To properly study for the Windows 2000 and .NET exams, you need a few resources. Here I describe a general lab setup that will be sufficient for most parts of your study. Lab setup can fall into two areas: hardware and software.


You will benefit from having at least three computers with the following configuration as a baseline:

Processor: minimum Pentium II 266; recommended Pentium III 500. AMD processors are acceptable, but not as good.

Memory: minimum 128MB RAM. I recommend that at least one system have 256MB of RAM; it would be best if all systems did.

Video: If you want to play some games when you're taking a break, I'd go for the NVidia GeForce2.

Hard disk: Each system should at least have a 4GB hard disk. Generally, a 2GB drive would be acceptable, but sometimes you need more space for some extra services and applications. Some configurations also require multiple large partitions (I'm thinking of RIS here).

I recommend that you get hard-disk caddies. You put your disk in a tray, which you insert and remove from the computer (when it's off!). This system lets you use a single computer to run multiple OSs without having to run messy dual-boot configurations. But using hard-disk caddies requires an extra hard disk.

Besides the processor, memory, and disk space, most other factors in the system are less meaningful. But here are a few other pieces of hardware you might want:

100Mbps network cards and hub. A 10Mbps network card is just too slow these days. If you have the funds, pick up network cards with PXE boot ROMs, which let them use the RIS service natively. However, you don't absolutely need this type of card because you can emulate PXE with a boot floppy. Sound cards are good. USB devices are also good so you can practice configuring them.


I recommend that you get the following software:

  • An evaluation copy of Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, and Microsoft BackOffice 2000.

  • Editor's Note: Evaluation copies for most of the software that the author mentions are available on our Free Stuff page at

  • If you don't get BackOffice, then you will want to at least get an evaluation copy of Windows 2000 or .NET Server (when the latter becomes available).

  • No doubt you already own a copy of Windows 95 or 98 because your PC most likely came with a copy. This is fortunate because you'll need to take a look at upgrading from 9x (shudder).

  • RedHat Linux 7.2 or higher, or some other flavor of Linux. You'll want Linux for studying UNIX-based OSs because knowledge of interoperation with these OSs is important for some of the Windows 2000 exams.

  • If you have the money, Microsoft Office XP. You can use it to practice software deployment with Group Policy.

Other software you might want includes WinZip, an FTP program, an IRC client, and Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Note that I didn't tell you how to configure this equipment. Each exam will require a unique setup because each exam covers different topics. Here's a list of equipment I had when I studied for the Windows 2000 exams:

At work, I have a dual Pentium II 266MHz system with 256MB RAM and 16GB disk space (the server in my classroom). I also have 27 AMD K6 400MHz systems with 128MB RAM. This setup makes for a nice test of different clients. At home, I have a dual Pentium II 266MHz system with 256MB RAM and 7GB disk space; an AMD K6 450 with 96MB RAM and 2GB disk space; an AMD Athlon 700 with 128MB RAM and 10GB disk space (this is my wife's system, which I used with great reluctance on her part).