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Mini garage server room/lab build blog


Active Member
Hi guys, pretty new here but i thought i would start a blog to show my plan for my server room/lab.

I'm basically building it with old hardware more for learning with hands on expereince than anything else.

I have been gathering freebies and cheap hardware together in an attempt to get a server room setup in my garage.

I'm basically looking for somewhere where i can test out new things, play around with hardware and teach myself new operating systems.

Inside my house i have a HP Prolient N40L which i use as a file server and its quiet enough to leave on but i know that i can do a lot more with this which i may at a later date (DNS & DHCP etc)

In my garage i have quite a few bits now:

HP Prolient ML350 case (empty)
1 x 2u server case, AMD X2 5200, 2gb ram, PSU and 160gb hard drive (not setup yet)
1 x 1u server case, mini itx (approx 1ghz cpu), 512mb ram and silent psu.
1 x 1u server case, empty but with psu
2 x supermicro 1u servers (1 is a p4, other untested) may gut them and buy atom boards.
1 x SFF RM Nimbus P4 2.8Ghz pc, 512mb ram, 40gb ide, tape drive, dvdrw, 3xGig nics

1 x Cisco SR2024 24 port gigabit switch
1 x Netgear GS724T v2
1 x sonicwall 3060

and the following cisco gear

1 x 1601 router
1 x 1603 router
2 x 1721 routers
1 x 2621 router
1 x 2503 router
2 x 2516 routers
1 x 2950 switch
1 x 7906 phone

I just bought another pair of 500mbps homeplugs and plugged one into the garage throught a 4 way power plank as i only have 1 socket in there.
Suprisingly i got a full strength signal in there which was a worry but all seems well.

Now, the fun starts with setting it all up.

I want to learn about ubuntu server, firewalls, hosting (testing etc nothing serious) and cisco labs.

I'm looking to setup a ubuntu server machine, a pfsense firewall, a centos hosting machine and then a cisco lab.

I'm currently studying the CompTIA Network + exam and im hoping this will give me some hands on experience which will see me move into cisco networking etc.

I;m looking to hear if anyone has any comments, suggestions or any project ideas that i could follow etc to help with my learning.

Cheers!! (pics will follow during setup)


Active Member
Been busy in my week off last week doing a bit of garage work. Got a homeplugs and linked it to my netgear 24 port managed switch. Then decided I wanted an access point to extent my coverage of my wifi to the garage and garden for music and general use so I setup an old linksys wireless router as an access point and it's working well.

Next I gutted one of the supermicro servers (had a faulty gfx chip) and replaced the psu with a 1u one I bought of these forums a while ago along with an old mini itx board/CPU just so I had a system in there even though it's only about 1ghz and 1gb ram.

The other supermicro is working and is a P4 HT so it will be fine for a hosting/file server for testing on a Linux platform

That's all I have done at the minute apart from cleaning and stuff. Few pics of setup....


This is the gear I have spare.


This was the setup at first.


Then I got this little rack trolley which is a nice size for my setup. Will move stuff around when I get a monitor (gonna have one hooked up 24/7 as I will always be adding stuff to this build and don't want to have to take servers into the house for installing OS's etc) I will of course by using Putty etc to do config work etc.

Any help or comments would be appreciated and if anyone has any projects that would help me, please set me one!


Active Member
Not sure if anyone is reading or following...

Monitor acquired last night but didn't have much time so will be installing OS's at the weekend. Think I'm going to go with a freenas server for music etc and either Ubuntu or centos as a web server.

More pics to follow.

cc devil

Novice Member
hi geordieboy25, sorry i have to use the thread to ask u about the dtt3500. ive been tryin to contact u by pm, but failed. please let me know if u still have it. thanks


Active Member
Bit of an update. Installed ubuntu 14.04 on one of the servers, didn't have time to set it up after installation so that's the job for today. Also need to decide on an OS for the other server, maybe freenas I think.

