A thin client is a device that does not have a disk drive. They can range from “stateless” (which means that they act as only a keyboard, mouse, and display with all the graphics, processing and data input being controlled on a main server), to diskless (meaning processing is performed on the thin client).
With thin clients, applications reside on a central server. This makes it a snap to upgrade or to deploy those applications on a massive scale.


Desktop PC vs. Thin Client

Besides the security benefits of thin client computing there are also several benefits to using thin clients over using standard desktop workstations.

Thin Client PCs
Software updates and maintenance Centrally administered Must be maintained on each desktop
Useful life Over 5 years Approximately 3 years
Reliability No moving parts to fail. Disk drives, CDROM, fans, etc. will eventually fail.
Network bandwidth utilization Low – 1/10th normal ‘Fat Client’ utilization. Highly predictable. Highly variable / difficult to predict. 10 times more bandwidth required than for Thin Client.
Target users Task-based workers, point of service, knowledge workers, public terminals, factory floor Power users, information creators, traveling users, technical and graphical workers
Purchase price Uses machines that would otherwise be recycled. PCs generally over $600 each
Electricity usage Without hard drives, uses less power.
(Every little bit helps!)


  • The central server has the responsibility to do most or all of the processing. Therefore resources such as CPU power and memory size must be concentrated on the server.
  • If the server goes down or is compromised then all users will be affected.
  • Streaming video is currently not supported. The audio and video streams are not syncronized.
  • Limitations for multimedia applications.

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