I see a lot of desktop admin questions being migrated to Super User. Are we positing that enterprise desktop support belongs on Super User? To me it's just as valuable for Server Fault to have information on things like troubleshooting a BSoD on Windows XP on Server Fault because the troubleshooting steps for a desktop BSoD and a server BSoD are the same.

To me, Super User was put out as the consumer/non-business version of Server Fault.

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    What's so special about an "enterprise" desktop? (Other than the poor users who don't have debugging rights on the crappy machines they're forced to use - presumably in these cases, the person "troubleshooting" does have the necessary permissions) – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 20:27
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    An "enterprise" desktop is something administered by the sort of people ServerFault is intended for, and non-enterprise desktops are typically administered by the sort of people SuperUser is intended for. Obviously, there will be a lot of overlap. – David Thornley Nov 2 '09 at 20:35
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    @David: sure; if your question is about maintaining / administering for a network of machines, then SF is the obvious choice. But if your question has no connection to your job as a sysadmin... other than that you are a sysadmin... I don't see the harm in just posting it on SU, where presumably it'll also reach the attention of users with the same problem who are not sysadmins. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 20:38
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    @Shog9: The job responsibilities of our system admins (who are definitely in the intended ServerFault audience, whether or not they read it) do sometimes include dealing with individual desktops. The next question is whether it's better to have questions in ServerFault or SuperUser, and I'd rather keep more of my questions out of SU if possible. – David Thornley Nov 2 '09 at 20:47
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    @David: I think we can all agree that, from a practical perspective, questions are best asked anywhere other than SU. However, if you're asking about the idealistically proper place for a question about troubleshooting single-machine BSODs, SU would be the place. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 20:49
  • @Shog9: Agreed. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 20:50
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    "If you are in charge of...many desktop PCs (other than your own)...then you're in the right place to ask your question! Well, as long as the question is about your servers, your networks, or desktops you support, anyway." - ServerFault FAQ. This appears to include questions asked by a systems admin about supporting desktops, which (at least in our shop) includes troubleshooting individual desktops on occasion. If we had a BSOD, it is likely that Al or Eric would be called on to troubleshoot it, as part of supporting the corporate desktops. – David Thornley Nov 2 '09 at 20:56
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    That said, I would ask a question on SO before SF and SF before asking it on SU, if I thought I could get away with it. So, SO for server questions related to software dev, and SF for machine questions related to system administration... But always keeping in mind that these are walking that fine line. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 20:57
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    FWIW... If you're actually doing hardcore BSOD debugging as a sysadmin (like, say, this guy dumpanalysis.org/blog), then you're probably gonna get better answers on SO anyway! – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:01
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    what's the question? – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:06
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    @David: if the question is about system administration, then obviously it can be asked on SF. If it's not, then it shouldn't be. Going back to what Rich has been saying, it doesn't matter what the job title is, it's all about the question. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:12
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    @David: I'm a programmer. But I face many problems on the job that have nothing to do with programming. I should not ask these on SO. Similarly, a sysadmin faces many trials and tribulations that are not, strictly-speaking, related to systems administration. Those questions should not be asked on SF. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:28
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    The tuna sandwiches gave me nourishment to continue commenting; i was running low on precious brain-mercury. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:35
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    @David: i'm paraphrasing the SF FAQ. I quoted one indication of this in response to your updated answer below; here's another one, taken from the "What kind of questions should I not ask on Server Fault?" section: "If your question is about … general computer software or hardware troubleshooting, ask on Super User." – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:37
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    I understand that some system administrators might well face many questions in their day-to-day work that are, in essence, "general computer software or hardware troubleshooting" questions. And I've little doubt that, in some cases, they would find good answers for these questions on SF. But if you want to be strict about it, these questions belong on Super User. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:39

I was going to post a similar question about a week ago, then reread the SF FAQ page (as referenced in the other answers). The distinction I use is how potentially wide-spread I see the problem in the question.

From a desktop support perspective there are certainly cases where a large(r) number of machines will be affected by something, in which case it's appropriate for SF. There are then others that are isolated to a single computer, these tend to be the ones I vote to move to SU.

