70-240 Guide: Build Your Test Lab
For a thorough understanding of the 70-240 exam objectives, nothing replaces hands-on experience. Build this test lab to get your practice.
- By Jill Gebelt
- June 01, 2001
Count yourself among the lucky ones if you're
in the midst of a Windows 2000 migration project--you're
getting valuable hands-on experience that can
help you learn the objectives for the core Windows
2000 exams. For the rest of you, a home lab will
have to suffice. Let's look at what you'll need
to build one that can be an effective learning
An effective study lab contains at least two computers.
More is always wonderful, but two will get you
through the concepts. A single computer is a real
limitation, because there are many aspects of
Windows 2000 that require two computers to understand.
For example, you can’t create a child domain if
you only have one DC. You’ll need:
- Two computers capable of running Win2K.
- Two Ethernet network cards.
- One hub and two cables, or a crossover cable.
A null modem cable is a nice extra.
You can use it to simulate a dial-in connection
between a Routing and Remote Access server and
dial-up client. For the set up I recommend, look
at Figure 1.
|Figure 1. A multi-boot
system creates many different network environments,
which makes for a flexible practice set-up.
Let’s start with the computers. At the very least,
they need to meet the minimum requirements for
Win2K. Also, check the HCL to be sure you have
Minimum Win2K Professional requirements:
- 133 MHz or higher Pentium-compatible CPU.
(Yeah, right! My toddler’s computer has a better
CPU than this.)
- 64MB of RAM.
- 2GB hard disk with a minimum of 650MB of
Minimum Win2K Server requirements:
- 133 MHz or higher Pentium-compatible CPU.
- 256MB of RAM recommended minimum (128MB minimum
- 2GB hard disk with a minimum of 1GB free
The CPU requirement is pretty low. I’ve actually
run Professional on a P166 with 64MB of RAM. It
wasn’t pretty, but it did run. I’ve also run AD
on a midrange Pentium II with 128MB of RAM. It
was slow starting and did a lot of paging, but
as a lab computer it was adequate. Your best bet
is to get two computers that support Server. If
you have two computers, each with at least 128MB
of RAM (256MB is a lot better), you can run two
AD computers and set up different domain configurations.
You can get away with 2GB hard drives, but if
you want to dual-boot the computer, you need two
or three gigabytes for each boot. Set your computer
up with a 2GB or 3GB partition for each installation
of the operating system.
To connect your computers, you either need a
hub and a couple of cables or a crossover cable.
The crossover cable is the cheaper approach. You
should be able to buy one at your local computer
store. Or, if you have crimpers, you can make
one yourself. Simply use it to connect the two
network cards. If you have more than two computers,
you’ll need a hub or a switch. You should be able
to find a 10MB Ethernet hub for less than $50.
Now that you have hardware, you need to install
the operating system. You have two choices: trial
versions or the real thing. Buying the full-blown
OS is easy; so let’s talk about the budget approach. The Microsoft Press study guides for Win2K come
with trial software (http://mspress.microsoft.com),
as does the Microsoft Official Curriculum used
by training companies.
of the big issues in a lab environment is dual
booting. There are two problems you need to address.
One is installing many copies of Win2K on a single
computer. The second problem is coexisting with
someone who doesn’t appreciate having to work
on a computer that’s constantly being reconfigured.
(This can be a problem when your test lab is at
Installing multiple copies of Win2K on a single
computer is easy. Simply put each installation
on its own partition. Two gigabytes is perfectly
adequate for most lab installations; but if you
plan to use a particular installation for AD plus
a lot of other services, create at least a 3GB
The second problem is harder to solve. If you’re
sharing the computer with another user, you probably
won’t be able to trash the machine at your leisure.
Ideally, these are your two lab computers, and
you can do anything you want to them. But, that
may not be economically realistic. Odds are pretty
good that the computer is already running a desktop
OS like Windows 98, and you need to keep that
installation intact. Furthermore, the hard drive
is already partitioned and formatted—so there’s
no more free space. There are a number of approaches
you can take.
The first approach is pretty radical and may
make your computer partner a bit nervous. Suppose
you don’t want to add an additional drive, but
you’re willing to rebuild the existing environment.
Back up everything on the computer. Fdisk the
computer. Install the first OS on the first partition.
Reinstall all of the applications, and restore
If the original operating system is Windows 9x,
the active partition needs to be FAT or FAT32.
If the original operating system is NT 4.0, the
active partition can be NTFS; but make sure you’re
running at least Service Pack 4. When you create
the first partition, you need to leave at least
2GB of space for your Win2K installation. If you
want multiple Win2K installations, each installation
needs its own 2GB partition. Simply install Win2K
in the remaining space. The dual boot menu will
be set up automatically.
In a second approach, if you can’t afford to
trash the existing install and can’t put an additional
hard drive in the computer, buy third-party software
that will reorganize the drive on the fly. Partition
Magic by PowerQuest (www.powerquest.com)
is probably the best-known product for reorganizing
your drive. Use it to create a set of partitions
that you can use for the dual boot. Make sure
you back up before you do this!
A third approach is to install an extra hard
drive in the computer. During the installation,
a few files will be placed on the active partition,
but you can install the OS on the new drive. In
fact, if you get a big drive and create multiple
partitions, you can install multiple copies of
Win2K on this drive. This is a good approach when
you have to coexist with another OS. It has little
impact on the original setup.