This is the first in a three part series on “The Ultimate PXE Server Configuration.” PXE is the protocol that your network card can use to boot from the network. Having a good PXE server is a major need on every decently sized network or home lab. It’s really nice to never have to scrounge for a USB thumb drive or accumulate piles of burnt CDs that are only used once. All of those headaches can be avoided with a properly configured PXE server.
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and 2012 both include what’s called WDS. This stands for Windows Deployment Services. This is a network boot (PXE) environment that allows you to install all sorts of different Windows versions, all over the network. A network install of Windows 7 or 8 over a gigabit network takes just a few minutes. It’s insanely fast.
In the Linux world, the defacto standard for PXE is the SysLinux package. It’s excellent for installing various Linux distributions, hypervisors (like vmware and xen), and tools (such as gparted, AV software, and disc cloning utilities). It even supports Windows installations, sort of. But, it’s quite a hassle.
In a perfect world, we would just combine both of these so that we can use WDS to take care of the Windows installations, and use SysLinux to handle linux installations, tools, and everything else. Well, guess what? You can, and that’s exactly what were going to to do in this series. The first post, the one you’re reading, covers installing WDS on Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2. The second post will cover adding SysLinux to WDS. The third and final part will cover adding a ton of useful tools and installation sources. So, let’s get it started.
Installing WDS on Server 2012 R2
There are a few requirements for a WDS installation.
- Active Directory – You need to run dcpromo on your WDS server to make it a domain controller if you don’t already have one already.
- DHCP – It’s best to use Microsoft’s DHCP server, and like AD, I will be installing this service right along side WDS on a single server.
- DNS – WDS needs DNS, which you will obviously have if you have a domain controller.
- (Optional) Web Server – IIS will work well. Some packages install via http. This isn’t needed for Windows installation.
- (Optional) NFS Server – The NFS Server role under file and storage services works well. This isn’t needed for Windows installation.