That won't always be the case, though. For example, you can get one PC that's not getting a domain group policy applied correctly - more appropriate for SF. In these cases I'll usually leave a comment on the question stating why I think it's appropriate to leave it on SF.

It is NOT a plain-vanilla call where PC questions just generally get dumped to SU.

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    I can see much benefit in combining the two sites into one. Technical stuff are always updated and the information can be kept in one place and assured to be correct. The current situation requires me to read through like 7 articles each containing like 70% of information even though I have only 1 question. Yes, that's 390% of time loss reading repeated information per question per visitor. And of....................................................................... – Pacerier Feb 27 '15 at 14:20
  • .................................................. course, I couldn't possibly settle with just reading 1 or 2 pages because the meat could be in the other articles since the whole set is so WET no one could possibly update them all. So, what's the benefit in keeping two sites? – Pacerier Feb 27 '15 at 14:20

The two sites are not the same.

This should be fairly obvious from the FAQs.

Server Fault:

Server Fault is for system administrators and IT professionals, people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity.

Super User:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users.

Troubleshooting a BSOD on Windows XP is clearly in the power user domain. Troubleshooting relay failure in Exchange server is clearly in the system administrator domain.

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    There are definitely times when troubleshooting a BSOD in XP is appropriate for SF. – squillman Nov 2 '09 at 22:15
  • @squillman: It all depends on the question, but a BSOD in XP is very likely SU territory. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 22:19
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    Yes. I will concede "very likely". But not "clearly in the power user domain". – squillman Nov 2 '09 at 22:21
  • @Squillman: Ok, provide the example question you feel is not in the power user domain but is about troubleshooting BSODs in XP. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 22:24
  • @Rich: I'll argue to keep a BSOD question on SF when, for example, one machine on the floor is BSOD'ing after a change was made on the domain when other machines are referenced in the question as not having the same problem. Or when a couple imaged machines are doing something similar. – squillman Nov 2 '09 at 22:29
  • @Rich: don't get me wrong. I agree that a LOT of the PC things we get on SF are fluff. Just not always the case! – squillman Nov 2 '09 at 22:30
  • @squillman: But that is not the same question. That is troubleshooting what happened with a domain change. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 22:30
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    @Rich B. I've no pointers to specific questions that has been asked but I've plenty of examples of BSOD's where the root cause is related to Enterprise imaging procedures, GPO's gone haywire, poorly tested security apps... Enthusiast\Power User types have zero experience with this class of problem. Sorry 10 years as an Enterprise Client Systems Admin. – Helvick Nov 2 '09 at 22:34
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    @Rich: No, not a domain issue if it only affects one or two PC's. At that point it's a PC issue but you need to know more than a general power user, thus appropriate for SF. That's all, just not so cut and dry. – squillman Nov 2 '09 at 23:06
  • I would have to disagree- a. most consumers would just reboot and chalk it up to microaoft. Most enterprise desktop people would want to troubleshoot it even if it was their own personal PC – Jim B Nov 3 '09 at 3:46
  • @Jim: Consumers != power users. – GEOCHET Nov 3 '09 at 14:49
  • @Rich Power Users are consumers if they are not running in an enterprise. If they are running in an enterprise they won't (and probably shouldn't) come to SO or SF for help they would come to SU (if any). More likely though they will ask they local admins to tell them why they system had the issue. – Jim B Nov 5 '09 at 17:48
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    Instead of just merging the two sites, which would be the sensible thing to do, we end up arguing about what belongs where... – John Peter Thompson Garcés Mar 27 '14 at 21:35

I think there can be some overlap, for professional IT questions.

It's important when you ask the question to be clear what your goals are -- that you're troubleshooting this to support your (n) desktop machines where you work, versus troubleshooting it for your own personal computer that you own.