Friend of mine dropped off a load of gear for me too, 17"TFT, 2 x 20" tft's (dual monitor server room....) a brand new UPS and a box of bits and bobs like pci-e gfx cards, ddr3 ram and hard drives etc.





Active Member
Nothing at the minute, bought it for £1.50 from a car boot sale, was just testing it and testing pings through main pc to garage etc. Didn't have a server setup at the time so needed something to ping.


Active Member
Right, had a bit of time away from the server room as we were getting our garden done (new build house so all we had was mud...) and the lads needed access to the garage to store their tools etc and turf/mud was travelling through there so decided to leave it alone for now.

Now that's it's all done I'm planning on setting it up properly!
I'm going to build a partition in the garage (70/30) split with internal door etc so I can have a small office/server room.

So first job is to gut the garage, clean it and bin loads of stuff then I'm going to batton the walls, insulate and plasterboard or mdf the walls then I have a nice little insulated server room.

Got 3 hp monitors, one 17" and 2 x 20" so going to mount the 3 in a line on one wall and build a small rack for the rest of my gear.

Excited about this project!!!

Any comments?


Well-known Member
If constructing a room remember to include sufficient ventilation.
For the firewall you will need a box with at least 2 network ports but preferable would be 3 to allow you to operate a DMZ for the hosting stuff you want to try.

The Hunt For the Ultimate Free Open Source Firewall Distro

Very interesting comparison article for firewalls.

Building a CCNA Home Lab

CCNA Home Lab | Building Your Cisco CCNA Home Lab

Cisco Certification Kits: CCNA, CCNP, CCIE, used and new router and switches.

Some Cisco links.
Some of your Cisco kit may no longer be useful as the reqs for a practice lab are dictated by the exam reqs.
Dell own SonicWall now so not sure if you will have any joy there without a support contract.


Active Member
Thanks very much for all that. The sonicwall got sold for £35 which is going towards the room build and quite a lot of the cisco gear is going on Freecycle when I work out which bits I need to keep.

I have a sff p4 machine with 3 x gb nics which I might use, if not I have a 2u case with dual core board/CPU that I could use if the p4 is not enough.


Active Member
Right, bit of an update...
Out of the 2 x 1u supermicro cases, 1 is a P4 with 2GB DDR2 with Dual NIC's (unsure of speed ATM) but this is going to be my firewall, probs with pfsense installed on either a small HDD or a CF card etc.

THe other 1u supermicro case i just gutted (it had an old 800mhz board with 256mb ddr memory) and i've just ordered this...

Gigabyte GA-J1800N-D2H Motherboard (Intel Celeron J1800, USB 3.0, DDR3L, SATA 300, M-ITX, PCI Express 2.0 x1, mini-PCI Express, HDMI): Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories

Which should be powerfull enough to install Windows Server 2008 R2 and have it as the main server in my test room. (might order another one as a firewall if the P4 isnt powerful enough)

I'll be setting this all up over the weekend so will take some new pics when i'm setup and ready.

Decided against using the 2u server and the 2 x 1u server cases just yet. I'm keeping them as spares for when i build the actual office space inside the office as im going to build a DIY server rack into a workbench.

Any comments VERY welcome!!


Active Member
Had a bit of free time today and done a bit of work on the setup.
The new motherboard is installed, up and running with freenas installed on a 80gb Sata and a 160gb data drive for testing.

The other super micro machine is the P4 machine which is running far too hot, 75 degrees which is the CPU cut off point so I may well replace the guts with another of the mitx boards or a dual nic board as I wanted to make it a pfsense firewall.

So I either gut that and spend cash on another board or use the p4 rm nimbus machine but I really want to use the 1u super micro case.

What do I do.....

Also, had a bit of luck on eBay... HP Proliant DL385 G1 2u server, Dual AMD 2.6Ghz Opetron, 16gb ram and 2 x 146gb hard drives. Problem is, it's loud. VERY LOUD!!!

