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We've just picked up a cheap second-hand Dell PowerEdge 860 with an SAS 5i/R RAID controller, and we want to install Windows Server 2008 on it. Problem is that the machine only came with a CD-ROM drive and the OS is only available in DVD format...!

However, the server is fitted with an onboard Broadcom NetExtreme that mentions an Ethernet Boot Agent during boot-up. I'm kind of hoping that I can use this agent to install an OS over our local network.

Is this even possible? If so, how can it be done?

If it can't done, how else can we install Windows Server 2008 onto a machine with only a CD-ROM?

Thanks for any help or advice.

Note: There is no operating system on the machine at present. Other operating systems close at hand on CD are: Windows Server 2003 and Windows ME X( - both of which require a floppy drive to add drivers for the RAID controller. (Naturally, the server doesn't have a floppy drive.)

UPDATE So many great answers, in the end we bit the bullet and installed a DVD drive. Thanks for the help, everyone.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Couldn't you just install DVD drive for the installation time and make an ISO of the DVD on hard drive if needed later?

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For this situation maybe, but try getting it onto a Blade Centre where the dongle to plug an optical drive in has been lost and PXE-boot is your only option. – Mark Henderson Nov 18 '09 at 1:58
We permanently installed a DVD drive salvaged from an old laptop. We figured there would only be an endless stream of problems in the future (installing other software, etc), so we needed a more long-term solution. – Django Reinhardt Nov 19 '09 at 10:57

If you have another machine running Server 2008 (not sure about earlier versions been able to deploy 2k8 over the network) you can setup Windows Deployment Service to install the OS using PXE over the network which is the "proper" name for Ethernet Boot Agent

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+1 Ah, thank you! This is very useful information, thanks! – Django Reinhardt Nov 18 '09 at 10:04
WDS is almost too easy to use, you'll love it ^^ – Oskar Duveborn Nov 19 '09 at 11:31

You can make a bootable USB stickof Server 2008. I've done this on HP ProLiants that lacked any optical drives.

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I don't believe the 860 can boot from a USB stick :-/ I'll investigate, thanks. – Django Reinhardt Nov 18 '09 at 9:43
Well it supposedly DOES boot up from a USB stick... it just won't do it for me :( – Django Reinhardt Nov 18 '09 at 17:02
Ok, you can boot from USB provided you set it to "Harddrive mode" in the BIOS. – Django Reinhardt Nov 19 '09 at 10:53

Use the Windows Automated INstall Kit (WAIK) to generate a WinPE CD to boot your server on. Place the contents of the Server DVD on a shared folder. Once WinPE is up, map a drive to that shared folder and just kick off the install from there.

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