Home Lab Server Guide
How to POWER your virtual machine test environment with a personal cloud…
This VMinstall guide will discuss the parts needed to build a home lab VM server for hosting multiple virtual machines.
We’ll cover parts like CPU, motherboard, storage options, and operating systems so you can make the best decision for your needs.
The best way to get started is by getting the powerful hardware that suits your needs.
For a good home server lab that can work as a personal cloud and handle your testing and training needs, you’ll need a powerful machine that can run multiple virtual machines. Preferably a system that has at least 16-32GB of RAM, SSD storage, and an i5 3.0 GHz core CPU (Intel Core i7 is better if you have one).
Your home lab server will be running virtualization software like WMware Workstation, Virtual Box, or Hyper-V, so you’ll need an operating system that supports your choice of VM software and cloud platform software.
Linux or Windows 10 Pro (Windows Server if you have it) will work.
How To Build a Home Lab VM Server (Personal Cloud)
Building a personal cloud is not as hard as it sounds.
It’s basically building a PC that is used as a server instead of a desktop to run cloud software. However, the option to buy a powerful top-of-the-line PC also exists. Although that’s not as exciting, right?
Look, we’re not talking about building a high-end beast like those that run Amazon, but still, it will be used in a similar way as if your home lab server was a cloud to host virtual machines for testing software or for your training. I have one where I have multiple VM loaded with software for my Udemy courses on machine learning.
The benefit of having a home lab server is you’re not gunking up your main PC with open source software that you keep installing, uninstalling, and reinstalling…
With the right tools and knowledge, you can build your own custom-built computer that will be used as a virtual machine lab.
This guide will show you how to best choose hardware for your VM Lab PC so you don’t have any issues later on down the road!
Tip! But before we get started I want to suggest using any old system for your home lab server. If you already have something available that might have an Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU with 4 or more cores. And it can be upgraded to 16 or 32 GB of memory, you might be able to same some time and money.
How to decide what hardware to buy for your home lab server setup.
The components of a good home lab server for running virtual machines include a CPU with plenty of cores, lots of RAM memory, SSD hard drive storage space (or at least dedicated HDD storage), graphics card with dedicated memory, and an operating system that is compatible with virtual machines.
The best home server hardware for running virtual machines.
Let’s take you through the home lab server hardware configuration step-by-step. One computer part at a time…
Selecting Powerful Hardware Parts - Home Server Lab
The motherboard is the component that connects all of your PC’s hardware together, so it’s important to pick a good one when building a PC for virtual machines.
1. ASRock B560M Steel Legend (LGA1200) B560 Chipset MicroATX Motherboard
The heart of your computer is the Central Processing Unit (CPU) which is responsible for allocating resources to different processes.
When it comes to virtual machines, you want a CPU with plenty of cores so that every process has its own processor in order to function as smoothly as possible.
The more cores your CPU has, the better. We showing an Intel Core i5, but an Intel Core i7 is preferred.
2. Intel Core i5-11600K – Rocket Lake 6-Core 3.9 GHz LGA 1200 Processor – BX8070811600K
- Compatible with Intel 500 series & select Intel 400 series chipset based motherboards
- Intel Optane Memory Support
- PCIe Gen 4.0 Support
- No thermal solution included
3. Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo CPU Cooler for AMD Ryzen/Intel LGA1200/1151
- New SickleFlow 120 Fan: Improved airflow and air pressure with revised curve blade design.
- Asymmetrical 4 Heatpipes Design: Asymmetrical heat pipe design provides RAM compatibility and clearance across varioUs/platforms
- Direct Contact Technology: Exclusive Direct Contact Technology using 4 copper heat pipes delivers exceptional heat dissipation
- Optimal Air Flow: Stacked fin array minimizes resistance for better airflow through the heatsink
- Quiet Operation: Performance fan reduces vibration for silent operation
4. Arctic Silver 5 High-Density Polysynthetic Silver Thermal Compound
- 99.9% pure micronized silver
- Non-electrically conductive
- Will not separate, run, migrate or bleed
- Thermal conductance: >350 000W/m2 degreesC (0.001 inch layer)
- Easy to apply and remove
The RAM (memory)
Going along with the idea of allocating resources to processes is Random Access Memory (RAM). This memory can be thought of like a scratchpad for your CPU and different applications use it at different rates.
