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Situation: I have an old rack server that I want to use as a test machine. The BIOS does not support network boot, and cannot be upgraded. I need to install a fresh OS on it.

Is there anything I can install (or better, a live CD I can boot from), that would enable me to perform a once-only PXE-boot to load one of our standard OS images on the server?

Note: This question does NOT ask how to set up a PXE-boot server. That's already done, and works fine for any machine whose BIOS supports boot from network. All I'm looking for is a way of achieving the same thing without requiring BIOS support.

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3 Answers

There is this thing called gpxe (read about it here), which allows you to load the PXE stuff from a floppy, for example.

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What's a floppy? (jk) –  squillman Oct 27 '09 at 16:19
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Those things you keep to put coffeecups on in case you run out of CD's –  wzzrd Oct 27 '09 at 18:04
    
"for example" == cd iso, usb stick image etc –  sajb Aug 23 '10 at 12:33
    
@sajb "(jk)" == just kidding. ;) –  Kara Marfia Jul 17 '11 at 4:34
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http://rom-o-matic.net/ is a site where you can generate bootable images for performing pxe boot. Another alternative is to stick another network card in the machine that does have a boot ROM. You can just use it for network booting, and then use the other network interface for all other network activities.

BTW, there is a pretty good (geeky) Google Tech Talk about gPXE:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1911723796712805715

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+1 for noting that PXE isn't a BIOS feature at all, it's a function of the NIC. –  Chris S Jul 17 '11 at 3:45
    
it is a function of the NIC but often is a BIOS feature. seems lately more often than not. –  Ben Campbell Oct 27 '11 at 19:31
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http://ipxe.org/ will also help you in case you have a pc that doesn't already support pxe. There you get a bootable iso image, so if your pc can boot a cdrom, you can boot over pxe!

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iPXE used to be called gPXE, which used to be called Etherboot. Same thing as wzzrd's answer. –  Chris S Jul 17 '11 at 3:44
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