Can anyone talk through what they would recommend I do please???


Well-known Member
For the P4 machine take a look at the heatsink on the CPU. Possible that the paste has dried out and needs renewing. Also if it is a OEM one it maybe worth replacing with an aftermarket one off of EBay.
I would put 2008 server on the DL385. As to the noise level there is not much you can do except look at replacing fans,where possible, with silent ones.
Custom Built PC Specialist | Buy a PC from Quiet PC

Another useful thing to get for the HP Server is the Maintenance and Service Guide from the support site. This has all the info about the server including breakdown diagrams.
Manuals for HP ProLiant DL385 Server - HP Support Center


Active Member
Sorry for late reply, didn't get a notification so just saw this now. Yeah, I'll try new thermal paste on the p4 as it seems strange, maybe I don't have the heatsink on properly as I recall taking it apart to dust when I first got it. Cheers.

Think I'm gonna go with server 08r2 on the dl385 and see how it runs. Some say you can control the fan speed once an OS is loaded? I'll look into the fans though as it would be nice to have that running as it would run stuff like DHCP, DNS and a few vm's leaving my microserver free for a test lab



Distinguished Member
Server fans can be fairly specific though as they aren't optimised for sound but more for how much air they can push through. The can often be thicker then their desktop PC equivalent which enables them to drive their CFM.

A lot of servers when they start will ramp up their fans to full which can sound like an army of vacuum cleaners but if they have an OS installed with the right drivers etc then this will significantly drop when the OS loads. That been said it still won't be quiet as in a data centre noise isn't that much of an issue.


Active Member
Keep posting my friend, I will be very interested to see what else you get up to with this setup!

I have recently started working in PC Support and I am thinking of building up myself with something similar to tinker around with. I have yet to check out exactly what, but apparently we have quite a stash of Cisco equipment knocking around at work for me to play with. I am looking to pick up a cheap server and start playing.

First up was going to be an install ove Server 2012, set up a domain controller etc, then maybe some virtualisation VMware or something... should keep me busy :)


Active Member
Sorry, didn't realise anyone was still reading this. Again it's taken a slight backseat due to summer holidays, wife miscarriage and now the garage is full of boxes from furniture we had delivered.

Just got back at work today after a few weeks off but really going to get cracking with this in the coming weeks so please subscribe and I'll get done updates soon.


Active Member
Hi guys, bit of an update.
I'm leaving the garage for a couple of weeks until i have time to sort it out but in the mean time i aim to fully utilise my HP N40L Microserver.
I have installed Windows Server 2008 R2, its got the stock 250gb hard drive for the OS, 500GB data drive, 500GB media drive and a 500GB external hard drive plugged in.
The server only has 4GB ram (2 x 2GB) so im thinking i need to upgrade this.

I want to get the full use out of Server 2008 and teach myself a few things along the way.
I put on a fresh install of Server 2008R2, activated with all updates, and setup with file sharing, backup (to the 500gb drive), HyperV (for testing a few linux OS's) and im also looking at making it a DNS, DHCP and web server for a blog im looking to start and host from home.

So, i know that the server needs more memory than 4GB for this, so what do you guys recommend? Would 8GB in the server be ok? I have about £150 set aside for upgrades so i can get a 8GB stick for about £50 ish and see how i go from there.....

I'm also toying with the idea of a dual gigabit NIC for learning about more indepth networking etc.

Please, please, please comment and help me out with some expert advice :)


Distinguished Member
Mine's running perfectly fine with "only" 2GB RAM under Linux. IMHO Windows has something of a reputation of being a bit of a "bloated" OS that gobbles up RAM - often it's consumed by disc caching (and lazy programmers.) But then I'm old enough to remember when 4MB cost GBP250 and was considered "a lot" and wonder what the hell it does with it all.

I can't see that DNS & DHCP would add substantially to the memory requirements - they're not massive processes and won't be doing much in a small network. But running VM's does start to gobble up the resources. And I've seen A/V consume a surprising amount too.

