Thursday, July 14, 2011

Install linux using PXE boot with tftp hosted on Windows

There may be situations where it is necessary to install Linux from the network. For example, you don't have a DVD drive. Most computers nowadays support PXE boot, that is, booting over the network. Fortunately, this is not a very difficult task and can be done with free tools. The following tutorial discusses how to PXE boot the installation process where the installation media downloaded as needed from the Internet.


The system to install supports PXE boot.
Access to the Internet.

Network Setup

Configure the DHCP server of your network to assign a static IP to the system to install. In other words, create a mapping from MAC address of the system to install to some IP. For the purposes of this tutorial, let's call the IP of the system to install

TFTP Server Setup

Download the tftpd standard edition from Create a directory called c:/tftpd and unzip the contents of the package there.

Run tftpd.

Click on the Settings button.
Click on the DHCP tab.
Change the following settings.
IP pool starting address
Size of pool 5
Boot File netboot\pxelinux.0
Default router
Mask "Ping address before assignation"
Note, the IP pool starting address is the same as the IP assigned to the system to install.

Click OK.

Network Boot Package Setup

The steps below show how to create the PXE boot environment for Ubuntu 11.04. The installation steps for other distributions are similar.

Download the PXE boot package of the distribution. Typically, this file is called netboot.tar.gz. For example, the netboot.tar.gz file for Ubuntu 11.04 can be found here

Create a directory called c:/tftpd/netboot and untar the contents of netboot.tar.gz there.

It may be the case that some files from the tar package were created as symbolic links. Since we are hosting tftpd from Windows and Windows does not understand symbolic links, these files are not valid. To resolve this issue, replace the symbolic links with the actual file. Again, in the case of the PXE boot package for Ubuntu 11.04, there are two symbolic links that must be replaced: pxelinux.0 and pxelinux.cfg.

c:/tftpd/netboot/pxelinux.0 should be a copy of the file in ubuntu-installer/i386/pxelinux.0
c:/tftpd/netboot/pxelinux.cfg should be a folder containing a file called default which is a copy of the file in ubuntu-installer/i386/boot-screens/syslinux.cfg


Now, boot the system to install. Most systems do not engage PXE or network boot by default. You may need to press one of the function keys or configure the boot procedure in the BIOS.

If everything is properly configured, the system should engage the PXE boot and load the boot package. Good luck!


Tftpd has a log viewer that provides useful information. You can see this by clicking on the "Log viewer" tab.

If you are hosting the network boot from Windows, make sure you have converted the symbolic links to actual files. Note that some symbolic links are pointing to files and others are pointing to directories.

Make sure you have configured your DHCP server to provide a static IP to the system to install.

Make sure your system to install supports PXE boot, and make sure PXE boot is engaged.


venugopal said...

The content of the article was in good details. I hope you’ll keep posting nice to read blogs and informative articles. Thank for sharing a nice one. Great job. Windows Network Setup

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proveyourselfthom said...

It's working with Debian too! :D
Thank you very much!


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