Advice for creating first home lab

drexman999drexman999 Member Posts: 10 ■□□□□□□□□□

I am relitively new to IT and have begun studying for the 70-697. I am looking to create a home lab so I can get a bit more hands-on experience with the topics, but I'm not really sure where to start with one.

Anyone have any advice or links to good guides on what I would need and how to go about it?



  • TheFORCETheFORCE Senior Member Member Posts: 2,298 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Start by utilizing the search engines out there. So much free knowledge out there. Here is something you can read on.

    The Free Way To Create a Hyper-V and Virtualization Lab Environment – ITProGuru Blog

    Start by setting up a Virtual machine with Server 2012 and you should be ready to go. Download virtual box or any other free virtual machine software out there.
  • AMD4EVERAMD4EVER Member Posts: 64 ■■□□□□□□□□
    If you are new to IT and just want something cheap to get started with then use Oracle VirtualBox. Just install it on your home system and create VMs from there. If your home system isn't really up to snuff I've found that adding an SSD hard drive and running your VMs from the still works pretty well.

    If you want something more then check eBay for Dell R900 servers. They run about $200 each and you can usually find ones that have a pretty decent amount of RAM and CPUs. Buy just one for starters and then for a more advanced setup you can eventually buy a second one and add something like a Synology or some other form of NAS to the mix.
  • drexman999drexman999 Member Posts: 10 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for the advice guys. After doing a fair bit of research, I think I am going to get a Dell T20, with 32GB of RAM and a couple of 256GB SSDs in there, should come to about £250. I am still to decide whether to put ESXi or Hyper-V on there. My work uses VMWare, but for the purposes of the exam, Hyper-V is probably the better choice.

    Has anyone had experience in using the two? Which one would be the most simple for setting up a home lab?
  • culpanoculpano Member Posts: 163
    Use Hyper-V. It is straightforward to set-up and it's part of the exam objective anyway. i am studying for 70-697 (exam is booked for 12th Aug) and my set-up is....

    Windows 10 Professional and client Hyper-V with one Windows Server 2012 VM, 2x Windows 10 Enterprise VMs and one Windows 7 Enterprise VM. The Win 7 client is for testing upgrades, USMT etc...

    For the configuring Windows 7 exam I used Oracle Virtualbox with Server 2008 VM and two Windows 7 VMs.

    For configuring Windows 8.1 exam I used Hyper-V with Server 2012 VM, 2x Windows 8.1 VMs and a Windows 7 VM.

    Give us a shout if you need any help.
  • drexman999drexman999 Member Posts: 10 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks Culpano, that seems like exactly the setup needed for the exam. I can't afford the hardware for a couple of weeks, but I'll try and replicate that when I get it all up and running. I'll let you know if there are any issues.

    Do you think there is any merit in setting up a Windows 8.1 VM as well for the different upgrade paths or is it a case that if you can do a Windows 7 one, then 8.1 is fine as well?
  • culpanoculpano Member Posts: 163
    I wouldn't bother. In the real world 99% of companies will be upgrading from Windows XP, Vista or Win 7 to Windows 10. A recent organisation I worked for is only just upgrading from XP to Windows 7 !

    I know the lab is for exam purposes but testing stuff like USMT (which is user state migration tool) for migrating user data and settings from one OS to another I would do it from Win 7 to Win 10.

    So here is a good example in your lab to test USMT for a migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10....

    Basically you fire up the Win 7 client and install some apps and change app settings. Then change some OS settings such as wallpaper, font size, start menu settings, explorer settings. Then add some files to Document, Music, Pictures etc.

    On the Win 7 client run the SCANSTATE command (with parameters and associated XML files) and it will capture the user data, app settings and OS settings and you can store it in a migration store on the Windows 2012 Server.

    On the Windows 10 client fire it up and install the apps you need then run the LOADSTATE command to apply the user data, OS data and settings (it pulls in the files from the migration store on the Windows Server 2012).

    If you load the apps after the LOADSTATE then the app installers might overwrite the settings.

    I assume you are aware that you configure the Windows Server 2012 as a domain controller and have the Win 7 and Win 10 clients join the domain. Setting up this alone is valuable learning. You can configure static IP addresses for the clients or configure the server as a DHCP server.

    One more thing. Although you can do in-place upgrades from Windows 7 and 8.1 to 10 most organisations would not do this for two main reasons. Applications may not be compatible and upgrading leaves a load of mess behind from an OS that has been used on a desktop for a number of years. So it's ok for homes but not big organisations.

    Hope this helps.
  • drexman999drexman999 Member Posts: 10 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Excellent advice there. One of the main reasons I wanted to set up the lab is for the deployment stuff as it's pretty much impossible to learn without actually doing it. You're right that most of real world upgrades will be going from 7 to 10, so it makes sense to practice that scenario. Yeah, I was planning on setting up the domain controller and playing around with stuff like DHCP.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I think I know what I need to do when I get the hardware now and I'll definately try out your suggestion to help getting to know USMT.
  • drexman999drexman999 Member Posts: 10 ■□□□□□□□□□
    Thanks for all the pointers guys. I am now set up with my own domain, using DHCP, and VMs connected to it. All VMs were created using client Hyper-V. If anyone new to this is referring back to this thread, "Eli the computer guy" on youtube has some really great videos on how to set up the domain controller in his "Windows Server 2012" series.

    Now for some testing. As I have never really done a lab environment before, I'd like to know how people went about creating simulations? Is it a case of, whenever something practical pops up in the course material, you lab it? Or are there some good lab tests out there to follow?
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