The amount of RAM you need when running an operating system through a virtual machine is dependent on what type of guest OS you are using. For example, if you plan on running Windows 7 in your VM, 1 GB of RAM should be sufficient.
If you’re running the latest version of Microsoft Office (365) however, 4-6 GB of RAM should be more than enough to run everything without a hitch.
5. CORSAIR Vengeance RGB Pro 16GB (2 x 8GB) Desktop Memory Model CMW16GX4M2C3200C16W
- Dynamic Multi Zone RGB Lighting
- Next Generation Software. Heat Spreader-Anodized Aluminum
- Custom Performance PCB
- Tightly Screened Memory.SPD Speed:2133MHz
- Maximum Bandwidth and Tight Response Times
The Hard Drive
The hard drive is where all your files and applications are stored, so it’s important to have enough storage space in order for everything to function smoothly when running virtual machines.
6. PNY CS2130 M.2 2280 500GB PCI-Express 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.3 3D NAND (SSD) M280CS2130-500-RB (Host System)
- Mainstream NVMe upgrade from a SATA based solid state drive (SSD) in NVMe enabled PC or Mac computers for super-fast OS boot times and application loads
- The NVMe PCIe Gen3 x4 interface delivers exceptional performance of up to 3 500MB/s seq read and 3 000MB/s seq write speeds
- The enhanced bandwidth of the NVMe interface allows for high performance and low latency making it superior to SATA based SSD’s
- Premium performance and ultra low power consumption ideal for demanding applications and high-end games
- Competitive 5 Year backed by 24/7 US based technical support
7. Team Group T-Force VULCAN 2.5″ 500GB SATA III 3 D NAND (SSD) T253TV500G3C301 (Guest Systems)
The Graphics Card (optional)
A graphics card (or video card) is responsible for processing the images on your screen and sending them to your monitor.
Depending on what you’re going to be using your virtual machine for, a dedicated graphics card might or might not be necessary. If you plan on running 3D applications within the VM, having a dedicated video card is a must as it increases your performance.
If all you want to do is run some apps through the virtual machine and have them on your desktop at the same time, then it’s not necessary.
8. ASUS GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gaming Graphics Card (PH-GTX1050Ti-4G)
The computer case and power supply
The computer case and power supply are the last pieces of hardware you’ll need to buy for your build.
It’s best to go with a mid-range case that is able to house all of your components and provide sufficient airflow throughout, as this will help keep things cool when you start scaling things up.
A good power supply should also be included so that everything runs properly and you don’t have to worry about any power issues.
9. Antec P10 FLUX, F-LUX Platform, Mid-Tower Silent Case
- F-LUX Platform: Advanced case structure for excellent airflow + 5 x 120 mm fans included
- Provide mass airflow to your components with room for up to 6 x 120 mm fans
- Reversible & Swing-Open Front Panel: Choose how to open it according to your dominant hand or PC environment
- Air-Concentrating Filter: Enhances the Cooling
- Ready for radiator up to 360 mm in front & 120 mm in rear
10. Cooler Master MWE Gold 750 V2 Fully Modular, 750W, 80+ Gold Efficiency, Quiet HDB Fan, 2 EPS Connectors, High-Temperature Resilience
- 3 EPS Connectors : 2 EPS connectors included with all models for universal current generation motherboard compatibility.
- High Temperature Resilience: The new gen offers an increase in operating temperature to its predecessor to a maximum of 50 degrees Celsius.
- Fully Modular: Modular flat black cables reduce clutter, increase airflow, and improve overall efficiency and thermal performance.
