Domain Controller Vs Member Server Vs Client

While taking many interviews I identified that many interviewees are not sure about the basic difference between Domain Controller Vs Member Server and Client. This is the very basic question which I normally ask in all the interviews that I take. It helps me understand about the level of interviewee. Therefore we decides to write this article which will list the basic difference between Domain Controller Vs Member Server Vs Client machines.

Domain Controller Vs Member Server Vs Client

To understand the difference between Domain Controller Vs Member Server Vs Client, it is crucial that we understand the difference between Server Operating System and Client Operating System.

Some of the example of Server Operating systems are like Windows Server 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2012 (R2) and Windows Server 2016. Alternatively, client Operating System is Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8 (8.1), Windows 10.

Normally we install Client Operating system on our Desktops and Laptops but we don’t install Client Operating systems on Servers. Make sure your understanding about these Operating systems is clear.

Domain Controller

Please take a note, only Server OS can be promoted as a Domain Controller i.e. any Server with Server edition of OS e.g. Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012 (R2), Windows Server 2016 can be promoted as a Domain Controller and not the client Operating system.

Domain Controllers are commonly known as DC. Server cannot be labeled as DC by just installing Server OS. We need to run certain steps to promote a DC or ADC. A Domain cannot be created without a DC. Therefore we can say that every domain has at least one domain controller. As per the definition, domain is a logical security boundary of computers.

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DC stores all the information and objects of a domain. It also performs, various operations to manage domain and domain members. Domain Controller is used for centralized management of your domain and it’s resources, it is a repository for all the objects that you create in your Domain. All security policies and account logons are processed by the domain controller. It also provides authentication.

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In other words, we can say that Domain Controller is like a Manager who manages the entire department. Whereas, Domain can be denoted as a department.

Member Server

A member server is a computer in a domain which has Windows Server edition of operating system deployed but it is not a Domain Controller. Normally in any organization we don’t use DCs to deploy all the roles and services e.g. DHCP, application server, file and print server, Citrix Application Virtualization, Citrix Desktop Virtualization, DNS, etc.

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Therefore Member servers are required to deploy all these roles or applications. Domain users can login on member servers whereas no domain user are allowed to login on a domain controller without domain administrative rights or delegated permissions.

Please take a note that Domain Controllers can be promoted to ADC. The way I used to remember it, Member Servers are more like the team leads in our environment, who can be promoted as an ADC.

Client Machines

Clients machines are desktops or laptops in a domain, which are used by end users and have client Operating system deployed on them. Client machines will always have client edition of operating system like Microsoft Window 7, Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.

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End users use client computers for accessing resources and data from a server. Servers are powerful computers which manage all resources whereas client computers or workstations are used to access resources managed by servers.

The way I used to remember this, Client machines are more like the team members in our environment. They are using services hosted on Members Servers and get authenticated from Domain Controllers.


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2 thoughts on “Domain Controller Vs Member Server Vs Client

  • Day in day out we have been using these words but not aware about the exact difference between Domain Controller, Member Server and Client. Thanks to this wonderful article, it helped me clear the doubt and concept is clear now.

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