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Windows Server 2003 (codenamed Whistler Server) is an operating system released in 2003 by Microsoft Corporation. It is the successor to Windows 2000 Server and is the predecessor to Windows Server 2008. It came in four main editions: Standard, Enterprise, Web, and Datacenter, and was available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Additional versions would later be released, such as Small Business Server, Storage Server, Home Server, Server for Embedded Systems, Custom Appliance Edition and Compute Cluster Server Edition. Windows XP x64 Edition also used the same codebase as Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2003 was replaced with Windows Server 2003 R2 on December 6, 2005. The kernel of Windows Server 2003 would later form the basis of Windows Vista.

An early build of Whistler Server, Build 2462 to be precise, was compiled for the Intel Itanium, and released as Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition. Because this release displayed Windows 2000, it was for years thought to be version of that operating system; however, it was in fact common for Whistler Server builds to display the Windows 2000 logo. A later version, Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition 1.2 was released with support for the Intel Itanium 2. Windows Server 2003 would later on ship with full support for the Intel Itanium in its Enterprise and Datacenter editions.


Windows Server 2003 retains some similarities to previous versions, although its interface was overhauled with a new visual appearance, with an increased use of alpha compositing effects, drop shadows, and "visual styles", which completely change the appearance of the operating system. The amount of effects enable are determined by the OS based on the computer's processing power. ClearType, a new font rendering system designed to improve the appearance of fonts on LCD screens, was introduced. A new set of system icons were also introduced.

The Start menu got the major overhaul that Windows XP had, switching to a two-column layout with the ability to pin, list, and display frequently used applications, recently opened documents, and the traditional cascading "All Programs" menu. The taskbar can now group windows opened by a single application into one taskbar button, with a pop-up menu listing the individual windows. The notification area also hides "inactive" icons by default. The taskbar can also be "locked" to prevent accidental moving or other changes. Windows Explorer's sidebar was also updated to use a new task-based design with a list of common actions. Fast user switching allows additional users to login to a Windows Server 2003 machine without existing users having to close their programs and logging out.

Windows Server 2003 was the first server version of Windows to introduce Windows Product Activation, which requires that each Windows license be "activated" and tied to a unique ID generated using information from the computer hardware; however, like Windows XP, Volume Licensing meant that versions of Windows Server 2003 could be supplied with product keys that had no need for external activation with a remote server. Numerous improvements were also made to system administration tools such as Group Policy, Windows Installer (an installer API), Disk Defragmenter (a defragmentation tool), Task Manager, NTBackup (a backup software application), and improvements to the Windows Registry.

Windows Server 2003 was originally bundled with Internet Explorer 6 (a web browser), Outlook Express 6 (an email and news client), Windows Messenger (an instant messaging client), and MSN Explorer (an Internet suite). Other features included DirectX 8.1 (upgradeable to DirectX 9.0c) and faster start-up.