- Hydro Dynamic Fan: The 120mm HDB fan creates less friction, for a smoothly and low RPM operations, while keeping the noise level down.
Why should I care about the WIFI network adapter when building my computer?
The WIFI network adapter (optional)
This is a piece of hardware that you might not want to think about when making a PC for virtual machines, but it’s best if your network adapter has high-quality components and is compatible with the type of Internet connection you plan on using.
11. TP-Link WiFi 6 AX3000 PCIe WiFi Card (Archer TX3000E)
- WiFi 6 PCIe Card - Reach incredible speeds up to 2.4 Gbps (2402 Mbps in 5 GHz or 574 Mbps on 2.4 GHz) with ultra-low latency and uninterrupted connectivity using Wi-Fi 6 technologies¹
- Minimized Lag for Your PC - The networking card is equipped with OFDMA and MU-MIMO technology to reduce lag so you can enjoy ultra-responsive real-time gaming, or an immersive VR experience on even the busiest networks
- Broader Range - 2 powerful signal-boost, high-gain antennas greatly inrease range for a smoother online gaming experience in further away distances
- Bluetooth 5.2 for Greater Speed and Range - Equipped with the latest Bluetooth technology, Archer TX55E achieves 2x faster speeds and 4x broader coverage compared to Bluetooth 4.2 so you can connect your favorite devices such as game controllers, headphones, and keyboards for the ultimate setup.²
- Cutting Edge WPA3 - Protector your network with the latest WPA3 security protocol so your information transmitted via the wireless adapter is secure from hackers³
If you don’t plan to use WIFI, please see our guide about network interface cards (NIC) and the best ethernet cables for ESXi servers.
Which cloud software best suits your needs/wants?
The Host and Guest Operating Systems
You can run various versions of Microsoft Windows or distributions of Linux as your host of guest OS.
The Host Operating System is where all of your applications are located and the Guest Operating System is what you are going to be running within the VM.
However, the main difference between the two is where the virtual machine software is set up.
The virtual machine software is installed on the host OS.
Also, some virtual machine software products such as VMware Workstations and VirtualBox can only be installed on newer versions of Linux and Windows. You’ll want to check your documentation of your VM software before you install your main OS.
Two more options for virtual machine software are Hyper-V, which is included with Windows Pro or Windows Server, and KVM, which is included with Linux.
Unless you’re a server admin, I’d stick with Windows Home OS with Virtual Box (free virtual machine software) or Windows Pro with Hyper-V.
Check out this guide to see a list of cloud software alternatives.
People also ask
What is a virtual machine?
Virtual machines are a great way to run multiple operating systems on the same powerful hardware system.
VM Software allows you to install and use different operating systems on the same machine, which can be useful if you need access to multiple apps at once or if you want to test out new operating systems before committing.
In order for your multiple virtual machines set up to work as smoothly as possible, it’s important that you have a home lab server hardware for running them.
I run multiple VMs loaded with Windows and Linux for my training courses.
Why do you need virtual machines?
Virtual machines are a great way to run multiple operating systems on the same computer! They can be used in many different ways depending on what type of work you’re doing, whether that means accessing different apps or testing out new operating systems.
You can build and simulate complete virtual server environments for application design, development, and testing.
Also, many cyber security students use a home lab server to practice their hacking skills on test systems.
What is the best hardware for virtual machines?
This is a really good question.
It depends on what you’re going to be using the virtual machine for. For example, if you’re going to need a lot of processing power and a large memory capacity, then it’s best to have at least one quad-core processor and 12 GB of RAM.
If you just need to use your VM as a way to run certain software without having it installed on your computer, then 1-2 GB of RAM should be sufficient as long as you use a lightweight operating system such as Linux or Microsoft Windows 10 in S mode.
What is the best virtual machine pc build?
Choosing the best PC to build a virtual machine lab is important if you plan to use it for software testing or development.
