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Intel NUC as a Home Lab Server

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Sweating the Assets

It's time to bid farewell to the ageing NUC hardware, the current NUCs are from the 5th and 6th generations, dating back to 2016, and they've been in constant operation since their initial deployment. These systems are now struggling to keep up with the demands placed on them, especially NUC2, which regularly maxes out its CPU as it valiantly attempts to handle the workload of running SCCM and SCOM.

There's a little nod to one of the best Syfy series ever, cruelly cut short, comment below if you know the name of the series.

What's a NUC

The Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is an ideal choice for home labs due to its compact form factor, versatility, high performance and energy efficiency. Depending on the NUC variant this miniature PC can pack a powerful punch, ranging from a lowly i3 to an i9 processor and dedicated GPU in the form of the Intel Raptor Extreme, making it perfect for various lab setups and experimentation.

Windows Server and Hyper-V

I'm pretty agnostic as long as it's Microsoft, only kidding.

Deploying Windows Servers as Hyper-V hosts in a home lab environment offers several advantages and a few disadvantages. The key advantages are:

  1. Multipurpose Functionality: Hyper-V hosts can serve as versatile servers, not limited to just virtualization. They can join the domain, be managed via System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), and be monitored through System Center Operations Manager (SCOM).

  2. DFS Replication: Hyper-V hosts can host Distributed File System Replication (DFSR) File Servers for replicating user and group shares, enhancing data redundancy and availability.

  3. Deduplication: The virtual machines running on Hyper-V hosts can take advantage of deduplication, which helps save storage space by eliminating redundant data.

However, there are some disadvantages to consider:

  1. Complexity: Managing enterprise-level services, such as SCCM and SCOM, can be complex and may require significant setup and maintenance effort, even in a home lab environment.

  2. Cost: Subscribing to Microsoft's Action Pack, so Servers don't time bomb after 90 days inflicts an annual cost of £450. Luckily for me, the company picks up the cost, this is not an option for everyone.

Intel NUC 13 Hardware

I acquired the new Intel NUC from due to its competitive pricing, which proved to be a bit more budget-friendly in comparison to other websites. The hardware components that were acquired include a 2TB Samsung 990, which might be a bit overkill for running Windows OS and possibly hosting a virtual Domain Controller. In contrast, the 4TB 870 is intended to accommodate the bulk of the virtual machines (VMs).

LN1359491 - Intel Arena Canyon i7 Tall NUC = £569.99

LN1192071 - 2x32G Corsair Vengence = £119.99

LN130047 - 2TB Samsung 990 PRO M.2 SSD = £161.99

LN1136891 - Samsung 4TB 870 EVO 2.5 = £189.98

Here's a quick how to install all the components:

Install the Vengence RAM and the Samsung 990 Pro after carefully removing the base.

Remove the 4 rubber grommets from the base.

Slot the 4TB 870 EVO 2.5 connecting it to the SATA interface.

Using the supplied screws secure the 2.5 SSD.

Windows Server 2022 Installation Media

Creating Windows boot media involves preparing a USB drive that can be used to install a Windows operating system.

The initial and critically important step is to download the latest firmware and drivers, which you can access by following the provided link below.

It seems that the drivers included for the Intel NUC 13 Pro aren't compatible with Windows Server 2022. However, the Intel LAN Drivers tailored for the Intel 12th Gen NUC do work. Intel LAN-Win11-

As an optional step, you can download the latest Windows Server 2022 Cumulative Update and copy it to the USB pen. This ensures that when network connectivity is established the most recent Windows patches are applied.

USB Preparations

You can download Windows Media in the form of an .iso file from Microsoft or the Partner site at a cost of £450 per year (includes many other benefits). Double click the iso to mount it on your computer. Copy the entire contents of the mounted image to an empty USB drive. Don't forget to include the necessary drivers and firmware files on the USB drive as well.

Windows Server Installation

Once you've connected the NUC's power supply, KVM, and the network, insert the USB pen with the bootable Windows installation files and drivers. Then, power on the NUC.

Windows will boot and then follow the installation prompts. At the point of selecting the disk ensure it's the Samsun 990. I'm going to split the 2Tb and allocate 120Gb to the Windows OS partition.

Set the Administrator password at the prompt and then log on.

Install the drivers, firmware and any additional patches and reboot where necessary.

Run 'diskmgmt.msc' to create any required partitions and assign drive letters.

Run 'sysdm.cpl' and enable Remote Desktop access, allowing the NUC's KVM to be disconnected.

Drivers for the Onboard NIC

Now to resolve the connectivity issues and install the network drivers.

At the run command type "Devmgmt.msc", select the network device and update drivers.

Select 'Browse my computer for drivers'

Select 'Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer'

Select 'Have Disk...' and then browse to the Intel NIC drivers for the NUC Gen 12.

Select the 'Killer E3100 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet Controller'.

Select 'Yes' to the warning.

Either set an IP address or allow DHCP to automatically assign an IP.

Check for Windows Defender and any other missing updates.

Hyper-V Setup

Open PowerShell as Administrator (elevated) and execute the following command to install Hyper-V:

Install-WindowsFeature -Name Hyper-V -IncludeManagementTools -Restart

Once restarted configure the following Hyper-V settings:

Create a new 'External' virtual switch, allowing management operations.

Set the Virtual Hard Disks and Virtual Machines to point to the 4Tb 870 partition, mines on Z:\.

Enable both Enhanced Session Mode check boxes.

The NUC will be joined to the Domain with the LAPS, SCCM and SCOM agents installed automatically.

The process of migrating VMs from the old NUCs is quite straightforward. Begin by removing any snapshots and shutting down the VMs. Then, proceed to perform a direct network copy of the VMs' directory structure to Z:\VM, followed by importing the VMs.

Thanks For Your Time

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog about the new Intel NUC for my home lab. We hope this information has been valuable. Stay tuned for more tech updates, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need further assistance.

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