Booting an install across the network


Keen to try Microsoft’s new Hyper-V, part of Window 2008 I upgraded a machine with a new AM2 socket motherboard, an AMD Athlon  64 x2 chip and 4GB RAM.  I downloaded the Windows 2008 ISO from MSDN and was keen to get to work when I realized the machine didn’t have CD drive let alone a DVD drive.  Bummer.  But not wanting to cannabalize an existing machine or wait for a new DVD player I used ability of the motherboard to support booting across the network.

The motherboard supports the PXE protocol.  Apparently defined by Intel and Microsoft the PXE implementation looks for a DHCP server on the network that supports some specific entries in its active scope.  You can use these entries to define the location of a server which runs a TFTP server and the name of the boot loader file it should download and run.  So it is possible to configure the company DHCP to respond to PXE enquiries and this article covers the details but it seems you have to have a pretty high geek score to use it.

Also it means messing with the company DHCP server which doesn’t seem like a great idea.  But knowing it can be done lead me to this post by Ryan T Adams.

The post shows how to use a package that combines WinPE from the Microsoft Windows App Installation Kit (WAIK) to create a Windows boot environment with Tftpd32.exe (by Philippe Jounin) a mini TFTP/DHCP server application so you can use boot a machine via PXE then install what ever you like!  Ryan Adams page documents where to get the utility (154MB) and how to configure and use it.   Works great and I’ve been able to install Window 2008 on a server without any bootable removable media!

This post provides the detailed steps you need to create your own installer using the WAIK tools.  The post says to run all the commands on Vista but they seemed to work OK on Windows 2008.  While I could follow the steps successfully, the target machine always reported an error with the “Boot Config Disk” or BCD file. 

My solutions has been to install Microsoft’s WAIK to extract the WinPE for x64.  By replacing the x86 WinPE.wim file from Ryan Adams’ download with the WinPE.wim from the WAIK install its possible to boot Windows 2008 for AMD 64 as well. 

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