Hardware specs of your hacking machine, recommendations

Thinking about to buy some new equipment. Current:
Lenovo laptop intel Corei5, 2TB SATA, 12GB (+ curved 27" external Monitor)
Host OS: Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

I can run a 2GB kali + 4GB win10 VM at the same time on it (although I have to close most of the apps on the host, only firefox + cherrynote stay open). All machines I own on htb were “owned” using this setup :slight_smile:

So wondering what you use. Looking for a desktop PC, low noise, 32-64GB of memory to run kali, win 10, windows 201x servers in parallel. No gaming or password cracking rig …

I don’t have a specific build I use for CTFs, it is just a VM on my main PC, but the spec for that is:
i9, 128gb RAM, 500gb m2, 1tb ssd, 2 x 11GB Nvidia graphics cards (one was from an old machine that just got repurposed).

This allows me to run multiple VMs with 16 and even 32gb ram assigned to them. I find laptops are, on the whole, under-resourced and expensive when they nearly always end up being used tethered to a desk.

This machine was surprisingly cheap from pcspecialist.co.uk but I don’t know where you live or what suppliers would be best for you.

I run my VMs in VMware Fusion Pro on my 2019 MacBook pro running an i7 6-core and 16GB of ram. I have had zero issues running my Kali machine with 8GB of memory along with my Windows 10 debugging machine with 4GB.

I could also offload my infosec VMs to my ESXi server, but I would lose dual monitor support, which I am not willing to part ways with.

Interesting, 128GB RAM, TazWake! I like that. Do you use the Nvidia for hashcat? This seems to be also a nice gaming setup. It’s not so important for me as I have a Ps4.

@k4wld said:

Interesting, 128GB RAM, TazWake! I like that. Do you use the Nvidia for hashcat? This seems to be also a nice gaming setup. It’s not so important for me as I have a Ps4.

Yeah - it works well with hashcat. I don’t really use it for gaming (I don’t have any spare time left to play games).

For me, its biggest benefit is being able to have 2 - 3 VMs running at the same time, each with enough ram to run forensic suites well.

A friend (the one who told me where to get my pc from) managed to one-up me and got a box with 384GB ram… Makes me quite jealous…

Order placed:

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 (6x 3.6-4.2GHz Six-Core)
128 GB RAM (!) :slight_smile:
2 TB SSD M.2 NVMe PCI
4 TB HDD
NVIDIA GeForce GT 1030

Machine arrived 2 weeks ago. So far I have build my lab how I always wanted it:

Windows:

  • 2 Win2019 AD DomainController VMs (1x Standard + 1x Datacenter = core)
  • 2 Win 10 Professional VM (1 Admin client and 1 normal user workstation) joined to the domain

Linux/Unix

  • A kubernetes cluster, 1 master + ingress, 2 worker, 1 haproxy loadbalancer (prometheus telemetry wip)
  • Kali VM
  • OpenBSD VM (for HTB machines to investigate like crossfit2)

Network Monitoring:

  • PRTG Network monitor (Trial) to monitor
    (monitors also pivpn/pihole, wifi router and and the rest of the devices external to the new machine)

CommadoVM added, turned out to be useful and will probably be the go-to vm when doing Windows HTB boxes.

i7 3770
8 GB RAM
GTX 1050 Ti 6GB

For some reason I can’t seem to achieve smoothness on my virtual machines. Tried with Virtualbox and VMWare. But the performance itself of the VM is not bad.

Update: As Windows 11 is knocking at the door, I joined the MS Insider program on one of my Win10 Pro VMs do get it installed. The VM has way more resources in terms of RAM, CPU and disk storage than the minimum system requirements requested by MS but still MS tells me that the requirements are not met. Not sure if it’s TPM not supported by VirtualBox. But TPM was never an issue with Win 10 VMs. Wondering if someone has Win11 running on a VM?

