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I would have like to have the option to boot the linux of my choice (Debian, Mandriva, RedHat, Ubuntu, ...) via PXE. That way I would not have to take the trouble to do an installation on too many systems. Just single good installations of the various linux systems would do fine for an entire LAN?

Could you give me some insights into achieving this. Is this done anywhere -- to your knowledge?

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PXE-boot installs are quite possible, even common.

For all of these, you need a few things to make it work:

  • A PXE server installed somewhere, so PXE-booting network cards can actually get information.
  • A DHCP server passing out the right options, so PXE-booting machines can locate their images.
  • A TFTP server installed, so the PXE-booting machines can fetch their boot images
  • (Optional) A WakeOnLAN server somewhere to remotely poke servers for booting

Once the boot-image is fetched, each distribution has their own way to provide the install script. Getting that install script tuned can be a chore, but once you get there you can deploy multiple servers with minimal effort, especially when paired with a management framework such as or .

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If you want a simple approach for all of the different distributions, there is a utility to convert a LiveCD to a PXE boot. You will still need to set up DHCP and TFTP but this can help making the boot images.

This is probably the easiest approach as long as the Live CD option for each distribution provides all the functionality you need.

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The approach I've outlined is somewhat stateless. @sysadmin1138's approach is better if you actually want to install and/or customize the distribution on each client. – Tom Shaw Jun 4 '11 at 13:05

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