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I am looking setup a server that will allow us to install OS's (such as windows xp) over a network boot. Is there any solutions out there that will allow such a thing?

Edit: Also i wanted to point out that im looking to do install from scratch, not ghosting.

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7 Answers 7

You could try Windows Deployment Services or you could use something like Ghost Solution Suite or if you want freeware you can use CloneZilla

All of them support PXE boot.

EDIT: I don't think there is such a thing as what you are looking for. A sysprep'd image being written to disk does the same job as stage 1 of the windows install - specifically format the drive and copy the install files over. Add to that the power of being able to use a sysprep'd image to setup defaults, put in a VLK key if you have one, etc. Life is just that much easier.

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The problem with a sysprep'd XP image is that you're stuck with the HAL of whatever system you made the image from. So if you're supporting hardware that uses different HALs, you need a different image for each one. There are definitely clever hacks that allow HAL switching on the fly, but it's not technically supported. –  Ryan Bolger Jun 17 '09 at 4:02
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Absolutally. It's called the Ultimate Deployment Applicance: http://www.ultimatedeployment.org/ - it's a VMWare appliance, but you can run it on VMWare Player (for free).

Windows Deployment Services can be a real hassle and PITA to get configured, whereas this one is fairly straight forward for a PXEBoot.

You set up your ISO's and because it's a VMWare its highly portable.

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We've been doing exactly this in a university lab eynvironment for the past 7 years or so. We started out using RIS on Windows 2000 Server. And we've since moved to using WDS on Windows 2003 Server in Legacy mode.

Setting up the server to handle network booting was actually easier than creating the scripted/unattended installation of XP. Unattended installations of XP are technically supported by Microsoft, they're just terribly documented. There has been far better documentation produced by communities like MSFN. Ultimately, you should start there if you're looking to do unattended installations of XP period (even if it's not from a PXE server).

All that said, with any Microsoft OS past XP/2003, there are no more scripted installations per-se. Even the default install DVDs are just running a WinPE environment and blasting down a WIM image to the hard drive. However, You can still make a totally customized/scripted installation though using tools like WAIK and MDT. I should also probably mention that PXE based WIM deployments will require running WDS in Mixed or Native mode. Also, I think the WDS included with Windows 2008 Server does not support legacy mode.

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Yep altiris is an excellent solution. It also allows you to control workstations on your network reimage machines all while sitting at your desk. We use it in a college environment and I can image 30-40 workstations at a time easily. it uses PXE and has wake on lan.

RIS is ok (remote installation service) Windows its a bit painful to setup but its good in the aspect of UUID's and SID's etc.

Oh and Altiris has a configuration tool also so you can run scripts remotely and rename many machines at once and remote control many machines at once (depending on your network speeds)

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Frankly, there are more systems to do this kind of thing than one can shake a stick at. Already mentioned have been Altiris (currently owned by Symantec), WDS, and Ghost. All 3 I have seen used in production environments to great effect. Another great utility is Zenworks by Novell. Most of those, however, are for pushing down images, rather than from scratch builds. For UNIX/Linux systems you can use Cobbler. It supports both PXE boot through DHCP as well as boot discs.

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For just installing Windows XP you can look at the Microsoft RIS service that does just this by network booting (PXE) and installing over the network.

There are also opensource products that essentially do the same and that do not have the requirement of having Windows Servers installed.

For installing XP have a look at:

If your looking for installing Linux systems then this may be of help:

  • https://fedorahosted.org/cobbler/

And the 'Redhat/CentOS/Fedora' howto I wrote some time ago:

Niels

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One of my customers purchased a HP C3000 chassis and blade system that came with an "Alteris Deployment Server" which would do automatic, hands-off installs of Windows Server (and, I presume, other forms of Windows) over the network.

It was big, slow, didn't work very well, and was almost totally unknown to both the local HP engineers and the people on the phone the local engineers spent two days talking to.

But it's out there.

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