Audvik Labs

Thin Client vs Thick Client

The client is part of a client-server architecture. Typically, a client is an application that runs on a personal computer or workstation and relies on a server to perform some operations. Mainly there are two types of clients namely, Thick & Thin Clients.

In the computing field, the term client refers to computer software or hardware that interfaces with a server for accessing services. It is an important part of the client-server model. For instance, web browsers such as Apple Safari or Google Chrome acts as a web client that interfaces with the web server for retrieving and displaying the web pages. Other examples are email clients like Gmail and Yahoo. Clients are classified into two types, thick client and thin client. An architecture comprising of both a thick client and a thin client is known as a hybrid client.

There a-lot of similarities between the thin client architecture and thick client architecture. In both cases, the client is the application that runs on PC which sends request and receives responses from the server. The server in turn acts as the middle-ware between the client and the database.

While they share similarities, there are many differences between thick and thin clients. Thick and thin are the terms used to refer to the hardware (e.g., how a PC communicates with the server), but the terms are also used to describe applications. 

Quick Analysis of Thin Client

  • Needs to validate with the server after data capture
  • If the server goes down, data collection is halted as the client needs constant communication with the server
  • Cannot be interfaced with other equipment (in plants or factory settings for example)
  • Clients run only and exactly as specified by the server
  • More downtime
  • Portability in that all applications are on the server so any workstation can access
  • Opportunity to use older, outdated PCs as clients
  • Reduced security threat

Quick Analysis of Thick Client

  • More expensive to deploy and more work for IT to deploy
  • Data verified by client not server (immediate validation)
  • Robust technology provides better uptime
  • Only needs intermittent communication with server
  • More expensive to deploy and more work for IT to deploy
  • Require more resources but less servers
  • Can store local files and applications
  • Reduced server demands
  • Increased security issues

Benefits of thick client :

Below is a list of the benefits or advantages of thick clients.

Note that these advantages also correspond to the drawbacks or disadvantages of thin clients.

  1. Rich graphic user interface

One of the notable advantages of thick client involves the capability to deliver a rich graphic user interface. Examples of such interfaces include a fully featured operating system, immersive computer programs or applications, and graphic-intensive video games. Note that most thin clients are unable to render rich graphics due to limitations in processing or computing capabilities and available storage space.

  1. Better data and program processing

A prominent drawback of thin clients is their inability to locally process their own data and/or programs. On the other hand, similar to the capability of delivering rich graphic user interface, thick clients can perform resource-intensive data or program processing. Examples include running an app for editing video or audio contents, playing video games, data processing, and computer simulation, among others

  1. Server performance efficiency

A client-server architecture based on thick clients does not need high-performing servers. This is because processing and other hardware functionalities transpire at the local or individual level rather than a centralized level. This advantage means less costs from buying, installing, and maintaining high-performing servers. In addition, this advantage also means that the server can support more users, thus translating to higher server capacity.

  1. Can work offline

Independence from servers or a networked environment is another advantage of thick clients. Note that devices such as fully functional personal computers are usable and remain functions. Thick clients do not require a consistent network connection, unlike thin clients that are heavily dependent on continuously interfacing with their servers. Of course, thick clients still need to interface with their servers, especially for sharing or synchronizing data with the entire network.

Benefits of Thin Client:

Below is a list of the benefits or advantages of thin clients.

  1. Optimization of hardware resources

Fewer hardware requirements are one of the main advantages of thin clients when compared to thick clients. Remember that think clients depend solely on the hardware resources of the server. Furthermore, in a client-server architecture based on thin clients, there are fewer needs for cabling, bussing, and switching. This advantage also translates to cost-effectiveness. Thin clients are essentially more inexpensive to implement than thick clients.

  1. Reduced hardware and software maintenance

Remember that thick clients are standalone computer terminals with their own hardware resources and a fully-featured operating system capable of running applications locally. This can be a disadvantage because maintaining these computers would involve attending to each computer for maintenance and updates, thus consuming time and incurring additional costs. Hence, another benefit of thin clients includes easier hardware and software administration, troubleshooting, system or application patching, security updates, and data migration.

  1. Lesser security vulnerability

The fact that applications and files or data reside in a centralized location, specifically the server, means that they are easily administered, monitored, and protected through the use of hardware-based or software-based security firewalls and other data protection mechanisms. There is a lesser chance of compromising software and data assets in case a single or several computer terminals malfunctioned or are stolen.

  1. Cost-effectiveness and efficiency

It is important to emphasize inexpensiveness as a notable advantage of thin clients. Remember that hardware resource optimization, reduced maintenance, and better security translate to cost-effectiveness and efficiency, particularly when compared to thick clients. This inexpensiveness is the reason why client-server architectures based on thin clients are commonly used in education and business environments where financial resources are of critical importance.

A thick client performs the operation independent of the server. It implements its own features. The other names for a thick client are ‘fat client’ or ‘rich client’. The prime example of the thick client is personal computers connected to LAN (Local Area Network), cloud computing or virtual network servers, etc. Other examples of the thick client are subscription featured programs and apps such as Adobe Creative Cloud, MS Office 365, etc. installed in a computing device. However, despite the ability of the thick clients to function without a central server, it still requires a periodic network server connection.


On the other hand a thick client, the thin client needs a server to function properly. It is heavily depended on the central server for data processing or retrieving files. With a thin client, the server performs sensitive functions like storage, retrieving the files and data processing. The perfect example of a thin client is a web browser. They don’t seem to be interesting unless they are connected to the web servers. Once they get access to the webserver, they provide a wide range of functionality and services.

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