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What is the difference between WorkStation and PC

I noticed laptrops and desktops being advertized as Work Stations.

When does a computer become a work station? Is it when the OS is 64 bit?

Tasha M
Thursday, August 14, 2003

Canonical joke required.  Ponder this parable:

A bus station is where a bus stops.
A train station is where a train stops.
So what happens at a work station?

Thursday, August 14, 2003

In the old times, the PC was a low power computer, and the workstation was a very powerful computer (but not as powerful as a mainframe or a supercomputer) used for special tasks such as engineering, CAD, etc, for which the PC didn't have enough horsepower.

Workstations used high power RISC CPUs which were not compatible with the Intel x86 CPUs used in PCs.

Now the PC CPUs evolved so much that there is little difference in power between a PC and a workstation.

Nowadays, for me, "workstation" means just a high-powered PC.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

A PC is a workstation when somebody decides to call it one.

If you consider that your average SGI Indigo2 or Indy workstation from days gone by is outclassed in every category by most modern laptops and desktops, it's pretty much whatever you chose to call it.

Generally, the implied differentiation is that a "Workstation" has the muscle to run a relatively current version of 3DS Max, ProE, AutoCAD, or other apps like that. 

Flamebait Sr.
Thursday, August 14, 2003

The difference between PC and Workstation is, oh, about $300.


For the most part it's a marketing term. When they sell to a company, they sell the same thing for a higher price than if they sold to a home user. Of course, all Unix non-servers are called workstations in order to justify the higher prices.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Well, ever since NT4.0 came out in Workstation and Server flavors, I generally have thought of workstation as anything that is not a server, usually used daily by one person.

After all there really aren't that many of those high end thingies that run..uh.. what's it called..oh yeah.. Unix around anymore. :)

Thursday, August 14, 2003



Today, they are about the same in "what does it mean to a developer."  Although, Sun tends to call their smaller machines workstations because they are a mini-version of their servers.  Much like SGI was in its better years. 

Thursday, August 14, 2003

I'll offer that these criteria generally make a PC into a workstation:
1) dual (or more) head
3) Dual (or more) processor
4) Running a server OS (Win2k Server, Linux, SunOS, etc)

These criteria generally make a PC a PC:
1) Single IDE drive (often with a single volume)
2) Celeron processor
3) 17" (or smaller!) monitor
4) Any manager with no IT background calls it a "workstation"

Half tongue in cheek, half serious. Probably the best modern guideline is what applications are run - email/web/powerpoint machines are PC's; code development tools (esp. vi/emacs or Ultraedit/TextPad!) are generally run on workstations.

And of course, the Golden Rule: what does the guy writing the check to buy it want it called?


Thursday, August 14, 2003

A workstation is a PC built right?

Workstations mostly differentiated themselves from desktops for a long time by being optimized for high throughput and serious processing loads.  Desktops are primarily optimized for "cheap".

Some modern examples:
PCI vs ISA (in the olden days),
Infiniband & PCI/X vs PCI,
multi-processor vs single processor,

Back to my original comment, my refurbished HP Kayak Workstation is a great PC.  Built like a tank, lots of power, fans all over the place (but temperature controlled), etc.  A nice machine.

Derek Woolverton
Friday, August 15, 2003

If it belongs to you, it's a Personal Computer.

If it belongs to the company, it's a Workstation.


Friday, August 15, 2003

Originally it was simple.

A workstation belongs to the company.

A personal computer belongs to the person.

Workstations tended to be much more powerful, because people who had them really needed them and people who didn't didn't have a computer at all... they had a terminal. So workstations were the high powered things running UNIX and the Star Office System and Domain OS and VMS that only companies could afford. Personal computers were bitty boxes at home or, as the '70s drew to a close and the '80s came in, small businesses who thought (sometimes correctly, more often incorrectly) that terminals and a mini or supermicro timeshared system were more expensive than a bunch of PCs.

So, Workstation came to mean "computer with expensive graphics and lots of local CPU and disk". These days, that's a game machine.

So... now the workstation is less powerful than most people's PCs, because there's not much even traditionally graphics-oriented jobs need that games don't need more of, and the workstations (in the original sense, a business computer that was more powerful than a terminal) are mostly cheap PCs.

Peter da Silva
Friday, August 15, 2003

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