Home Lab Question

cussetacusseta Member Posts: 47 ■■□□□□□□□□
I would like to purchase a couple of PCs for a home network that I could use to study for my MSCE certs. There are a few questions I have regarding this purchase...

1) How many PCs do I need in order to thoroughly complete any exercises that may arise?

2) What specs should these computers have? (One of them needs to run Win2003 Server effeciently)

3) Would I be better off building them from scratch or buying preassembled PCs?

4) Do you know of any good retail stores or websites where I could purchase this equipment at a reasonable price?
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Comments

  • PlantwizPlantwiz Mod Posts: 5,057 Mod
    You could get (build or buy) one really nice system with Dual-Core and run Virtual PC or VMWARE to handle what you want to do.

    If you merely want to occupy the space with the physical bulk, you really don't need anything fancy. Free is good. PII/PIII stuff you should come by fairly inexpensively (maybe free), possibly even some early P4 things.

    (AMD is good as well, but I was referencing the era since most people seen to know the Intel side).


    1. So, you only need 1 plus emulation software and all your OSs/NOSs you desire to run.
    2. Follow the specs on the software, these I'd think you already know (meaning you won't need an Enterprise class server, just a good Workstation).
    3. How big is your budget? Free is always good for practice. Older hardware (and a lot of it) may draw more electricity so if you can run everything on 1 box....little nicer (and quieter).
    4. Local stores, local business upgrading, friends, family, Dell, etc.. Where do you currently shop for parts/systems? Holidays are approaching...people may be looking to unload stuff ;)
    Plantwiz
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  • SlowhandSlowhand MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, MCSA: Windows Server 2003/2012/2016, CCNA Routing & Switchi Bay Area, CaliforniaMod Posts: 5,163 Mod
    Well now, this I've got some experience with.

    1. I'd say you need two machines, if you really want to set up a lab of your own. As Plantwiz recommended, you can use Virtual PC to run other computers, as needed, but I'd say two boxes running Windows 2003 (probably the trial editions that come with your books) should be sufficient to effectively do all the lab work you'll need for the tests.

    2. They don't need to be powerhouses, at least not by today's standards. I used a pair of PIII systems, around the 1GHz mark. One of the systems had 1Gb of PC133 memory, the other had 512Mb. I'd say that 512Mb should be sufficient for a test system. Hard drive space doesn't need to be enormous, either. 20Gb or higher should do just fine, since you're really just installing the bare-bones W2K3 and services. Video and sound are completely unimportant, so onboard is fine, and getting two NIC's for each wouldn't be a bad idea.

    3. In this case, I'd say go for assembling them youself. The reason being, that you can usually scrounge up the parts from friends, family, co-workers, other geeks looking to offload old hardware. You can salvage older parts from people who like to buy new systems on a regular basis, (especially gamers and pseudo-geeks, they tend to go through hardware pretty quickly). The only time you should be looking for a pre-built system is if you're planning on keeping the servers around for a few years for production, and you don't want to shell out for new parts to assemble yourself.

    4. Check with places like Fry's, CompUSA, and BestBuy for loose parts at a reasonable price. NIC's, low-end video cards and clearance RAM, motherboards, and CPU's are pretty easy to find. You can also check with smaller shops, like the ones you find ads for in the local papers or in "Computer User" magazine. Still, though, don't underestimate the power of scrounging up free used parts from people you know. You'll probably only end up purchasing a few parts here and there, and getting the rest donated. (It helps if you emphasise that you're going to be using the components for studying. People are pretty amiable towards "students", regardless of what you're studying.)

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  • sprkymrksprkymrk Member Posts: 4,884 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I've had good luck with these guys over the years for buying semi-decent used PC's at a good price, and they take paypal.

    http://www.pcsurplusonline.com

    I agree that you need 2-3 for a good lab set up. I have used VMWare and Virtual Server 2005, but I still like having real computers better. I find that even old P3's with 512MB RAM run better than most virtual PC's.
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  • blargoeblargoe Self-Described Huguenot NC, USAMember Posts: 4,171 ■■■■■■■■■□
    If you don't have much exp working with real live computer equipment, go with the real pc's and get 2 or 3. Otherwise, get a nicer computer with plenty of memory and use vmware.
    IT guy since 12/00

    Recent: 11/2019 - RHCSA (RHEL 7); 2/2019 - Updated VCP to 6.5 (just a few days before VMware discontinued the re-cert policy...)
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    Future: Probably continued Red Hat Immersion, Possibly VCAP Design, or maybe a completely different path. Depends on job demands...
  • boatguy1982boatguy1982 Member Posts: 51 ■■□□□□□□□□
    I have a opteron 170 running at 2.6ghz dual core with 2gb of ram and 4 sata 2 3g 250gb hardrives. Would it be best to just run VMare or Virtualpc/server on my computer. If so do i need the OS/NOS software or can the programs emulate it?
  • SlowhandSlowhand MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, MCSA: Windows Server 2003/2012/2016, CCNA Routing & Switchi Bay Area, CaliforniaMod Posts: 5,163 Mod
    You need to have the OS you're going to install, presumably Windows Server 2003. Virtual PC and VMWare can only emulate the box, you need to supply your own software.

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  • boatguy1982boatguy1982 Member Posts: 51 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Thats why i am having so much trouble with vmare and virtual server
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