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Lead: Mark Ross


One thing about Microsoft: if you missed out on learning about one of their new services, just wait a bit and it will be replaced with a newer one so you can have a second go at learning it. Microsoft's service for remotely deploying a desktop OS onto a computer is currently undergoing such a transition. The old version is called Remote Installation Service (RIS), which arrived with Windows Server 2000. The new version in Windows Server 2003 SP2 and which exploits Vista's completely new deployment tools, is called Windows Deployment Services (WDS)--it is the next generation update/replacement for RIS.

IFAS has a WDS installation on its DHCP server, \\if-srv-dhcp, which Chris Hughes had previously configured to deploy early Vista images. In a sense, WDS runs "on-top-of" RIS; consequently the old RIS functionality is still available until we are prepared to continue our Vista deployment efforts. In order to use our facility to deploy "legacy" OS (WinXP and Win2k3 Server), Mark Ross has now updated the IFAS RIS point so that it has the necessary drivers (Broadcom, RAID, etc.) for most Dell machines to do a PXE boot and install properly over PXE.

The Client Side of Using RIS/WDS:

To deploy an OS to a machine via RIS/WDS, you must go into the BIOS setup and configure the machine for PXE boot. This is usually an option for the network card that is not on by default. Once that is done, you press F12 during restart (on Dell machines anyway) to get a boot menu. You select the on-board network controller which will do a PXE boot to the DHCP server that runs RIS/WDS. You will get the message "Press F12 for a network service boot". Doing this brings up a Vista (WDS) vs. Legacy (RIS) selection menu. If you select "Legacy", you are prompted for your ufad\if-admn credentials for access. Once those are properly entered, you can see the various OS installation packages which Mark has made available.

WinXP and W2K3 Server Deployment (RIS)

WinXP SP2, W2K3 Server, and W2K3 Server SP1 installs are currently available. Plant Pathology and Environmental Horticulture are using this successfully for desktop deployment.

Vista Deployment (WDS)

Currently, the Vista WDS images have not been updated from when Chris had set that up for Beta2, but we hope to get those configured eventually. With WDS, when a Vista image is chosen, a transfer of a Windows PE image to your machine is initiated that is the setup program for Vista. The build process takes roughly 20 minutes on campus and may be slightly longer off-campus because the MPS are slightly slower. With the previous configuraton, a machine ended-up logged on to the desktop as the "if-svc-wdsuser" service account.

WinXP SP2 Installation Customization:

Just as with any unattended installation, you can control a RIS-based installation via the use of an ".sif" answer file. Other than some settings peculiar to our RIS environment, the only significant difference between using the IFAS RIS environment and, say, performing a clean unattended installation with an Operating System CD is that you will need to provide your answer file to Mark Ross so that he can place it in the proper location with the correct access rights.

These customized answer files go into a Templates directory as shown in the DHCP directory structure below:

You likely will or may want to modify the following sections of the example answer file to reflect your department name and your particular needs. Answer files are standard INI-like text files with ".sif" file extensions.

  • [GuiUnattended]
    • AdminPassword="Insert_PW_Here"
  • [UserData]
    • FullName="IFAS Entomology & Nematology"
    • OrgName="The University of Florida"
  • [TapiLocation]
    • AreaCode=352
  • [URL]
    • Home_Page=ctl.ifas.ufl.edu
  • [Components]
    • Msnexplr = Off
    • WMAccess = Off
    • OEAccess = Off
    • Zonegames = Off
  • [OSChooser]
    • Description="Windows XP Pro Install - Entomology"/li>
    • Help="This will install Windows Professional in the Entomology configuration."

The [Components] section allows you to control whether certain Windows components are installed via setting each item to either "on" or "off".

Answer File Resources:

Remote Installation Services Answer-File Settings

Complete list of the optional components for WinXP and Win2K3 Server

last edited 20 October 2006 by Steve Lasley