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Setting Up an All-in-One Windows AD Test Environment (VMware Workstation Edition)

Posted by essjae on January 23, 2019

Build a basic all-in-one lab in VMware Workstation. This how-to shows you how to build a virtual Windows Active Directory environment isolated from your home or work network. This is a follow-up to my same procedure in VirtualBox:

Note: I’m no AD expert, there are better, worse, and different ways to do this and you’re not required to use VMware Workstation.

16GB RAM minimum
SSD or multiple HDDs
Quad-core or better CPU with hardware virtualization enabled

  1. Download the necessary software. Download the ISO for the OSes you’ll be installing. For this example, I’ll be using IPFire and the MSDN versions of Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 Pro.
    1. VMware Workstation Pro:
    2. Windows OS Evaluation:
    3. IPFire:
  2. Create a folder for your test environment. 
    1. In Workstation, right-click My Computer and click New Folder.  Enter a name like “Allin1 AD” and press Enter.  Click your new folder to select it.
  3. Create an internal network.
    1. Click Edit–>Virtual Network Editor.
    2. Click Change Settings, click Yes at the UAC prompt.
    3. Click Add Network, select a network.  For this example, we’ll use VMnet15.  Click OK.
      1. Under VMnet Information, verify that Host-only is selected.
      2. Uncheck Connect a host virtual adapter to this network.  *This will prevent your physical host from accessing the test environment.
      3. Uncheck Use local DHCP service to distribute IP address to VMs. *We will use the Windows server’s DHCP and DNS for this environment.
      4. Change the subnet address to **Any IP subnet can be used here.  To prevent confusion, use a unique IP range.,, and are all alternative options. Choose an appropriate subnet.   For the labs purposes, a subnet is acceptable.  Click Apply
      5. Verify your settings for VMnet15 and click OK.
  4. Create your IPFire Router VM
    1. Click File–>New Virtual Machine or CTRL+N.
    2. Select Custom and click Next to begin the New Virtual Machine Wizard.
    3. Click Next, the default hardware compatibility is fine.
    4. Select Installer disc image file (iso) and click Browse.  Go to the location from step 1.3 where the IPFire ISO is located.
      1. Select the ISO and click Open.  
      2. Click Next
    5. Select Linux as the guest OS and click Next.  *IPFire is built from scratch and not based on any Linux distro.
    6. Enter IPFire for the VM’s name.  Select the appropriate location for your VM.  For this document, the name is ipfire-wpdoc and the location is C:\VMs\ipfire-wpdoc
    7. Click Next.
    8. One processor is enough for our IPFire router, click Next.
    9. 512MB is the minimum requirement for IPFire.  Click 512MB and click Next. (
    10. Network type.  Select host-only networking and click Next.
    11. Click Next to select the default I/O controller type.
    12. Click Next to select the default disk type.
    13. Click Next to create a new virtual disk.
    14. Change the disk size to 4GB and click Next. *2GB is the minimum, 4GB is recommended for logs and add-ons. See 4.9 above. 
    15. Click Next to accept the default disk file name and location.
    16. Click Customize Hardware.
      1. Click Add…, 
      2. Click Network Adapter.  
      3. Click Finish.
        1. The new network adapter, network adapter 2, will be selected.  Select NAT or Bridged for the network connection. **NAT will provide a more isolated environment, where bridged will allow the IPFire VM an IP address on your host’s network.  NAT will be used for this document.
        2. Click Advanced. Click Generate under MAC Address.  Make note of this address.  We will need the address when assigning network types in the IPFire installation.  Click OK.
      4. Click Close.
    17. Click Finish.
    18. Click Edit Virtual Machine Settings
      1. Click Network Adapter
      2. Click Custom, select VMnet15, click OK.
    19. Drag the IPFire VM into the folder created in 2.1 above. 
  5. Install IPFire
    1. Click Power on this virtual machine.
    2. Click the IPFire splash screen and press Enter.  
    3. Press Enter to accept the default language selection.
    4. Press Enter to Start Installation. 
    5. Press Tab, press the spacebar to select I accept this license.  Press Tab again and press Enter.
    6. Press Enter to Delete all data.  
    7. Press Enter to accept the default file system.
    8. Press Enter to reboot.
  6. Configure IPFIre
    1. Press Enter to select the default keyboard layout.
    2. Change the timezone.  For this document PST8PDT will be used.  Press Enter.
    3. Press Enter twice to accept the default hostname
    4. Press Enter twice to accept the default domain
    5. Root password.  Enter a password and press Enter twice. Press Enter to continue. 
    6. Enter a password and press Enter twice.  *this is for the admin password, it can be the same for simplicity. 
    7. Press Enter to continue. 
    8. Use the arrow key to move down to Drivers and card assignmentspress Enter.
      1. Green — This is our internal test environment network.  It will have no direct access to the Internet or the host’s network.
        1. Press Enter to select
        2. Compare the MAC addresses and use the one that was not generated in step
        3. Use the arrow keys to select the correct interface and press Enter.  To move between fields, use the Tab key.
      2. Red — this will allow the test environment external access via the NAT network.