You’ll need at least 2 GB of RAM and an Intel i5 processor. If you’re just using the computer to run Windows 10 in S mode, then 1-2 GB of RAM should be fine.
Can Hyper-V run a Linux virtual PC on Windows 10?
Yes, is pretty cool. Hyper-V can run a virtual pc of Windows or Linux 64BIT OS on Windows 10 when the Pro license is installed. And BTW, it comes preconfigured to pull down Ubuntu.
How do I create a VM with Hyper-V on Windows 10?
The best way to create a new VM on Windows 10 is to use Hyper-V Manager. There are various things that you’ll need to understand about the best configuration for your system, but if you’re just looking for an average setup, then follow these steps: open Hyper-V Manager > right-click on “New” > select “Virtual Machine”.
The first thing you’ll need to do after opening Hyper-V Manager creates a virtual machine. Follow these steps:
1. Right-click on New > select Virtual Machine
2. Select the type of virtual machine you would like, which is typically either Generation 1 or Generation 2.
3. Click next > name the VM and select the location where you want to save it
4. Select the amount of memory you would like for your virtual machine
5. Configure networking, if needed
6. Virtual hard disk configuration, choose either a new virtual hard disk or an existing one
7. Click on start once your virtual machine has been configured
8. Once it has started, open the VM settings and configure everything to your liking
9. You can now install an operating system within the virtual machine just as you would on a physical computer!
What’s the best OS for running a virtual Linux machine?
The best operating system to run a virtual Linux machine can vary depending on what you’re going to be using it for. If you’re looking for the best performance, then we recommend running Ubuntu 18.04 and setting up your virtual machine with at least 12 GB of RAM and two processors if possible.
If you plan to work with development tools then you should use Ubuntu 16.04, CentOS 7, or RHEL 7 because they offer better compatibility with other software. If you’re only planning on using the virtual machine for web development then any Linux distro should work well.
I run CentOS 7 for my Udemy training labs.
What’s the best Linux Operating System to run on a home lab server?
Linux is an open-source operating system that is widely used in servers and other types of systems.
There are many different versions of Linux, so it’s important to choose the one that best suits your needs.
Most people who are new to Linux will start with Ubuntu.
What is the best Linux Virtual Machines for General Use?
There are many different Linux distributions (or “distros”) available, but not all of them are suitable for use as a virtual machine. In this section, we will explore some of the best distros for general use in a virtual machine environment.
Ubuntu 18.04: The best Linux virtual machine for general use. Ubuntu is a very popular and user-friendly distro that comes in many different flavors, including the server version and the cloud version. It’s also easy to install and offers great performance in a virtual environment.
CentOS 7: The best Linux virtual machine for games. CentOS is a great option for users who want to run software that requires better compatibility with older versions of Linux, or in cases where their system will be used to play older video games.
Building a home server that is capable of running virtual machines smoothly is not difficult these days due to the abundance of parts and software to choose from.
And if you want ideas for using your new home server lab there’s no shortage of training courses that you can get that take you step-by-step through any type of technology. If you have any questions about what hardware or training will work best for you, feel free to leave a comment or contact us.
What if I want more power for my home server lab?
I’ve built a custom home lab cabinet that supported a 1U Dell server. The guide I created for building the cabinet includes step-by-step images.
If you want more power for your personal cloud here’s where you can also find new and refurbished server hardware from all the major manufacturers.
Be careful managing full-size servers, they are very heavy and awkward to handle. The rails will also pinch your fingers.
Will this personal cloud also work for a small business server?
Yes, with some tweaks on security and a backup system, you could make it work. You might also want to consider a pre-built tower server to save on time.
Tower servers are perfect for small and medium offices and don’t require a server cabinet.
In the guide, we explored the hardware parts needed to build a new home lab server for running virtual machines. We hope you found this information helpful in determining which CPU, RAM, motherboard, hard drive, graphics card, and other accessories you need when building a custom-built computer for your home lab server.
If you have any questions about what is best for your build feel free to leave a comment below!
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