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PXE Server That Boots ISOs

Posted on 2011-02-10
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Last Modified: 2013-12-12
I have a small computer shop, and we use a bunch of different disks for diagnostics (from Knoppix live cds, to custom bootable cds) I'd like to configure a PXE server that can give you a list of ISO images to boot from so we can use it to do anything from install Windows or Linux, to running our diagnostic disks.  How do I do this? Thanks

PS: The PXE server can run on Windows, Linux, or OS X 10.6 Server, but I'd prefer CentOS 5.5 if possible.
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Question by:NewMacAdmin
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14 Comments
 
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Expert Comment

by:farzanj
ID: 34864380
From CentOS5.5 you can easily configure kickstart to do the installation.  It would work for CentOS and RedHat.

Basically, you need to configure
- DHCP
- tftp
- one of NFS, FTP, HTTP

For Windows installation, this would guide you.
http://www.savelono.com/linux/how-to-install-windows-7-over-a-network-using-linux-pxe-dnsmasq-and-samba.html
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Author Comment

by:NewMacAdmin
ID: 34864395
Yes, but I want to be able to PXE boot via a menu to ISO images of Windows intsall disks, Linux disks, AND custom ISOs such as my diagnostic cds, or other bootable disks.  This is so I can phase our cds, or do diagnostics on netbooks, or laptops with no cd drive/bad cd drive.
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Author Comment

by:NewMacAdmin
ID: 34864408
ie: PXE boot Menu:
Option 1: WIndows XP Pro install
Option 2: Ubuntu Install
Option 3: CentOS install
Option 4: Memtest
Option 5: Acronis TrueImage
Option 6: Custom bootable ISO
Option 7: Internal Tools
Option 8: Knoppix Live CD
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:farzanj
ID: 34864473
RIght.

Menu is certainly the first step.
Details are here
http://wiki.centos.org/HowTos/PXE/PXE_Setup/Menus

Rest of the setup is done as follows
http://wiki.centos.org/HowTos/PXE/PXE_Setup

You need to setup a directory structure.
You need to provide the initrd

Then you would need a place where it would read the packages from.  For Customizing that you would need kickstart (for RedHat and CentOS).  Unfortunately, every other distribution uses its own customization.  SUSE uses autoyast, Solaris uses Jumpstart, Windows has its own "ghost scripts"

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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:farzanj
ID: 34864490
Try installing CentOS and RedHat first.  Then keep enhancing your menu and options.

A word of caution.  PXE menu is extremely sensitive to white space.  Try having a blank line after the last menu item or you may get strange error messages
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Author Comment

by:NewMacAdmin
ID: 34864530
There is no way to just have it load a bootable ISO image as if the burned disk was in the drive?
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Expert Comment

by:farzanj
ID: 34864643
I basically work with CentOS/RedHat.  So let me deal with that first.

There are two boot stages.
When you PXE boot, it would start making calls to tftp and DHCP.  DHCP has to have setting for it to know about tftp, its IP address, etc.

In the first stage of booting you need initial RAM disk image.
Then you need to tell it about the kickstart file (in case of RedHat and CentOS).  So this stage is different for all OSes.

You can certainly provide DVDs but he wants to get rid of DVDs/CDs.

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Author Comment

by:NewMacAdmin
ID: 34864653
What about my custom boot software? It's a bootable tools disk made with EZBoot. I'd like to get that booting first if possible as I use it the most.
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Expert Comment

by:farzanj
ID: 34864845
Ok.  I got your point.

Did you check the EZBoot literature or their customer service?


I am not exactly sure how it would work.

Basically, you would extract the ISO image and make it available through the network.

mount -o loop may also work.

Then you have to provide the image via NFS/FTP or something.

But the driving force in the PXE menus is the part where you give your ks=<location> or autoyast=<location> command.  That tells the location of your automation script.  If you know how you would call your automation script, you can sure put it in the menu.
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Author Comment

by:NewMacAdmin
ID: 34864856
I think I got it.  When I get home later, I'll work on this with a test node.
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Author Comment

by:NewMacAdmin
ID: 34864859
Also the main menu on the ezboot disk is default.ezb.  I think that is what is booted.
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LVL 31

Expert Comment

by:farzanj
ID: 34864867
Here is the PXE driving force mechanism
In the PXE menu you tell the location of the automation script (ks, autoyast, or whatever).
That automation script tells the location of the packages or files
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Accepted Solution

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NewMacAdmin earned 0 total points
ID: 34982496
Sorry for the delay.  I could never get this to work.  
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Author Closing Comment

by:NewMacAdmin
ID: 35015554
never got it to work
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