        1. Use the arrow key to select Red and press Enter.
        2. There should only be one interface left to select.  Press Enter. 
    9. Both network cards should now be assigned.  Use Tab to move to Done and press Enter.
    10. Tab to Address Settings and press Enter.
      1. Press Enter to reconfigure the Green interface.
      2. Press Enter to acknowledge the warning.  We are not connected remotely, so this does not apply.
      3. Since we are using the subnet, we will assign a IP address to the Green interface as it will be our gateway IP address.  The default subnet mask does not need to be changed.  Press Enter three times to accept the IP, subnet, and return to Address Settings.
      4. Use the arrow key to select Red.  Press Enter.
      5. The Red interface will get an IP address from Workstation’s NAT.  Using the arrow keys and spacebar, select DHCP.  Use Tab to move to OK and press Enter.
      6. Use Tab to move to Done and press Enter
    11. DNS and Gateway settings are only needed if using a static IP. Since we are using DHCP, there is nothing to change here. Tab to Done and press Enter.
    12. We will be using Windows DHCP so we do not need to enable IPFire’s DHCP server.  Tab to OK and press Enter.
    13. Setup is complete.  Press Enter.
    14. Login with root and verify that you can ping an external IP address like or  Press CTRL+C to break the ping.  If unable to ping, verify the network configuration is correct above.
  7. Create a Windows Server 2016 VM.
    1. Press CTRL+N, select Custom, click Next.
    2. Click Next, the default hardware compatibility is fine.
    3. Select Installer disc image file (iso) and click Browse.  Go to the location from step 1.2 where the Windows Server ISO is located.
      1. Select the ISO and click Open.  
      2. Click Next
    4. Click Next to skip the Easy Install InformationClick Yes to accept the product key prompt.
    5. Enter a VM name and location.  For this document, the name is W2016DC1 and D:\VMs\Virtual Machines\W2016DC1
    6. Click Next to select the default BIOS.
    7. Select One Processor and Two Cores. Click Next.
    8. Set RAM to 4096MB. If you have more than 16GB of RAM, you can increase to 6 or 8GB, if needed. Click Next.
    9. Select use host-only networking and click Next.
    10. Click Next to select the default I/O controller type.
    11. Click Next to select the default disk type.
    12. Click Next to create a new virtual disk.
    13. Change the Maximum disk size to 80.0 GB.  Click Next 
    14. Click Next to accept the default disk file name and location.
    15. Click Finish.
    16. Click Exit virtual machine settings.
      1. Click Network Adapter.
      2. Select Custom, VMnet15, and click OK
  8. Install Windows 2016
    1. Install Windows as you normally would.
  9. Configure Windows Server and Domain
    1. Enter the IP information. The IP needs to be on the same subnet as configured for the GREEN network. EX:, GW:, DNS: since we’ll be creating a domain controller with DNS and DHCP services. *Remember to use the IP address entered in step 6.11.3 for the gateway address.
    2. You should be able to ping an IP address like and, but not a DNS name.
    3. Change the name of your server and reboot.
    4. Start the Add Roles and Feature Wizard
      1. Add the following roles:
      –Active Directory Domain Services
      –DHCP Services
      –DNS Services
      2. Follow the wizard’s steps.
      3. Promote: Add a new forest.
      4. Enter your domain name and follow the wizard.  –you will get a warning about DNS, this will be resolved later.
    5. Configure DNS and DHCP
      1. DNS.  We need to add a forwarder for our DNS settings.
        1. From Administrative Tools, open DNS
        2. Right-click on your server and click Properties.
        3. Click the Forwarders tab
        4. Click Edit, and add your external DNS servers like,,, and
      2. DHCP
        1. Double-click DHCP from Administrative Tools
        2. Expand IPv4 and right-click, click New Scope from the menu.
        3. Enter an IP range, ex: to
        4. The remaining settings can be default for now.
        5. When asked to configure scop options, verify “Yes” and click Next.
        6. Router/Default gateway will be the IP we used to configure the GREEN NIC, ex:
        7. Domain name and DNS should be pre-configured. You should see the server’s IP in IP address box, ex:
        8. WINS does not need to be configured at this time.
        9. When prompted to activate scope, verify “Yes” and click Next.
        10. Click Finish to complete the wizard.
        11. Right-click on the server’s name under DHCP, and click Authorize from the menu. Refresh and IPv4 should have a green circle with a white check mark
    6. More details for setting up an DC in Windows 2016 can be found here:
  10.  Managing IPFire via web interface
    1. IPFire can be accessed via web browser.  Enter Enter https://ipfire_ip-address:444, in this document it will be
    2. You will get a certificate error when accessing the IPFire management page.
  11. Adding Client VMs
    1. Add your Windows Client OSes.  Install Windows as usual, make sure to set your VM’s network to the custom VMnet15.
  12. Completion! 

Here’s the all-in-one pic!

  • VMware Workstation
  • IPFire
  • Windows 2016 DC via RDP
  • Windows 10 



2 Responses to “Setting Up an All-in-One Windows AD Test Environment (VMware Workstation Edition)”

  1. somerandomdude said

    The 9.1 steap is not very clear, where should i put the ip configuration ?

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