A couple of our servers, and even more laptops, are coming with no optical drives installed. This can be a problem when it comes to installing an operating system. I use the excellent Windows Deployment Services role on Windows Server (2000-20012 R2) to accomplish this. It works very well in deploying Windows Server and Windows 7 over the network via a pre-execution environment (PXE) and can even deploy Windows XP images if the need arises (see my “how to” article here). The one limitation it has is that you cannot install Linux distros. This is a problem because you are only allowed one PXE server on the local area network (LAN), so you would have to choose either a Linux PXE server or a Windows one.
Fortunately, I found a solution that lets both work together to give you every kind of boot solution you could dream of
PXELINUX is a SYSLINUX derivative, for booting Linux from a network server using a network ROM conforming to the Intel PXE (Pre-Execution Environment) specification… SysLinix Wiki
PXELinux can be set up to preceed the usual WDS boot menu you get after hitting the F12 key. It launches it’s own menu that will allow you to boot to your existing WDS set up, the local hard disk or any Linux tool/distro you desire. If you have used tools like The Ultimate Boot CD, Live Linux CD (e.g. Knoppix) s or Anti-Virus boot CDs it can be an exciting thought to get these all running from your WDS server.
I found the following tutorials really useful although they seem to go a bit over the top on what needs to be done so I will soon post a walkthrough of what I did here. For now check out these guides
- Creating a PXE Boot menu for deploying Linux with Windows Deployment Services (WDS)
- PXE and Kickstart, Automated Installations for Linux via WDS at Ohjeah!
- Custom Menu Examples
Here’s my menu so far