Getting started with your Cisco Certification Lab

Congratulations on your decision to purchase a home lab for your Cisco certification exam studies. This is the first to in a series of many helping you to achieve your Cisco certification with the real hands-on experience you will need to succeed in this tough employment market.

So where do you start? First, go to our Facebook page at and like it now!

Next, we suggest that you reviewed lab 1-1 in the CertificationKits CCNA self-study lab workbook you received with your kit. This lab will review the components of both a Cisco 2500 series and 2600 series router. It will explain the function of each port via illustrated descriptions. Additionally it will cover common cables such as the console kit, the DTE/DCE back to back WAN serial cable and components such as transceivers, WIC-1T, WIC-2T and NM-4A/S modules along with descriptions of what they are used for along with illustrated pictures. Finally it will review the inside components of each router highlighting things such as DRAM, Flash, and boot ROMs.

Then you will want to proceed to lab 1-2. In this lab you will learn how to connect your PC to a console session on your Cisco router or switch. Please note if you are using Windows Vista, you will need to download a terminal emulator such as PuTTY.

In lab 2-1 you will learn the basics on how to do the password recovery procedure on a Cisco 2500 series router. We do not cover the password recovery procedure on every series router in our lab workbook as it would really be a waste of space. You can find the password recovery procedure on our website for various other routers and switches at the following link.
CCNA Certification Articles

Okay now to actually setting up the routers and switches in your CCNA lab environment. As you embark on lab 3-1, you will notice the lab illustration shows three routers. It is quite possible you may have purchased a CCNA lab kit with only two routers. So does that mean that you can't complete the lab? No not at all. It just means that in your lab environment, it will not be as complicated as the one illustrated in this CCNA lab workbook. You will see the routers or labeled R1, R2, and R3. You will follow the configuration example for just R1 and R2. You will still be able to complete the lab and see the route propagation between router one and router two. This holds true for remainder of the lab workbook. In situations where the lab calls for more routers or switches then you currently have in your CCNA home lab, follow the instructions for the number of routers in which you have.

Kits Utilizing DB60 Serial Ports (WIC-1T Modules & 2500 Routers)
We would like to take an opportunity here to point out a few common mistakes that are encountered by new CCNA students. As you review lab 3-1, please note that one has a designation over it of DCE. This router is going to be the router which provides clocking for your WAN connection between the two routers on serial0 and serial1. So it is very important that you make sure that you plug-in the DCE side of the back to back cable to the router which will be configured as R1. If you plug the DCE side of the cable into R2, the lab will not work as the serial line will not come up and stay up. In the real world serial connections require clocking and this is generally provided by your provider through your CSU/DSU. Since in our lab we do not have a CSU/DSU, we will have a Cisco router simulate the clocking by plugging in the DCE side to R2 and running the "clock rate " command on R2. Additionally another common mistake we will see is that students will inadvertently plug the cable in upside down. This is even though the cable is keyed. If you look closely at the cable you will notice the top row of pins has more pins in the row then the bottom row. But if you force the cable on the serial port upside down it will fit although it bends the pins on the serial cable. So please try not to make this mistake so you do not destroy your serial cable.

WIC-1DSU-T1 Serial Port Based Kits
These kits are a little different as we have covered in other articles on our site. As they do not utilize the general lab standard of DB60 or even smart serial cables. But not to worry, they will still work fine with our labs with just a little modification. This will hold effective for all the CCNA labs so please don't forget these items. Since there is no DCE side, you do not need to configure the clock rate command. So you may be asking how is the clocking done? Well, what you should do is configure one router(the center router if you are using a 3 router CCNA lab setup) with the service-module T1 clock source internal command. Then on the other router you should configure the service-module T1 clock source line command. This way they sync up. That said, a majority of the time if you don't configure either of those commands it will still work..

Additional Information
If you purchased one of our three router kits, most of them come with a modular router that will support an NM-4A/S module. In this situation, you will install the NM-4A/S module in the modular router and use that router as R1. The NM-4A/S module is a four port serial module. In some scenarios it will act in its native mode and route between the four serial ports. However in other advanced lab scenarios, we will configure the module to act as a frame relay switch.

The LAN connections in the labs should be very straightforward. If you are using a 2500 router, you will connect the transceiver to the AUI port. On the transceiver you should see and RJ-45 port. It is here you will connect an Ethernet patch cable(which is straight through) to the transceiver on one end and usually to a switch on the other end. If this is a 2600 or 3600 series router, there generally is no need for a transceiver as they either have a built in RJ-45 style Ethernet port or we have included a network module that has an RJ-45 style Ethernet port. Similar to the 2500 series router, you will insert one end of the Ethernet patch cable into the RJ-45 style Ethernet port on the router and the other end of the Ethernet patch cable into a switch.

Please note that when you connect a switch to a switch, you will use an Ethernet crossover cable. You can identify this cable one of a few different ways. Generally it will be written right on the cable that it is a crossover cable. The other way to identify a crossover cable is by putting the two side by side and you will notice the color cables are in reversed order between the two ends. You can view some illustrated examples of this and all the cables we described above on our website at the following link.
CCNA Lab Cable Guide

Your kit will come with at least two crossover patch cables. Again, these must be used when you are patching between two switches. If you do use a regular Ethernet patch cable, the link will not come up. This is something that you will want to play with yourself to see it happen in real life. Now normally you will not want to connect two crossover cables between the same two switches. You may ask why? Well that may cause some Layer 2 problems. But don't worry, they are generally taken care of after some convergence by STP(Spanning Tree Protocol) that you will become familiar with as you progress in your CCNA studies. That said, you can create multiple links between switches if you configure the switches for EtherChannel. EtherChannel is a port trunking(link aggregation) technology that you also will become familiar with during your CCNA studies.