Difference Between Workstation and Server

Workstation vs Server

In IT, server and workstation are quite commonly used terms. Both are high performance computers but are used for different purposes.       


A server is a hardware system or an application that performs defined services to another set of computers connected to it. In the client-server architecture, a server is a computer that awaits and fulfills requests from clients (or other computers connected to the network). Since servers are essential to provide many network services, it is one of the primary components of a computer network. However, in the IT field, the term server has a broader sense, where it represents any computing application (Hardware/ Software) that acts to fulfill requests from client computers. Therefore, there are computers specifically designed for server purposes.

Servers provide essential services across a network. These are services requested by either private users inside a large organization or public users via the Internet. Typical network server examples are database server, file server, print server, mail server, gaming server, web server and application server.

As indicated above, a server can be either hardware or software. A software server, such as Apache HTTP servers, can be installed on any computer; therefore, allowing any computer to act as a server. In contrast, a hardware server has specific features built into perform the specified tasks optimally. For example, a server at a data center is configured to have a higher processing power, higher network speeds, and larger memory capabilities, whereas a mail server might use lower memory capabilities.

In the IT field, a specific hardware configuration is referred to as a server; it is basically a computer without a monitor, keyboard and mouse. But processors, memory and other components are included. Such a server can be mounted on a server rack. Each server on the rack is connected to a KMV switch (Keyboard- Mouse-Video Switch) which connects them to a single keyboard mouse and switch. Through the KMV switch, each server can be accessed independently from another. This configuration is used to save storage space, lowering costs, and ease of maintenance.

Software has to be specifically designed for a server, based on its intended purpose. A server often needs an operating system designed for server-client architecture. Windows and many Linux distributions are offering server editions in their operating system versions. However, for database servers, mail servers etc. another server application must be used in parallel to the operating system.


Workstations are computers built for industry standard computing functions. They are very different from the ordinary personal computers. Workstations have additional hardware and software installed on them, to obtain very high performance. Workstations are used by programmers, graphic artists, game programmers and designers, scientists, and many others who require high-end computing capabilities to achieve results.

A workstation configurations may vary based on the task for which it is used. However, in general, they have more processing power and memory and storage capability. A workstation designed for graphics and gaming purposes might carry very high performance video adapters/ accelerators.

Workstations are often related to industries and software used by the industries. Sometimes the hardware is designed to work in cooperation with the software. Especially, graphics cards are recommended by the software manufacturers, to give the optimal performance. In some cases, operating systems are based on the hardware system. A multicore system with hyper threading will require a suitable operating system, which can employ these capabilities.

In some cases, a workstation might act as a server. For example, a workstation in a graphics department is usually configured as the printing server for the department.

What is the difference between a Server and a Workstation?

• A server is hardware/software used to fulfill requests from other computers connected to it.

• Workstation is a computer with higher performance used for a specific task; often the hardware and software on a workstation is designed to deliver the best performance in a single type of task.

• Server is a central component of a networking system, where it satisfies services requests inside the network.

• Workstations can be either connected to the network or standalone systems.

• Workstations have individual input / output devices such as keyboards, mouse and video interface, whereas servers are not required to have individual IO devices. Input/ Output devices are connected to many servers through a KMV switch in a server rack.

• Workstations have GUI’s, if not the workstation is used for some specific scientific purposes involving a OS designed with a CLI, but servers are not required to have GUI’s.


Read more:

1. Difference Between Desktop and Workstation

2. Difference Between Client Server and Peer to Peer

3. Difference Between GUI and Command Line