How do I setup a vmware test server?

I am very new to vmware and I need to get better versed on it.  I have tried to setup a couple of test machines but I have learned that VMware is very particular on its hardware requirements. I have access to some older server equipment (6-7 year old Dell servers) but I don't think they will work. Does anyone have any advice on how I can get a test machine going for a reasonable amount of money since I would probably have to pay for it myself? I am trying to install the free ESXi.
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Rob SandersAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
If you are wanting to test and try ESXi (VMware vSphere Hypervisor) Check the VMware HCL

http://www.vmware.com/go/hcl

or you could build yourself what we call a White Box Server, check the information here

http://www.vm-help.com/esx40i/esx40_whitebox_HCL.php

(or purchase a cheap HP DL385 or DL585 from eBay), although not on the HCL, these servers work with ALL versions of ESX/ESX up to EX 4.1 U1.i
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
One of our Experts arunraju: recently buillt a whitebox here

"I finally managed to install ESXi v4.1 on the whitebox mentioned below

Intel® Xeon® Processor X3450 (8M Cache, 2.66 GHz)
Intel 3420GPV Motherboard
16 GB DDR3 1333 MHz Unbuffered Non-ECC Corsair RAM

I used Cooler Master Elite 360 as my chassis and Cooler Master Extreme Power 350W as my PSU.

I am glad that everyone is working as expected except for one of the onboard NICs since one of the Gigabit NICs belong to Intel 82574L Gigabit Network Connection which is on the VMware compatibility guide and the other NIC 82578DN is not (hence it is not detected after ESXi installation)"

See here for full post

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/VMWare/Q_26876868.html
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Rob SandersAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the advice, this link you provided:
http://www.vm-help.com/esx40i/esx40_whitebox_HCL.php

was very helpful. I actually had a Latitude E6500 I was able to create a test machine on. (it wouldn't work on a Latitude E6510 that I tried before.
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