How to build a computer lab for the MCSE certification

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You will learn very quickly that a computer lab is essential if you are planning on taking the MCSE exams. One of the problem that you will run into is how big of a lab do you really need, bigger is not always better. A lab that is simple and efficent at getting your work done is better than a lab that is big and complicated and does not get you what is really needed.The lab that I am currently using is consists of only two computers, I did have more computers once but I realized two is ok for now.

First , you want your lab on a different subnet than your home subnet. The reason why I say this is that you do not want to spend four hours doing a project, then go to relax and watch a movie on netflix and the tv cannot least an IP address, that really sucks, trust me. A standard router will do just fine, and setting it to route to the main router so you can get internet access is fairly simple. But, if you must for some reason have your lab on the same subnet as your home, manually change all the IP addresses on your home devices to static IP addresses, so if something goes wrong with the dhcp server for the lab it will not affect your home devices, you will also need to enter in the dns Address for your ISP.

Secondly, you want at least one server running all the time. The reason for this is that you do what to have to bring your entire lab up everytime you want to do a project. This computer will be running windows server 2012, I find having Active Directory Domain and Services, DNS, and, DHCP roles running on this computer is a good start. A basic computer can perform these task, but it must have a 64 bit cpu for windows server 2012 to run, I am using a Dell that I bought online for a little over 100 dollars. As for the windows server 2012 os, you can get the 128 days evaluation iso file from the microsoft website.

Next, you want a computer that can be used to remote desktop into your server. I have a HP laptop that’s runnig windows 8.1 with 4G of Ram, it’s definately not high end, but I can run Hyper-V on it. The reason why i can get away with doing virtulization on a computer like this, is that all of the VM that I run are server core and being that the main 3 roles are running on a different computer, there is not much of a hardware demand. The windows 8.1 os has to be professional or enterprise, microsoft also give a 90 days evaluation on their website.

This is what I’m basiclly using for my lab, I can’t say for sure if it will continue to stay this way or if I will have have to add to it, but it’s a good start. One other thing, I find having a secound monitor connected to my HP laptop very useful, especally when following along to video on one monitor and able to remote desktop into the server on the other monitor. So thats it for building a computer lab, it is not complicated, and I believe it can get the job done. Thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful and If you feel that there is a better way, please let me know, I always welcome new ideas.



Ryan Toolsie

Constantly building on my technical knowledge and experience. Education: Bachelors in Computer Engineering Technology, Associates in Electrical/Mechanical Engineering.

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  1. Martin Lehner July 31, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Great write up on building a home lab!

  2. James October 23, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Why not use the 2012 server as a Hyper-V server and just create additional VMs as needed?

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