How to Create a Test Lab (Without Breaking Your PC)
Our Geek School articles can get pretty complicated, and there’s no reason to do a ton of crazy stuff on your own desktop PC. Instead, you can just VirtualBox like we do to create virtual machines for all of your testing. Here’s how to do it.
You can even network multiple virtual machines together, so as long as you have a decent amount of RAM in your PC, you can fully test a scenario without messing with your PC’s settings at all. It’s a much safer way to learn!
Before we get started there are a few things that we will need:
- A copy of VirtualBox which can be obtained here.
- A Windows 7 ISO which can be obtained here.
- A Windows Server 2008 R2 ISO which can be obtained here.
Setting Up Your Lab
The first thing we need to do is get VirtualBox installed, and since this is a next, next finish type of install we are confident you will be able to get it done in no time.
Once the installation is complete we are ready to create our first virtual machine.
Since we are going to have both clients and servers, we will call this one Windows 7 (Client) and select the Windows 7 operating system from the dropdown list, then click next.
Next you are going to want to assign the VM a decent amount of memory, the minimum is 512MB but since I have quite a lot in my PC I decided to give my VM 2GB instead. A safe bet is probably 1GB though.
At this point we still need to add a hard drive to our VM, so switch the radio button over to “Create a virtual hard drive now” then click create.
There are many types of virtual hard disks but the VDI option is just fine for our purposes.
Fixed size disks give slightly better performance from a HDD point of view and quite frankly we need all the performance we can get. So flip the radio over to the Fixed size option, then click next.
The minimum recommended space for Windows 7 is 25GB but if you have the extra space increasing it to 30GB doesn’t hurt.
Once VirtualBox has finished creating our drive we are good to go.
We still need to configure some settings though, so before you get too excited click on the Machine menu and select the Settings…. option.
When the settings dialog opens, switch over to the storage section, then click on the empty IDE controller which can be found on the right-hand side.
Now look even further to the right and click on the little icon of a CD, here you will want to choose to insert a virtual CD\DVD into the drive.
Finally we want to head over to the network section and change the network settings from NAT to Internal Network. This is very important. If you don’t do this, you can’t create a network just for your virtual machines to talk to each other.
Once you are done with all that you can go ahead and start the machine.
Once it has booted it will be just like any other Windows 7 installation. Now that we have a working virtual machine, you will want to go ahead and set up one or two more clients (running Windows 7) and perhaps a single virtual machine running Windows Server 2008 R2 for our upcoming Geek School articles covering Windows Server.
Press the Windows + R keyboard combination to open a run box on your virtual machine, then type ncpa.cpl and press enter.
Right click on your network adapter and open the properties.
Then select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click the properties button.
Now change the radio button option to allow a static IP address assignment, then set your IP to 192.168.1.1 and your subnet mask to 255.255.255.0 before clicking OK to apply the settings.
Note: For each virtual machine you bring on the network you will need to increment the last digit in the IP address by 1. That means your first virtual machine will be 192.168.1.1 and your second will be 192.168.1.2. The subnet mask must stay the same for all virtual machines.
You should now be able to ping any virtual machine from any other virtual machine.
That’s all there is to it.