Some readers have asked me to share what I use for a lab / bench system.

Having a lab to learn on is easier than ever these days. Honestly, I don’t look any further than Intel’s NUC computers. These are small, lightweight systems that run quietly and fit behind most monitors. They are super easy to setup, and it’s what I’m currently running at home.

You can put these systems together for less than 1,000 USD, but the one I link to here adds up to just over that, $1,024, at the time of this writing. If you skimp on RAM, or step down to an i5 model, you can save some dough, but keep in mind that Windows Server 2016 is not officially supported on the i5 models.

The one that supports Windows Server 2016, Hyper-V and VMware is found here.

Don’t worry, the “skull” design plate is removable/optional. This system features an i7 processor, so plenty quick. In addition, you’ll want to max out the RAM, most likely to 32 GB (I find this to be plenty for a small home lab).

Finally, you need storage. The NUC computer has several options, but a good start is this miniature M.2 500 GB SSD drive. They also offer a 1 TB version if you want to go crazy. Or one of each, if you like, since you can actually do 2x of these M.2 SSD drives with the Skull Canyon/i7 model.