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.

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 tool.

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 supported hardware.

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 free space.

Minimum Win2K Server requirements:

  • 133 MHz or higher Pentium-compatible CPU.
  • 256MB of RAM recommended minimum (128MB minimum supported).
  • 2GB hard disk with a minimum of 1GB free space.

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 (, as does the Microsoft Official Curriculum used by training companies.

Dual Booting
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 home.)

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 partition.

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 the data.

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.

Additional Information
Microsoft’s Web site includes several good articles on dual booting:

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 ( 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.