I was thinking of running maybe Windows Server 2008 or Windows Home Server on my home computer. But before I did the formatting etc, I would like to know if this is even possible. And I am then thinking driver wise. I have for example an ASUS motherboard with built-in network, wlan and audio, and an NVIDIA graphics card. But on the ASUS website there is not listed any drivers for these OSs. Only XP and Vista, etc.

Do you need special hardware to run these server OSs? Or can you use the Vista or XP drivers?

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  • Great discussion...I came with the same initial question. I am a student and have never even seen Server 2008. HP has a 'Mini Server' for $400 or a real server starting at $2900...I'll just get a copy of Server 2008 and see if my Dell 5150 can handle it Thanks Troy – user171911 May 1 '13 at 0:14
  • Here is an official free 180 day trial of Server 2008 R2, and it will install in the free VirtualBox so you don't need to wipe your PC to try it. – TessellatingHeckler May 1 '13 at 0:24

This is the best site I've seen with comprehensive information on running Windows Server 2008 as though it were a client OS:


Your Vista drivers should all work on Windows Server 2008, as it uses the same OS build.

As to the question of "why?", the answer is: often times you will need to run or test things which absolutely require Windows Server (f.e., SharePoint).

  • 1
    I agree with Brad...and if you can run 64-bit so you can use Hyper-V that way you can have a virtual test lab on your machine. – Michael Brown Apr 30 '09 at 17:46

It's certainly possible.

As an example of how far you can take this, a friend of mine is running Windows Server 2008 on his Samsung NC10 netbook, along with Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

I suspect you'll get at least "generic" driver support for most hardware, but you may well not get the best performance out of your graphics card etc.

  • impressive! VS on a netbook... how is that to work with? I can't imagine programming on this small screen :P I feel cramped on my desktop computer with 2x 1920x1200 screens... hehe – Svish Apr 30 '09 at 17:19
  • Oh I've got Visual Studio on mine too. And Eclipse. They're not too bad - I wouldn't want to do serious amounts of coding on them, but they're fine for short periods. – Jon Skeet Apr 30 '09 at 21:00

I've run server versions of Microsoft operating systems for years, starting with Windows 2000 Server. My workstation's running Server 2008. I've seen no issues.

Back in the bad old days, you were meant to have special, qualified hardware to run "server" OSs. I remember jumping through some hoops to get NT 3.51 running in an office full of Windows 3.1. Nowadays, there's not much difference between the server and "Professional/Business" editions of Windows. Vista and Server 2008 use the same kernel, for instance.

As far as performance, I think turning off Aero, if you're so inclined, will make more of a difference than Vista vs. Server 2008.

(Raymond Chen has a perverse story about running Windows Server Datacenter Edition on a Barbie PC. The links I find are broken, but Google's cache has it.)

  • Datacenter on Barbie PC... hehe. Nice :p Thanks for the advice anyways. I think I might end up skipping both Vista and Server 2008 and just try out Windows 7 RC... Just have to find some energy to sit down and mess up my computer again :p – Svish May 13 '09 at 8:52
  • the story is here: technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/… – Colin Pickard Jun 3 '10 at 15:24

As long as you have the drivers for the hardware, there's no reason why Server products wouldn't work on normal desktop hardware.

Most likely you have already mentioned the issues that you will run into (OS-specific driver needed that the manufacturer doesn't offer). Sometimes the XP/Vista drivers will work with the Server products, but YMMV.

  • YMMV = Your Milage May Vary... Should learn that one soon... ServerFault and StackOverflow should have some sort of automatic <abbr> tag thing... – Svish Apr 30 '09 at 17:02

You should not run Windows Home Server on your home desktop.

Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008 are fine, though. WinSrv2008 uses the same drivers as Windows Vista, so you should be okay on that front.

  • ah, cool. Why not Windows Home Server? – Svish Apr 30 '09 at 17:03
  • Short answer is that WHS was essentially built for OEMs. The OS is intentionally 'crippled' to prevent it from being a general purpose operating system. – Portman Apr 30 '09 at 17:08
  • Additional WHS is focussed towards headless implementations and therefore is geared towards remote management. It can run most applications fine however in essence is just an overhauled and crippled Windows Server 2003 R2 machine. – BinaryMisfit May 12 '09 at 19:35

It is possible but there are things that you can't make run on Windows Server like Media Center. Also make sure that audio configuration for server machine is different than on client machine - set the following:

Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Multimedia\SystemProfile]

Also be careful that some tools like Acronis True Image Home are meant to be used at home. What they mean by that is - client Windows OS. You will not be able to install such a tool on Windows Server. :-(

  • what do you mean by the different audio configuration stuff? Good to know about that acronis stuff though! Cause I was actually thinking of buying that. – Svish Apr 30 '09 at 17:04

You probably can, at least I've seen it done for Server 08, but why would you when applications, drivers, and user experiences are optimized for client operating systems?

  • Experimentation, etc. – Svish Apr 30 '09 at 17:05
  • I ran Server 2008 for a while on a laptop and found it to be much less bloated than Vista after some of the tweaks from win2008workstation.com to make it more client-esque. If nothing else, you only install the junk that you want (e.g., visual tweaks are add-ons within a server OS). – patridge Jun 26 '09 at 17:59

I've typically run a server OS on my laptops. Some software does a check and won't install unless it sees a server build (one of the SharePoint versions strikes me as one of the more recent exceptions). The only issues I've seen are for things like DVD playback and the Zune.

It really depends on what your primary purpose is. But as indicated, drivers may indeed be an issue. In most cases the generic drivers work fine, but you won't get the advanced performance. If you're into media and graphics intensive games, it's probably not a good fit. If you're looking for more of a development platform, it'll probably work for you.

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