Installing Linux via PXE using Windows Deployment Services (WDS)

Tux hearts Windows

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 🙂

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How to Migrate Windows Deployment Services to a new Server

When we first started using Windows Deployment Services (WDS) it was installed as a test on our backup server. It came to the point where we wanted to put it on a more permanent server with some built in hardware redundancy. Luckily this was easy to do.

In the following example I migrated WDS from a Windows 2003 R2 x64 server to a Windows 2003 R2 x86 server

Step 1 – Install WDS

Install WDS from the component wizard

  • On the new server open the Add/Remove programs control panel (appwiz.cpl)
  • Click the Add/Remove Windows Components button to open the “Windows Component Wizard”
  • Scroll down the list and tick the “Windows Deployment Services” box
  • After the wizard is completed, set up the WDS as you did on the old server. Make sure you untick the box to “add images” at the end of the wizard.

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Installing Windows XP over the network using Windows Deployment Services

WDS IconMany years ago I used Remote Installation Services (RIS) on a Windows 2000 Server to install Windows 2000 Pro and Windows XP to clients on my network. Sometime in the Windows Server 2003 timeframe RIS evolved into the much improved Windows Deployment Services (WDS). I left that job and as time went on never really needed to use it since, until the other week. I was given a netbook with broken USB ports and a dodgy copy of Windows XP on it. Installing a fresh copy of XP over the network seemed to be the easiest way to do this. I was wondering how things had changed now Windows 7 & Server 2008 R2 have been released. I could remember it involving lots of huge downloads like the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. I also am only going to be using it on rare occasions so I don’t need any of the Microsoft System Centre bumph.These always seemed like overkill for the simple task in hand. Doing a few Bings and Googles didn’t really seem to bring any up to date information so I ended up piecing together the info from lots of different blogs to get to the end result. I have included the steps I took (below) in case it is of any help to anyone else out there. I’ve kept them quite vague on purpose as putting to much detail tends to overcomplicate the matter, therefore, you do need some technical knowledge to get through this successfully.

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