What You Need to Set Up a Network

By Doug Lowe

Before you install a server operating system, gather everything you need so you don’t have to look for something in the middle of the network setup. Here are the items you’re most likely to need.

A capable server computer

Obviously, you have to have a server computer on which to install the server operating system. Each server operating system has a list of minimum hardware requirements supported by the OS. For example, here are the minimum requirements for Windows Server 2012.

Item Windows Server 2016
CPU 1.4 GHz
RAM 512MB
Free disk space 32GB

My suggestion is that you take these minimums with a grain of salt. Windows Server 2016 will crawl like a snail with 512MB of RAM; don’t bother with less than 8GB, and 16GB is a more appropriate minimum for most purposes.

You should also check your server hardware against the list of compatible hardware published by the maker of your server operating system. For example, Microsoft publishes a list of hardware that it has tested and certified as compatible with Windows servers. This list is called the hardware compatibility list (HCL). You can check the HCL for your specific server.

You can also test your computer’s compatibility by running the Check System Compatibility option from the Windows distribution CD-ROM.

The server OS

You also need a server OS to install. You need the distribution CDs or DVDs or access to copies of them over the network. In addition to the discs, you should have the following:

  • The product key: The installation program will ask you to prove that you have a legal copy of the software. If you have the actual DVDs, the product key should be on a sticker attached to the case.
  • Your license type: You can purchase Windows Server on a per-server or a per-user/per-device basis. You need to know which plan you have when you install the server operating system.

Check the DVD distribution disc for product documentation and additional last-minute information. For example, Windows servers have a \docs folder that contains several files that have useful setup information.

Other software

In most cases, the installation program should be able to automatically configure your server’s hardware devices and install appropriate drivers. Just in case, though, you should dig out the driver disks/discs that came with your devices, such as network interface cards, SCSI devices, DVD drives, printers, scanners, and so on.

A working Internet connection

Online connectivity isn’t an absolute requirement, but the installation will go much smoother if you have a working Internet connection before you start. The installation process may use this Internet connection for several things:

  • Downloading late-breaking updates or fixes to the OS: This can eliminate the need to install a Service Pack after you finish installing the server operating system.
  • Locating drivers for nonstandard devices: This can be a big plus if you can’t find the driver disk for an obscure SCSI card.
  • Activating the product after you complete the installation (for Windows Server)

A good book

You’ll spend lots of time watching progress bars during installation, so you may as well have something to do while you wait. Check out Ron Chernow’s Hamilton, the 800-page tome that was the inspiration for the popular Broadway musical that no one can get tickets for.