Introduction: Setting Up a Basic Cisco Home Lab

Picture of Setting Up a Basic Cisco Home Lab

The basic lab is for anyone who is interested in networking and would like to start studying for the CCNA ICND1 100-101, ICND2 200-101 exams. The lab can also accompany GNS3 software for hands-on experience with both physical and logical networking. Exam kits can be purchased usually containing multiple switches and routers, although, this basic setup only utilizes two switches (Cisco Certification Kits). If an exam kit is not necessary, individual pieces can be purchased from sites like Ebay.

Parts List:

2x Cisco Switches (Catalyst 2950 (24 ports) with Cisco IOS ver. 12.1(12c))( Any Cisco Switch will work, CLI commands will change with IOS versions)

2x PCs (Windows 7, Vista, or XP)

1x Emulation Software (ExtraPuTTY, Tera Term, etc.)

ExtraPuTTY Download

Tera Term Download

1xUSB-to-DB9 (USB to RS232 cable) (If the PC doesn't have a 9-pin serial port)

1xCisco Console Cable RJ-45-to-DB9

2xRJ-45 CAT5E Patch Cord

1xRJ-45 CAT5E Crossover Cable

Step 1: Design a Simple Network

Picture of Design a Simple Network

Design a simple logical network with PC-A and PC-B on the same subnet. There is no need to assign static IP addresses to the router ports for this project. Once the addresses are decided, move on to the next step, downloading the Telnet, SSH communication software.

For reference:

F 0/6= FastEthernet Port 6

S1= Switch 1

F 01= FastEthernet Port 1

Step 2: Downloading/Installing Telnet SSH Software (Tera Term, ExtraPuTTY, ETC.)

Picture of Downloading/Installing Telnet SSH Software (Tera Term, ExtraPuTTY, ETC.)

1) Run a quick Google search for Telnet SSH software or download one of the updated versions of Tera Term or ExtraPuTTY.

2) Save and run the installer. *For this lab I'm using, ExtraPuTTY Version .060 Install the latest version.*

3) Once installed open the desktop icon and the PuTTY Configuration menu will open. This software comes with a lot of options, but for now only focus on creating a terminal connection. Under Connection type: the options include Raw, Telenet, Rlogin, SSH, and Serial. Choosethe Serial radio button, the default speed of 9600 will automatically propagate. Select the proper COM connection and press Open to start the terminal session.


Under Serial line COM1 is automatically selected. Depending on which port the USB to RS232 cable is plugged in will determine the COM port needed to establish a connection. For example, I needed COM3 because I used the front USB connection of my PC.

Step 3: Building the Physical Network

Picture of Building the Physical Network

1) Using the diagram created in Step 2, connect one end of the RJ-45 Ethernet cable into the NIC card of PC-A. Now connect the other end of the cable into port 18 of switch 1 (S1). The LED will light-up amber until the connection is established, which then will turn green.

2) Identify the cross-over cable (How to Identify a Cross-over Cable). If the cable is new, remove from the packaging and mark with a piece of tape to alleviate future confusion. Connect one end of the RJ-45 connector into the ports chosen for S1 and S2. The amber light will indicate connecting, and green will show a successful connection.


Newer switches have the ability to sense the input and logically re-wire non cross-over cables. Older switches, however, are unable to perform this task and will require a cross-over cable to work. If the switch doesn't light up when the cable is inserted chances are it's not a cross-over.

3) Finally, connect the last RJ-45 cable to PC-B's NIC to the chosen port of switch 2. Once the light changes from amber to green, the connection is established. Verify all connections making sure everything is securely attached to reduce troubleshooting later.

Step 4: Connecting Switches

Picture of Connecting Switches

1) Attach USB-to-DB9 cable to the Cisco console cable and lightly tighten screws to secure connection.

2) Choose which PC (A or B) you'd like to console into and connect the USB cable.

3) Find Switch one and plug the RJ-45 cable into the console port.

Step 5: Setting Static IP Addresses for PCs A/B

Picture of Setting Static IP Addresses for PCs A/B

1) Go into the (TCP/IPv4) Properties and change PC-A's IP address to the chosen schema. (

Path: (Start>Control Panel>View Network Status and Tasks>Change Adapter Settings> R-Click Local Area Connection>Properties>Double-Click "Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPV4)).

