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Server Hardware Requirements

Windows Server 2008 requires a minimum hardware configuration to run. As with all software—particularly network operating systems—the more you exceed the minimum requirements in areas such as RAM, processor speed (even number of processors), and hard drive space, the faster the server supplies services to network users and the greater the number of roles one server can fill on the network. (For example, a server could be a domain controller and could provide the DNS and DHCP services.)

Windows Server 2008 throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the hardware requirement discussion because it provides a “low rent” core installation, which doesn’t require the same hardware muscle as a typical server installation. Windows Server 2008 also provides network administrators with the option of deploying virtual servers that run in addition to the Windows Server 2008 NOS already installed on a server, and you will definitely need more hardware muscle (meaning exceeding the minimum hardware requirements quite a bit) on any server you will run that uses the Windows Server 2008 virtualization feature.

Microsoft’s minimum hardware requirements for a Windows Server 2008 installation are listed here:

You can see that the minimum hardware requirements for Wndows Server 2008 are considerably more than previous versions of the Microsoft NOS. (Windows Server 2003 minimum requirements needed only 128MB of RAM and a 133MHz processor.) Microsoft also provides a suggested list of hardware requirements:

  • CPU speed: 2GHz or faster

  • RAM: 2GB or greater

  • Disk space: 40GB or greater

A server core installation, which is a stripped-down version of Windows Server 2008, requires at least 512MB of RAM. But because it is designed to provide services such as DHCP with lower overhead, you don’t need as much hard drive space and can get by with a minimum of 8GB. Windows Server 2008 core basically allows you to still get some mileage out of your older server hardware in cases where you want to move services off your “newer” servers, particularly those that would typically have to serve multiple roles such as domain controller, DHCP, and DNS server.

If you are going to run Microsoft’s virtualization product, Windows Server Virtualization, your hardware requirements are even greater. You definitely need an x64-based processor, hardware-assisted virtualization (AMD-V or Intel VT), and hardware data execution protection.

Not only must you meet the minimum hardware requirements to successfully install and run Windows Server 2008, but you also must have a server that provides hardware that is proven to be compatible with the network operating system. If you intend to use the server in a true production environment where you must supply mission-critical services to network users, your server hardware must come right off the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hardware Compatibility List. A copy of the list is available at http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/winlogo/HWrequirements.mspx and you can also locate the list via the Microsoft Windows 2008 Server home page at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/default.mspx.

By the Way

It makes sense (considering that hardware costs are relatively reasonable at this time) to go with at least a 2GHz processor (I’m talking an x64 processor and multiple processors if your budget allows) and plenty of RAM and disk space. Consider going with a SCSI drive array with at least three 100GB drives, particularly if you are going to use RAID fault tolerance on the server and you want to run virtual servers (Microsoft or Linux). Remember that any server hardware configuration must address the capacity that will be required by the services you run on the server and any server-side applications that you will deploy, such as Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft Exchange Server.

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