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    Good point. If an OP is not clear in what they're trying to do then tough if their question gets migrated based on the community's discretion. What I'd hate to see (not that I do!) is mods just blowing things over to SU because it's "PC related". – squillman Nov 2 '09 at 22:23
  • This is very the point I was trying to make in my (now deleted) comments on Rich B's answer, which is supported by the part of the SF faq he quotes. – ChrisF Nov 2 '09 at 22:24
  • "What is the best screen saver to apply to all users on my network" – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 22:25
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    Is the one with the toasters still around? 'Cause I'd totally vote for that one. Incidentally, there are at least a few screensaver group-deployment questions on SF; i suspect plenty of corporate IT departments fixate on things like that... – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 22:31
  • If that is the kind of 'quality' wanted on SF, it is fine with me. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 22:32
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    @Rich: that would get dumped as not sysadmin related... – squillman Nov 2 '09 at 23:07
  • @Squillman: Not if you go by these wishy washy rules. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 23:17
  • Heh, welcome to desktop support. Is it any wonder that mid-level IT managers burn out so quickly?... – squillman Nov 2 '09 at 23:33

Everyone's egos, titles, jobs, certifications, previous work, awards, experience, and blah blah blah.

StackOverflow, SuperUser, and ServerFault are all about the questions and their content. Doesn't matter who is asking them. I think the FAQ's speak clearly and you can use your judgement to decide where to best ask the question.


I'd favor putting things in SO or SF if they belong there, so they won't get lost in the SU dumping ground. This means I'd generally be happy with desktop admin questions in SF, as long as they aren't things that would be unlikely to be in the corporate environment.

The ServerFault FAQ says that the site is intended for people who administer a large number of desktops that aren't their own (among others), and that questions referring to those desktops are welcome.

Obviously, there's going to be some overlap of problems between somebody who administers his or her own private computer (and belongs on SuperUser), and somebody who administers a lot of corporate systems (and belongs on ServerFault). I'd say a question should only be moved to SuperUser if it's a question that most corporate IT admins would not find useful.

Edit: Here is the beginning of the ServerFault FAQ. I certainly hope it's accurate; I copy-pasted it. It is my understanding that this is supposed to be the official position.

Server Fault is for system administrators and IT professionals, people who manage or maintain computers in a professional capacity. If you are in charge of ...

  • servers
  • networks
  • many desktop PCs (other than your own)

... then you're in the right place to ask your question! Well, as long as the question is about your servers, your networks, or desktops you support, anyway.

Please note that Server Fault is not for general computer troubleshooting questions; if you paid for that desktop hardware, and it's your personal workstation, it is unlikely that your question is appropriate for Server Fault.

This appears to mean that questions about supporting corporate desktop PCs are on topic for people who have that as their job responsibility. It says that if the problem is on your personal machine, "it is unlikely that your question is appropriate for Server Fault." I am skilled and experienced in the English language, and the words in the FAQ are not unusual and do not appear to be arranged in a confusing manner. My conclusion is that they likely mean the obvious meaning.

I would be very interested in learning which questions pertaining to administering corporate desktops are not appropriate for SF, and why labeling such questions off-topic is not against the FAQ.

