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New "Lab" for Studying MCSA

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by nXPLOSi, Mar 18, 2009.

  1. nXPLOSi

    nXPLOSi Terabyte Poster

    Hi Guys,

    Bit of a hardware and software question. Heres the story, I've been doing 270 for a while now, and looking to go onto 290 and 291 afterwards. I've been looking at sorting out some sort of home "lab" for a while, but each time I end up with more questions than answers! I know I dont really need it for the 270, but would for the following exams.

    I currently have an oldish box, its ok, but quite outdated. I am planning on purchasing a new box, and use VMWare or something similar to have all the usual Server 2003, XP Clients etc.. I've not used a WMWare sort of product much before, and am unsure how powerful the PC will need to be. Im currently looking at a Dell, quad core (VMWare are single thread applications anyway?), 4Gb memory, Vista. Is it worth going 64bit and getting extra RAM? Are there any other things I should be aware of?

    Also, being new to VMWare etc, whats the opinion on the best product to use for my needs (MCSA)?

    Appreciate any feedback. :blink

    Certifications: A+, Network+, Security+, MCSA 2003 (270, 290, 291), MCTS (640, 642), MCSA 2008
    WIP: MCSA 2012
  2. Qs

    Qs Semi-Honorary Member Gold Member

    Personally I prefer Virtual Machine over VMware, but maybe I'm biased.

    As for your questions, a 64 bit CPU will work in 32 bit legacy mode inside the VM, so there's no point.

    As long as the basic PC spec is decent, ram is what you'll need to concentrate your efforts on! Though 4 gig should be fine (if you're curious... 3.6GB RAM is the limit per VM 'host' using vmware, maximum total of 4GB across all VM machines).

    Certifications: MCT, MCSE: Private Cloud, MCSA (2008), MCITP: EA, MCITP: SA, MCSE: 2003, MCSA: 2003, MCITP: EDA7, MCITP: EDST7, MCITP: EST Vista, MCTS: Exh 2010, MCTS:ServerVirt, MCTS: SCCM07 & SCCM2012, MCTS: SCOM07, MCTS: Win7Conf, MCTS: VistaConf, MCDST, MCP, MBCS, HND: Applied IT, ITIL v3: Foundation, CCA
  3. craigie

    craigie Terabyte Poster

    There are two answers to your question, what I do now and what I would do if building a new machine.

    Current Lab

    Laptop running Vista Ultimate 64Bit, 4 GB Ram using Windows Virtual PC. This has stood me well for all of my labs so far. I can hapily run 5 VM's with no issues.

    New Equipment

    I would be tempted to buy a PC/Server that was ESX compatible, see here As then you could build your lab in a VMWare ESX environment which would give you exposure to both the O/S you are studying and VMWare ESX as well. Double whammy :D
    Certifications: CCA | CCENT | CCNA | CCNA:S | HP APC | HP ASE | ITILv3 | MCP | MCDST | MCITP: EA | MCTS:Vista | MCTS:Exch '07 | MCSA 2003 | MCSA:M 2003 | MCSA 2008 | MCSE | VCP5-DT | VCP4-DCV | VCP5-DCV | VCAP5-DCA | VCAP5-DCD | VMTSP | VTSP 4 | VTSP 5
  4. nXPLOSi

    nXPLOSi Terabyte Poster

    Thanks for the input guys, Windows Virtual PC it is. I was already leaning that way due to using it on an MS Course I done a while back, but wasn't sure if there was a better option out there.

    At the moment im getting a quote for a Dell Vostro 220 MT, Pentium Duel Core E5200, 4Gb RAM, 500Gb harddrive, on Vista Business. Looking to be around £344 ex Vat.

    I've not really looked into ESX til this lunchtime, looks very interesting, although I think im going to leave that til a little later when I have more money to burn! 8)
    Certifications: A+, Network+, Security+, MCSA 2003 (270, 290, 291), MCTS (640, 642), MCSA 2008
    WIP: MCSA 2012
  5. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

    According to this :-


    VMWare Server is free, supports up to 8 GB per VM and can utilise 64 bit hardware. Workstation also supports 8 GB per VM. I'd upgrade to a 64 bit OS now if you can or look at ESXi which is its own OS.

    I'm no VMWare expert, but I suspect the 64 bit support indicates a full 64 bit address space, its likely that the total memory for all VM's is terabytes.


    This doc has Host and VM maximums for ESX, 2 TB, so full 64 bit address space.

    4GB should be fine for 3 VM's, really depends what you want to do in each VM, XP clients tend to be quite basic so can really cut them down. Vista bloatware bit different.

    Memory is cheap so I'd probably stick 8GB in if you have the cash spare. 1TB SATA drives are also dirt cheap, so why buy 500GB ?

    I'd go Quad core if you're using it for business apps. The combination of Host OS and all its services and VM's (each with an OS and services) will result in many threads of execution, so the more cores the better. VMWare server guests/VM's can have at least two virtual CPU's, so just two VM's could probably make good use of a quad core processor.


    Virtual PC also works, seems to require a few less resources so if you only want to run windows VM's its worth a look. Apparently it can also run other OS's but they are not supported. VMWare has better graphics display support than Virtual PC apparently.

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