Thick client, thin client - their features, advantages and disadvantages

Thick and thin client

Hybrid client

Thick and thin client Hybrid client

In the language of computer technology, a «client» is a piece of software that interacts with a server and provides the user with information about the result of data processing.

To make things clearer, consider a simple example – a web browser. From a technical point of view, this is a classic «client» that performs three main tasks: it receives search queries from the user, sends them to a web server, and then displays the result of processing – a list of found sites for the entered query. That is, everything is much simpler than it might seem at first glance.

All existing clients can be conditionally divided into two subtypes: thick and thin. There are also system architectures in which the characteristics of these subtypes combine and intersect – they are called a «hybrid» client.

In this article, we will analyze the features of each type of client, as well as talk about their strengths and weaknesses.

Thick client

Thick client

Let’s start with a definition. A thick client is a client that provides full functionality and independence of the application from a central server. In this case, the server itself acts as a regular data storage, and the entire load associated with the processing and presentation of information falls on the client device.

A personal computer can be cited as an example of a thick client – it runs on the basis of an installed operating system and is equipped with all the functionality necessary for a full-fledged user experience.

Advantages of fat clients:

  • high functionality;
  • the ability to work offline;
  • access to multi-user mode;
  • good data processing speed;
  • no dependency on remote servers.

Disadvantages of fat clients:

  • rather time-consuming process of configuration and installation;
  • the need for constant maintenance and installation of updates;
  • difficulty in data synchronization;
  • data security issues;
  • large distribution.
Thick client, thin client – their features, advantages and disadvantages

Thin client

Thin client

Unlike a thick client, a thin client does not perform any data processing tasks. Instead, all computing power is transferred to a remote server, with which it interacts through terminal access. In such a case, the only task of the client is to run the network software.

An obvious example of a thin client is a computer with a pre-installed browser, which may not even have its own hard drive. Through a terminal connection, it communicates with the main powerful computer that acts as a server that stores all data and runs programs that the user interacts with.

This architecture is used by many popular services, including Google Drive, WP and browser-based online games.

Thin client benefits:

  • the risk of malfunctions is minimized;
  • low technical requirements for equipment.


  • in such an architecture, an unlimited number of clients can be connected to one server, but in the event of an error, all users will suffer;
  • inability to work without an Internet connection;
  • performance degradation in case of high server loads.
Thick client, thin client – their features, advantages and disadvantages

Which client is better to use

Which client is better to use

The main difference between a thick client and a thin client is the way data is processed, so in most cases the user does not even notice what type of architecture he is working with.

Therefore, when choosing the type of client for your project, you need to take into account its technical features and the logic of interaction with the end user.

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