  • No, I am saying that system admins (and I'm not in the target SF audience) are asked by the FAQ to ask questions about supporting their desktops in SF. It's true that non-admins also diagnose BSODs (I've tried it), but it's also true that corporate admins might have to diagnose BSODs. It's also true that a power user who isn't a programmer might write a shell script or something like that, and questions about that script would belong on SO. – David Thornley Nov 2 '09 at 21:01
  • @David: I understand what you are saying. But what you are saying is wrong. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:04
  • @Rich B: I just edited my question with the intent of making my point clearer, including quoting the first parts of the FAQ. I understand that you think what I'm saying is wrong, and it is possible that I am. So far, the only argument I've seen is that diagnosing a BSOD is in essence the same as making a sandwich, which I find incomprehensible. – David Thornley Nov 2 '09 at 21:20
  • "I am skilled and experienced in the English language" -- "So far, the only argument I've seen is that diagnosing a BSOD is in essence the same as making a sandwich, which I find incomprehensible." -- Something does not line up here. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:22
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    @David, here's the key: "Please note that Server Fault is not for general computer troubleshooting questions..." If the question fits that description, then you can safely assume it's not appropriate for SF. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:25
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    And this is why Server Fault is full of noise. – dlux Nov 2 '09 at 21:29
  • @Dlux: This is nothing new either. SO has always had people who think anything a programmer does or thinks about is 'programming related'. This is an example of how dense those people can be. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:31
  • @Shog9: And here's the other key: "as long as the question is about...desktops you support, anyway". If the question fits that description, then "...you're in the right place to ask your question!". In other words, we have a specific and detailed part of the FAQ saying the question belongs there, and a more general part saying it might not. This may be a problem with the FAQ wording, in that three intelligent people are getting two seriously opposed readings out of it. Personally, I think it proper to go with the more specific and detailed portion. – David Thornley Nov 2 '09 at 21:41
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    @David: Two of the three people are understanding intent and the rest of the FAQ. One is arguing incessantly in face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary and no one to back him. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:42
  • @David: I'm reading the FAQ with the assumption that it states a general guideline and then refines it; so starting out, you can assume that your question does not belong on SF if it isn't about "servers, your networks, or desktops that you support". Furthermore, if it's a general computer troubleshooting question, it doesn't belong on SF. – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:44
  • @Rich B: I am interested in understanding, but I keep getting the same answers which do not appear to take into account the parts of the SF FAQ I quoted. I'd like to understand why you and Shog9 believe that part of the FAQ doesn't apply here. Note that the way the SO and SU FAQs on one hand and the SF FAQ on the other differ: the first define questions in terms of subject matter, the second in terms of specific job duties. – David Thornley Nov 2 '09 at 21:45
  • @David: You keep asking the same question, and you get the same answer. Your ability to understand what you are reading is the issue here, not the answers you are receiving. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:46
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    @David - I'm guess you have not done desktop support in a professional manner...otherwise this would be quite obvious. Need help with an Excel formula question - SU. Need help installing Excel on 100 desktops - SF. – dlux Nov 2 '09 at 21:49
  • @DLux: Indeed, this is not rocket science, it is help desk stuff. – GEOCHET Nov 2 '09 at 21:51
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    See, I thought Rich was waaay too quick to jump in with the sandwich analogy, but... Look, here's how it goes: if I'm right, then sysadmin questions are appropriate for SF, but other questions that just happen to come from system administrators are not. David, if you are right and any question from a system administrator is appropriate for SF, then that opens the door wide for questions that have nothing to do with system administration or even computers. "What should I put on my Tombstone as a system administrator?", etc. So ask yourself: do you want SF to be SO... or Y! Answers? – Shog9 Nov 2 '09 at 21:52

I think that part of the confusion is folks looking for the "magic" word. It seems like no-one will dispute that if the question says "on my corporate desktop" then magically it belongs on SF. There appears to be an overzealousnees on SF to banish any question to the SU trashheap if the topic is windows and the magic words aren't there.

Interestingly "What command could be used obtain system hardware specs on Ubuntu desktop" didn't make to to SU (but I suspect if it said windows instead of ubuntu it would have). In my mind, a question should be given the benefit of the doubt unless it's unequivocally not sysadmin related. By the way of example of what I think:

how to troubleshoot BSOD --
SF- admins should know hot to troubleshoot BSODS

I get a BSOD after I installed itunes for my boss on his laptop -
SU- clearly this is a corporate piece of hardware but this is a problem with consumer software

I get a BSOD after I install SQL Server express that I use to manage my media center movie collection.-
SF- this ones obviously debatable but sql server express is used in corporate environments and I wouldn't think that the best place to have sql server issues resolved would be super user

One of the qualifiers in the FAQ is "Furthermore, if it's a general computer troubleshooting question, it doesn't belong on SF"

I would ammend that to say clearly "Furthermore, if it's a general computer troubleshooting question, (E.G. how does a disk drive work), it doesn't belong on SF, but admin related general troubleshooting questions do.

(I had to make this an answer 'cause the comments section was too small)

  • How about: 1. if the problem involves programming or debugging, it's a Stack Overflow question. 2. Else if the program likely COULD occur for a home user, then it's a Super User question. 3. Else, a Server Fault question. Seems pretty clear cut to me. – Sam Watkins Feb 9 '15 at 1:47

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