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Workstations vs. Desktops

written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 8/11/2010

The lines between workstations and desktops have become blurred as more and more desktop users are looking for high end performance along with the cost they typically find for a desktop. Here are some differences and comparisons.

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    Workstations and Desktops

    Just based on aesthetics and overall looks, workstations and desktops seem pretty similar. They look just about the same and with more and more people going with desktops for home life or home business, a person may ask what exactly is the difference between them. Workstation vs. desktop differences and comparisons can be split into several different categories, such as performance, cost, appeal, and where you would find one or the other.

    Let's talk about desktops first. pc 


    Obviously, desktops are just about everywhere and with prices falling to manageable buys, most people will have one. Desktops are usually bigger than laptops and are stationary, usually sitting on or under a desk. There are a couple of things that make a desktop optimal - cost, image, and security.

    • Cost: As mentioned, the cost for a desktop has come down dramatically in the last few years. The average cost now for a medium range desktop is about $500, either going lower or higher depending on what a user is looking for.
    • Image: The image of the desktop is probably mostly tied to that of the work place, as most businesses employ the use of desktops for their users. Since the introduction of the home computer, that image has encompassed both the business realm and that of the home buyer as well.
    • Security: The number one thing a user needs to be concerned about is security for their computer. This means making sure that important files are corrupted or destroyed by a rogue virus or by a hard drive crash.
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    Workstations are usually optimized for a few and different features than a desktop. These include performance, specialized applications, and the ability to expand.

    • Performance: Workstations will usually have high end components that ensure a higher realm of performance. This is usually found in the CPU, the Graphics, and the Input/Output.
    • Specialized applications: These are usually applications geared for a certain speciality that consumers would rely on, like an application for an engineering program or one that a hospital uses.
    • Ability to Expand: This allows for more things to be added to a workstation, like hard drives or another CPU
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    Which Should I Buy?

    Probably in the most simplest of terms - desktops are primarily for home or business use, while workstations are for business use. The two do have similarities - both come in a variety of sizes, along with a variety of components, however trying to decided between one or the other should be a simple choice, depending on your needs.


    • Flexible, allowing to meet a number of needs for a user
    • Cheaper, as cost for these have gone down
    • Great for home, home offices, small and large businesses
    • Has a lifecycle of about two-three years (though often, then depends on manufacturer, type, condition, etc)


    • Performance, able to support up to 8 CPUs and high powered graphics
    • Several addition slots for peripheral components (video cards, USBs, printers)
    • Specialized for certain careers and programs (engineering, medical research)

    Looking at what you need out of a computer will narrow down the choice for you. If you're just looking for something to replace a current computer, a desktop is likely going to be your purchase choice. However, if you use your computer for fast calculating programs, such as those for CAD or medical research, a workstation may be something to look into.

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