Type your comment> @k4wld said:

Update: As Windows 11 is knocking at the door, I joined the MS Insider program on one of my Win10 Pro VMs do get it installed. The VM has way more resources in terms of RAM, CPU and disk storage than the minimum system requirements requested by MS but still MS tells me that the requirements are not met. Not sure if it’s TPM not supported by VirtualBox. But TPM was never an issue with Win 10 VMs. Wondering if someone has Win11 running on a VM?

I haven’t tried but the TPM is a likely candidate. It has been a part of the spec for a long time but it was never enforced. My understanding is that Win 11 won’t run without a TPM.

Not sure about Virtual Box, but in VMWare you can virtualise a TPM, so I’d assume the capability existed somewhere.

Thanks Taz, TPM seems to be needed: Configure VMware Workstation 16 for Windows 11 – Ryan Mangan's IT Blog

Downloaded VMWare Workstation 16 which has 30 days trial. Windows 11 started successfully now with TPM added. Unfortunately I’m not able to get a network connection as Win 11 complains that a network interface doesn’t exist. After 4 hrs of googling I gave up. I now have a Win11 with no internet, lol.

Type your comment> @k4wld said:

Downloaded VMWare Workstation 16 which has 30 days trial. Windows 11 started successfully now with TPM added. Unfortunately I’m not able to get a network connection as Win 11 complains that a network interface doesn’t exist. After 4 hrs of googling I gave up. I now have a Win11 with no internet, lol.

VMWare is always a bit weird with networking.

I find specifying a custom network s a good solution.

Ryzen 5 4600H,16GB RAM,1650 NVIDIA graphics, 1TB HDD & 500 GB M2 SSD

lately I’ve just been using my home media server - ubuntu with the pentester’s framework on it. Ancient computer - 8GB RAM, 2 core AMD processor from the gasp 2000’s, ancient NVIDIA workstation GPU, ya know ;). Will host vulnerable VMs from main desktop and attack from this one.

Definitely agree with the comment about laptop tethering to a desk. My laptop’s a hell of a lot more powerful, but have been using this machine because it’s about the same specs of the VM on my laptop (albeit dramatically slower CPU but added GPU) and that releases my laptop from the desk.

Dreams of upgrading.

I’m wondering if I should buy a 200€ license for VMWare Workstation. Actually I don’t see a big advantage over VirtualBox to be honest. If you scroll up, my homelab with VMs (kubernetes cluster, AD Domain, some misc vms) is running perfectly fine on the free VirtualBox. Only drawback is no TPM simulation. Hmm… worth switching to VMware? Don’t know …

personally, hardware is way less important than screen real estate imo. I’d rather drop money on bigger/extra monitors than try and get better performance. Which cpu or how fast your SSD is doesn’t really matter all that much. The only exception is making sure you have enough RAM.

The other nice thing about getting good monitors is, that they will be with you across many builds. So it’s like the case and the PSU, do it right, and youre only spending that money once (well or at least much less often than you are buying CPUs and whatnot)

@hilbert: Agree, the monitor is key. A “Flight Simulator” sort of setup I’m planning. And the keyboard: A Razer Huntsman Elite is in the pipeline, unfortunately, the support for linux is not good. Doing a research right now. Maybe someone has one running with Linux (Ubuntu 20.04)??

Regarding VMWare: The USB support for external devices just works. I plugged in my USB Alfa networks Wifi and connecting it to the VM was super easy. I failed to do so with VirtualBox.

To conclude: VMWare seems to be better for edge cases when you need TPM and out of the box USB support. I’ll probably go for it.

Discared buying the Razer Huntsman Elite as it would require installing some special non-offical kernel mods and other “stuff” to fully benefit from RGB. Not worth the high price tag. Settled with the Logitech K835 TKL analog KB and a G403 gaming mouse (both wired USB).

Apart from that, licensed VMWare Workstation 16 Pro which has awesome USB device support (and TPM). Was always struggling with that on Virtualbox.

Next phase is Flight Simulator display and RGB background + a nice chair.