Generally the key is to watch the page file usage - if the O/S isn't paging, or not paging much, then you don't need more RAM.

To use dual NIC's you've either got to bind up each NIC to a separate IP address (which could make DNS resolution and a few other things "interesting") or (IMHO better) use some form of layer 2 NIC teaming if your O/S and/or NIC drivers avail such. Have a look at HP's site and see if there's a NIC teaming driver for the N54L/NIC. If such exists, and depending on how it works, NIC teaming might require a compatible switch to cooperate with it. For example, my DL360/DL380 servers NIC drivers supported teaming using the IEEE standard "Link Aggregation" protocol, but one needed to pair that with a switch that also supported LA for it to work. Bear in mind that things like LA are not about doubling the "speed" but enhancing the throughput. It's more lanes on the motorway, not double the speed limit. ie. one can serve two clients at 1GBit each not one client at 2GBit. However, others here have reported that by creating end-to-end LA, they do see performance improvements.
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Active Member
Thanks very much for taking time to reply, i've noticed your input on the forums and am grateful for your advice.
Yes, im installing WS08R2 so i have a server platform so to speak, while doing this, via HyperV, im going to be installing a few linux OS's to learn linux and command line etc.
If everything goes to plan im going to install Ubuntu desktop (which is actuall installing via a VM as we "type") then followed by a VM of Ubuntu server once i get to grips with a few basics etc.
Once i have that setup im going to try hosting a blog, a VERY simple blog and im drawn towards CentOS for this as a few people have advised that this is a decent OS for hosting??

So, with all these VM's, albeit i wont be running them all at the same time, im thinking maybe a memory upgrade may be needed.

I dont fully understand the dual NIC part of things as yet, but (dont laugh) i have bought the "Networking for dummies" book and am reading through that as because i dont know many people in the IT industry, i quite like basic books which spell things out clearly for me to understand and it helps with my CompTIA Network + studies.


Distinguished Member
You'll never find me laughing at the inquisitive - only the arrogant. :) As my Grandfather used to say, "there's no shame in not knowing, only in not wanting to know."

Much I as I try not to be a cheerleader for any particular technology/vendor, Cisco put their networking primer available online a while ago. Some of it's a bit outdated now and covers technologies not much in use these days, but it's still worth a read if you're interested in data networking. I recall borrowing the paper version more decades ago than I care to remember and found it interesting. Internetworking Technology Handbook - DocWiki Wiki's articles are not too bad also - though there are a few mistakes mostly to do with the language.

The point I'm making about dual NIC's in a server is that it's not a simple as just installing the NIC and plugging into a switch - it needs a bit of planning, software and hardware support depending on what you're trying to achieve.

One of the things I always found challenging with *NIX is knowing "where to start." I think you probably just have to dive in around flounder around a bit until you find your way. Fortunately there's now plenty of help available on the Internet - the "open" ethos of the *NIX community tends to encourage such. I'm often astounded at how much *NIX O/S & software is given away for free. (Contrast that with M$ and Apple-sue-you.) If you're learning with VGuest's then of course it's easy to through away a VGuest that's in a mess and start again, so virtual machines would seem an ideal learning resource.
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Active Member
Thanks again for the reply. I'm getting through the book quite fast and although the stuff I've read so far I already know, I didn't want to skip any of it incase it pointed something out that I didn't know.
My friend is an IT manager and is going to come and spend a day with me going through my setup and advised if I bought the dual nic he would go through and show me how I could set it all up.
I'm going to create a small network plan to show what I want to achieve with the hardware I have and then make a list of what I need to buy.

I did install a VM of Ubuntu into the server through hyperv but it ran very sluggish even though I had 1gb ram dedicated to it. Memory is a priority I feel.


Well-known Member
If the VM was done on the microserver then its not surprising. Haven't you installed 2008 server on to the HP DL that you got off of eBay?

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