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Using Windows Server 2003 in 2020

Oct. 4, 2020 - While to most IT professions the idea of running Server 2003 this year sounds like a bigger nightmare than a global pandemic, there are a select few of us out there who can still find use in this obsolete operating system. Windows Server 2003 went into it’s End of Life stage in July of 2015 (about a year after Windows XP officially did). As a result, Microsoft cut off fixes, patches, updates and technical support. This of course leaves users open to a number of catastrophic cybersecurity risks..

Now while for big companies this was/is a major problem, for the average joe or jane who enjoys experimenting with older computer software it is, in my opinion, ‘no biggie’. Here in the UK, one of our major retailer’s Tesco still use Windows XP for their checkouts! In two-thousand-and-twenty! Yet I can still purchase a lovely £1 frozen kebab at 1AM.

Jokes aside – I’m running a couple of Server 2003 instances at home to accompany my old computers. Why? First of all Server 2019 doesn’t play very nicely with operating systems like XP, 98, 2000, etc. Second of all, it’s fun and interesting to see how Microsoft’s line of server applications haven’t really changed all too much over the years.

Right now I have two instances running in ESXi 6.7.0 (the latest version of ESXi I have a legal license for) on a Dell Optiplex 9020 PC. Nice low power machine with more than enough oompf for it.

How do I keep my Server 2003 instances secure?

· Keeping regular encrypted backups

· Restricting access - no open RDP ports people!

· Monitoring access - this is done via PRTG.

· Isolation from Internet – yup, these bad boys don’t actually see the internet.

What do I use my Server 2003 instances for?

They act as a Domain Controller, DHCP server, DNS Server and File server.

I use it to share files among Windows 98/NT/XP and my Windows 10 machines.

Most of my machines (except my modern Win10 based PC’s) will also log on to a domain and if compatible run a logon script to map my SMBv1 network shares as drives.

Final line here!

Screenshots for your enjoyment

Windows Server 2003 with my logon script which mounts my MP3 collection and my Retro file share

Windows XP Pro, which has just mounted those drives automatically on logon.

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