At an educational non-profit, I've inherited a previously set-up Windows domain that, after the first reinstall of the machines, we ended up not using by simply not joining machines back into the domain.
Over last summer, before the annual reinstall for shipping machines to the summer school, I toyed with the idea of installing Windows 7 over network, instead of just imaging the machines. It took a bit longer than I expected to figure out the basics; honestly, I expected that Windows would be more friendly for PXE installation out of the box.
What I'm interested in is best practices for installing Windows 7 over PXE with domain autojoin. I'd love it if the whole setup could optionally be hosted on a UNIX based system as well.
I've had some success by preparing an ISO using Windows AIK, and loading the ISO into memory. This was needed since I wanted a menu, and I think I couldn't get PXELINUX to chainload into Windows' bootloader. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out much about customization of the Windows setup in that timeframe nor could I get Samba to work properly; studying the stuff ended up being too lengthy, especially the portion where I edited a disk image on Windows and copied it outside. AIK didn't make things easier by mounting the disk image into RAM, and writing it in its entirety when done with it, making me a very sad boy.
I've recently found a different approach, too, that appears to be closer to Microsoft's original idea for netboot deployment and does not involve ISOs.
So my question boils down to the following.
- What exact approach do you use for netbooting Windows 7 setup?
- How can Windows 7 setup be best customized to be completely unattended, including installation on specific system partition and not destroying the data partition, creation of passworded admin and default user, choice of MAC-address-based hostname, and joining a domain?
As much details as possible for everyone's future reference would be appreciated. WDS isn't a bad choice, but if a Linux-based install can be used, that'd be better.