Prepare for Your Cisco Exams with Cisco Packet Tracer

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Whether you're preparing for a Cisco exam or learning new Cisco technology, having actual experience with the devices can really help you better comprehend how the particular product works. Of course, gaining access to Cisco gear isn't always a practical solution for a number of reasons, main one being cost.

This is where network simulators come in handy. Simulators allow you to practice the commands used to configure actual devices, thereby giving you an idea of what to expect when you do get the chance to configure real Cisco hardware.

As with most software solutions, you have a variety of vendors to choose from, with each providing more features than the other and each being a different price. Cisco Packet Tracer

However, Cisco's Packet Tracer can be downloaded at Cisco's Networking Academy website at NO cost. There is one catch to this though, you have to be a member of the Networking Academy, either by being a student or an instructor.

Cisco Packet Tracer allows you to simulate different networking scenarios using virtual Cisco Routers and Switches. It allows you to perform a number of functions that will help you learn how to use Cisco technology. These include being able to simulate, visualize and work together on collaborative scenarios.

Please Note: Only Cisco Networking Academy users are allowed to legally use the Cisco Packet Tracer.

As you can see from the picture below, Packet Tracer's interface is really intuitive and straightforward to follow.

Cisco Packet Tracer

You're able to configure different routing protocols like RIP,RIPv2, OSPF and EIGRP and witness routing convergence. Below you can find a list of protocols supported by Cisco's packet tracer.

Supported Operating Systems for Cisco Packet Tracer

Currently the latest version of Packet Tracer is 5.2 and supports the following operating systems:

  • Windows XP
  • Windows 2000
  • Vista Home Basic
  • Vista Home Premium
  • Linux (Ubuntu 7.10 and Fedora 7)

System Requirements for Cisco Packet Tracer

These are the minimum system requirements to successfully install and run the Packet Tracer:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 300 MHz or equivalent
  • Listed Operating Systems above
  • RAM: 96 MB
  • Storage: 250 MB of free disk space
  • Screen resolution: 800 x 600 or higher
  • Macromedia Flash Player 6.0 or higher
  • Language fonts supporting Unicode encoding (if viewing in languages other than English)
  • Latest video card drivers and operating system updates

However, Cisco recommends these for optimal performance

  • CPU: Intel Pentium II 500 MHz or better
  • OS: Microsoft Windows XP
  • RAM: 256 MB or more
  • Storage: 300 MB of free disk space
  • Screen resolution: 1024 x 768
  • Sound card and speakers
  • Internet connection: 56K dial-up or faster (if using the multiuser feature)

Protocols Supported by Cisco Packet Tracer

One of the really cool things I love about version 5.2 is the number of supported protocols that enable to test most, if not all, of the CCNA objectives, whilst also providing some new security commands that enable you to configure technologies like Site-to-Site VPN.

These are the current supported protocols on version 5.2:


  • HTTP, HTTPS, TFTP, Telnet, SSH, DNS, DHCP, NTP, SNMP, AAA, Radius, TACACS, Syslog


  • TCP and UDP, TCP Nagle Algorithm & IP Fragmentation


  • RIPv1/v2/ng, Multi-Area OSPF, EIGRP, Static Routing
  • Multilayer Switching, L3 QoS, NAT
  • Context Based Access Lists , Zone-based policy firewall and Intrusion Protection System on the ISR

Network Access/Interface:

  • Ethernet (802.3), 802.11, HDLC, Frame Relay, PPP
  • STP, RSTP, VTP, DTP, CDP, 802.1q, PAgP, LACP
  • L2 QoS, SLARP, Auto Secure, Simple WEP, WPA, EAP

As you can see from the list above, you're clearly able to perform a number of simulations to test your knowledge.

Using Cisco Packet Tracer

Below are some screen shots to give you an idea of what a typical Packet Tracer lab would look like.

In this lab I simulated the configuration for Inter-Vlan Routing, using a Cisco 1811 router, Cisco 2950 Switch, 3 Client PCs and the Cloud to represent the internet.

Clicking on the device brings up the following window with 3 tabs:

  • Physical
  • Config
  • CLI

Depending on the device clicked on, the tabs will have different configuration options pertaining to that particular device.

Cisco Packet Tracer: Physical Tab

From this screen you're able to make physical adjustments to the device such as adding additional add-in cards (Cisco 1811 in this case).

Cisco Packet Tracer

Cisco Packet Tracer: Config Tab

The Config tab allows you to make quick configuration changes to the device as opposed to using the CLI.

Cisco Packet Tracer

Cisco Packet Tracer: CLI Tab

Using the CLI tab, you gain access to the command line interface where you can configure the device using the actual Cisco Commands. This is where the real fun begins!

Cisco Packet Tracer

And finally we have an overview image of what the lab looks like.

Cisco Packet Tracer

Cisco Packet Tracer: Is It Right For You?

In my opinion, Cisco Packet Tracer really stands out from the other vendor options of network simulation software. It comes equipped with a suite of supported protocols that allow students to perform simulations and really get a good idea of what actual configurations on real devices look and feel like.

Cisco candidates are able to work in groups or individually to complete these tasks. However, there is one thing that the Packet Tracer doesn't simulate (as of yet anyway), and that is the Cisco Security Device Manager (SDM). SDM is becoming an important part of the CCNA curriculum and as such, you are definitely going to need some way of getting familiar with it.

At the moment, Cisco Packet Tracer only supports features that will assist you, while preparing for your CCNA exam and the CCNA Security exam. So, for those pursuing any of the other CCNA Specializations, you might need to look into renting rack time to be able to practice your labs.

I hope you find Cisco Packet Tracer to be as fun as I did while preparing for my CCNA. Have fun, and go knock those labs out!

Cisco Packet Tracer Resources:

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Jason Harry

Jason Harry is a technology enthusiast and a Systems Engineer with over 3 years of experience in the IT field. He spends most of his time playing video games, reading and researching the latest technological advancements as well as studying for his next IT certification. At the moment he is preparing for his MCTS on MOSS 2007 and MCITP Server Administrator. His long term goals include obtaining CCDA, CCDP and MCITP Enterprise Administrator certifications. Jason is very passionate about becoming one of the best IT Professionals amongst his peers and he dreams of one day being able to be a successful IT consultant. (CCNA, CCNP, CCNA Voice, MCSA, MCP, Net+, A+)