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The need for Network Booting
You are no doubt already familiar with the concept that applications cannot be successfully updated on a PC whilethey are running. Software updates nearly always involve updating executable code files that the application uses.When an application is running, the executable code files are held in memory, so changing them on the disk while adifferent version is in memory causes the application to become unstable. Some applications share files with otherapplications, making the update process even more risky if any of those applications are running. When you attemptto update such an application you will typically be prompted to close down the associated applications beforecontinuing.Well, an Operating System is similar in that much of its executable code is in memory when it is being used, howeverthe problem of shared applications is much bigger as
application and process that runs on the PC uses some of those files. So we need to close the Operating System down to get it out of memory so that we can copy all the filesfrom the new operating system to disk, then we can start the new Operating System back up again and load it intomemory. However, the Operating System provides all the core functions, most importantly the communicationbetween the network and the hard disk to enable the new Operating System files to be copied. If we close theOperating System down, we lose the ability to copy the new Operating System files to disk. What we need is a
‘temporary’ Operating System that we can load into memory once the ‘real’ Operating System has been closed
down.This is where Windows PE (Pre-installation Environment) comes in. Windows PE is a cut down version of Windowsthat includes all the necessary components to install the new Operating System to a point where it can boot up and
finish the process itself. So how do we boot up a PC to Windows PE once we’ve shut down the ‘real’ Operating
System? We need some
.In the old days we used floppy disks, now we use CDs, DVDs or USB drives. This boot media contains the Windows PE
Operating System (in the form of a WIM file) and a couple of extra ‘boot’ files that are required to load Windows PE
into memory. Once the Windows PE Operating System is loaded into memory, we can do what we want with the filesthat are on the hard disk. We can back up user files, completely wipe the disk and then install the files required by
the new operating system. When we’re done, we simply remove our boot media and reboot the PC from the local
hard disk.Great! Except this requires someone to insert or connect the boot media, reboot the machine to the chosen bootdevice (CD, DVD, USB), wait for the WinPE process to finish then remove the boot media so the PC can boot to thenew Operating System. If you have 200 offices, each with 50 PCs to be upgraded to Windows 7, you are going toneed an engineer to babysit 10,000 boot-ups for around 10 minutes per PC. If an engineer costs $30 per hour you aregoing to spend $50,000 just getting Windows PE loaded. We need to do this without physical boot media or devicesbeing connected. This is where PXE comes in.
What is PXE?
stands for Preboot-Execution Environment and is a standard that is included in PC hardwareto enable the PC to use the network as a boot device. The Windows PE Operating System image, along with the initialboot files, is stored on a
. The process of booting a PC from a PXE Server is typically referred to as