Hello everyone,

I am completely new to the world of BackTrack and building penetration testing labs; I was hoping to gain some insight and suggestions from some of the more experienced users here. I am considering pursuing a career in information security and thought setting up a pen-test lab to learn about the tools offered in BackTrack might be a good way to get a very general view of what information security is all about. However, when it comes to building the actual lab, I am quite lost.

I am trying to decide between using either 2 laptops (probably Dell D620 Laptop Duo Core b/c I can find them under $200 online) or trying to set up a system using Virtual Machines. I tried going the Virtual Machine route last month using a Dell Optiplex, but I couldn't seem to figure out how to get one VM attack the other (plus the machine was slow as anything).

So my questions basically boil down to:
1.) Would you recommend using actual hardware or VMs for a completely new beginner to BackTrack
2.) Can I securely set up a pen-test lab using 2 laptops without having any traffic get on to/infect my family's regular wireless network?
3.) Would you recommend any particular hardware, resources, etc.?

I really appreciate anyone's advice with this setup. I've been reading up on this for the last few hours, but don't feel like I've really gotten anywhere on this. I'm really excited to get some experience in the world of BackTrack, and just am finding it very difficult to get started.