Chapter 16. Setting Up Hands-Free Network Installations of New Systems

16.0. Introduction

Rolling out new Linux installations over the network and reimaging old ones is easy, once you have the necessary servers in place and have your clients set up to network-boot. It’s a bit complicated on x86 hardware because the x86 platform was not originally designed for network booting, so even now, network booting x86 clients is rather hit-or-miss. Of course, Linux gives you a number of boot options, so you can make it work one way or another:

  • Boot from a CD-ROM

  • Boot from a USB flash drive

  • Use PXE boot

Debian and Fedora Linux provide network-booting images for CD-ROM and USB devices. They also support Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) booting, which means you don’t need a CD-ROM or USB drive—all you need is a network interface and a PC BIOS that support PXE booting, and a PXE boot server.


If your BIOS or NIC do not support PXE booting, then go to the Etherboot project site ( Download a boot image, copy it to a floppy disk, configure the system to boot from the diskette, and you’re good to go.

PXE Boot

If you’re putting together a network with older gear, it might not support PXE boot; however, you might be able to to upgrade it without too much hassle. The first thing to check is the BIOS. Anything older than 2000 or so probably won’t support PXE booting, but you might be able to flash-upgrade the BIOS and get support for PXE booting and other modern features.

Once the ...

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