Build A Custom Rack Server Cabinet for VMware Lab

Here’s how to build a custom rack server cabinet on a small budget for your VMware Lab at home.

Home Rack Server Cabinet

(Picture 1 shows internal view with power and fan plugging into bottom USB connectors)

This idea works perfect for the DIY virtualization hobbyist… My 12 year old son and I built it over the weekend.

It’s a PERFECT way to rack a 2U server at home without a half or full size server cabinet.

Building a Custom Rack Server Cabinet (Code Name Project Eleanor):

Bill of Materials Purchased on Amazon

 Home Racket Server Cabinet box view

(Picture 2 shows empty Sterilite box))

  • One Sterilite 01408501 2-Shelf Base Cabinet with Putty Handles, Platinum  (more info)
  • One Dual 80mm USB Fans + Grill + Rubber Feet (more info)
  • One TP-LINK TL-WN722N Wireless N150 High Gain USB Adapter (more info)
  • Two cans of black spray paint.
  • optional – USB hub
  • optional – USB sound card
  • optional – speakers

Sterilite Cabinet Modification Steps

Step 1 – After assembling the cabinet, first I cut a 17” x 1-3/4′ rectangle hole in the top of the cabinet with a jigsaw. These dimensions can be modified to fit your server width x height. This hole is where you will slide the server down through. (Basically it is a 2U vertical server rack.)

Step 2 – Then, I drilled two 1/4″ holes, on each side of the rectangle for the server thumb screws to enter. This actually helps support the weight of the server from falling through the plastic top.

Step 3 – Next, I cut two 80mm round holes on the back of the cabinet 6” from the base and equally centered. This is where the exhaust fans will be mounted. I also drilled 2 small holes for fan mounting screws.

Step 4 – And then I cut a 1” x 2” horizon rectangle in-between the fans for passing the power and fan cable through.

Step 5 – Finally, I spray painted the cabinet black.

Assembling the Custom Rack Server Cabinet

Once the paint is dry (4 hours), you are ready to mount the fans to the back of the cabinet and pass the USB connector back through the hole you cut for power.

(See picture 3)

Home Rack Server Cabinet fans

(Picture 3 shows fan mounted on back and power cable going through access hole)

Then you pass the power cable through the hole. (as also shown in picture 3)

Next you lower the server through the hole on the top of the cabinet; ensuring the top of the server is facing outwards so you can remove the top panel in case you need to perform maintenance on the server’s hardware.

(See pictures 1 and 4)

Home Rack Server Cabinet Top View

(Picture 4 shows front (facing up) of the 1950 server)

Then you cable up the power and fans. (as shown in picture 1)

And finally you plug in the monitor and keyboard to the front connector on the server. (See picture 5)

Home Rack Server Cabinet monitor and keyboard

(Picture 5 show monitor and keyboard plugged into top USB connectors)

For the wifi network, insert the wifi adapter in the top USB connector. (See picture 6)

Home Rack Server Cabinet wifi adapter

(Picture 6 show USB wifi adapter))


The pictures shown above show the server running Windows 8. This is what I installed to download and update firmware and drivers.

At this point the server has been tested, the drives are mirrored (RAID1 is configured) and the VMware Lab is ready to go with a fresh install of ESXi (free version).

Project Eleanor has been a big success! BTW the name is from the Shelby in gone is 60 Seconds… From Sterilite to Shelby.

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