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I'm looking for preferably free/open source solution for booting from network. What I need to do is:

  • Have a boot manager check specified folder on a server.
  • If there's a file named f.e.: "image.img", then the manager will boot from it. The image contains a disk cloning tool which will back-up/restore the hard drive.
  • If the file doesn't exist, boot from hard drive.

What I'm trying to achieve is that the only thing I need to do in order to run the disk cloning software is to put a file into a special folder on the server. I have to manage 50 computers in an internet cafe, and running the disk cloning tool from a thumb drive is a real pain.

I was thinking about a lightweight linux distribution, but my knowledge is very limited when it comes to linux.

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What platform are your clients running? Windows, Mac, Linux? –  Ryan Bolger May 9 '09 at 16:03
    
Windows clients. –  arul May 9 '09 at 16:07
    
No Windows server in-place already I guess? –  Oskar Duveborn Nov 9 '09 at 18:17

5 Answers 5

I tried something like this a long time ago, but my knowledge then was very limited and I couldn't get it to work. I think there are several network boot managers, but what I tried was PXELINUX.

Here's a good guide on how to configure PXELINUX for network booting.

And here's more information on several tools for network booting that you might find useful.

If you make it work, it would be nice if you share it with us, as it's a very useful technique, IMHO.

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Thank you for the links, I'll check them up and definitely write back if I get it working. –  arul May 9 '09 at 16:01

Sounds like you're just after a standard PXE-boot system, see HERE for details

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I agree with the PXE-boot suggestion, but also check out GPXE if you have compatible NICs. It will allow for additional config options such as HTTP or iSCSI.

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If you are looking for a tool that helps you easily build a boot environment you may want to look at the Linux terminal server project (LTSP). While this tool is generally aimed at building a boot environment for allowing thin-clients to connect to terminal server of some sort, it is pretty easy to modify the environment to accomplish other things as well.

It may be easier to start here then trying to build a PXELINUX setup from scratch on your own.

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Check out FOG. It has a built-in PXE server. It's also comes with a virtual appliance you can download and be up and running in minutes.

FOG Project Site

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