as server. so request all experts to provide one by one apt-get commands to convert desktop into server by installing various packages.

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No, they are different. They use different kernels. Currently, the "desktop" version uses linux-image-2.6.28-11-generic kernel, whereas the "server" version uses linux-image-2.6.28-11-server kernel.

In particular, they access memory above 4 GB differently

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This is a none-issue as one can simply install linux-image-server and it will pull the same kernel package that the server version will install by default. It's just that the desktop version of ubuntu installs linux-image-generic by default which doesn't see 4GB of memory however linux-image-generic-pae which is what linux-image-server pulls in supports PAE extensions. On a 64-bit install the PAE extension isn't required so linux-image-server would depend on a different kernel package. They're all from the same repository. Nothing special. – Jeremy Bouse May 17 '11 at 21:39
Note to anyone visiting this page: this answer is wrong. Firstly, it's easy to change kernels. Secondly, there are no longer separate kernels for server: linux-image-server is now just an alias for the generic kernel. – thomasrutter Dec 10 '12 at 2:44
@thomasrutter: At the time of writing, this answer was correct. Morever, there are some of us still running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (supported until 2015) where there are desktop & server versions of the kernel with tuning differences in interrupt handling and process fairness. See for example: – khedron Jan 30 '13 at 18:50
No even at 10.04 this wasn't correct - it has always been easy to change kernels. – thomasrutter Jan 31 '13 at 0:35

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