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Server Hardware Requirements

Windows Server 2003 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, 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.)

Microsoft's suggested minimum hardware requirements (and some Microsoft recommendations) for Windows Server 2003 (Standard) are listed here:

  • CPU speed: 133MHz (550MHz recommended)

  • RAM: 128MB (256MB recommended; 4GB maximum on Standard Server)

  • Disk space for setup: 1.5GB

  • CD-ROM drive: 12X

  • Monitor: Super VGA capable of providing 800 x 600 resolution

Not only must you meet the minimum hardware requirements to successfully install and run Windows Server 2003, but you also must have a server that provides hardware that is proven to be compatible with the network operating system. If you will 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 2003 Hardware Compatibility List. A copy of the list is available at http://www.microsoft.com/hwdq/hcl/scnet.asp.


In my humble opinion, a good middle-of-the-road but somewhat "beefy" hardware configuration for a computer running Windows Server 2003 is a processor in excess of 900MHz, with 512MB of RAM and a SCSI drive array with at least three 20GB drives. Any server hardware configuration must address the capacity that will be required by the services that 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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