2) Following the same steps, change PC-B's IP address. (

Step 6: Configuring Switch 1 (S1)

Picture of Configuring Switch 1 (S1)

1) These steps will show how to name, prevent unwanted DNS lookups, set a password, enter a message of the day (MOTD) and save the configuration into NVRAM for switch 1.


Some commands once entered will not give any indication of acceptance and will return to the prompt. As long as the command line doesn't error out than the command has executed successfully.

2) Open emulation software and connect to S1, the words "Press RETURN to get started". Hit the enter key and the switch> command prompt should appear. The switch is now ready to be configured (Reference step 2 if necessary).

Note: If the screen is blanked after connecting, try changing COM ports until text displays on the screen.

3) The enable command allows access to all switch commands in EXEC mode. The prompt will change from Switch> to Switch# indicating in privileged mode. This is necessary when making any changes to the switch.

Switch> enable

3) Config terminal or conf t for short hand will allow the switch to be named to whatever the user likes. Refer to the network design for naming conventions. TIP: CTRL+Z will end configuration mode.

Switch# configure terminal
Switch(config)# hostname S1

4) Without the DNS lookup disabled the switch will treat incorrect commands, as though they were host names. The switch will then search to resolve the name causing unnecessary waiting.

S1(config)# no ip domain-lookup

5) Creating a password will keep unauthorized users out. This is not necessary for the labs but is good practice. When users try to enter privilege mode, the password prompt will appear.

S1(config)# enable secretclass
S1(config)# line con 0
S1(config-line)# password cisco
S1(config-line)# login
S1(config-line)# exit

6) The login banner or message of the day of (MOTD) displays messages to users when logging into the switch. This field normally has warnings for unauthorized users but have fun with it. Notice when "exit" is typed next to S1(config) # the command prompt is returned to privilege. TIP: You cannot complete step 7 while in console configuration mode.

S1(config)# banner motd #
Enter TEXT message. End with the
character '#'. 
Welcome to your new home lab! #
S1(config)# exit

7) Once the settings are configured the last step is saving the running configuration into NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random Access Memory). Press enter to finish setup and return to the command prompt.

S1# copy running-config startup-config
Destination filename [startup-config]? [Enter]
Building configuration...

Step 7: Configuring Switch 2 (S2)

Picture of Configuring Switch 2 (S2)

1) Remove the Cisco console RJ-45 connector from switch 1 (S1) and insert into the console port of switch 2 (S2).


The step up command lines are the same as switch 1 (S1). If a mistake is made the CLI will show where it is. In the example trying to run the "copy running-config startup-config" command while in configuration mode errors out and an arrow appears below "copy" indicating the issue lies before or at the part of the command. The solution is exiting the terminal configuration prompt S2(config) to S2# where the command will now run.

The switches are now configured and PC-A should be able to ping PC-B.

Additional useful commands: (Must be in privilege mode to run all these commands)

Displays useful information about the switch including the IOS version, image file, and model.

S1# show version

Shows the switches interfaces, IP addresses, up/down status, and protocols.

S1# show ip interface brief

Shows the current running configuration on the switch.

 S1# show running-config

To erase the startup-configuration and reset the switch follow these 4 steps:

1) Show flash will display the current vlan.dat file.

S1# show flash

2) Delete the current vlan.dat file.(Press enter when prompted to (Delete filename [vlan.dat]?) and (Delete flash:/vlan.dat? [confirm]).

S1# Delete vlan.dat

3) Erases the startup configuration file.

S1# erase startup-config

4) This will reload the switch to the default configuration.

If prompted to save the running configuration input no.

System configuration has been modified. Save? [yes/no]: no

Would you like to enter the initial configuration dialog? [yes/no]: no

S1# reload


Jimmy-Dinner (author)2015-05-26

Great instructable, it's very tempting to build this myself.

N.B. If you're using any with v12 upwards "MDIX auto" in interface configuration mode means you don't need a crossover cable

tomatoskins (author)2015-05-26

Great info here! Thanks for spending the time to share your home lab!