Use WDS to boot Linux live cd’s

Use WDS to boot Linux live cd’s

In a previous article, Installing Linux via PXE using Windows Deployment Services (WDS), I talked about using PXELinux to enable deployment of WDS images, Linux distros and a multitude of tools. It got a bit heavy when trying to make this all work but the system is now up & running and we have already benefitted from it on many occasions. So here is my guide for Microsoft admins wanting to enhance their existing Windows Deployment Services server.

Step One – Install WDSMike_Vainio_Thesis_final

This should be obvious and if you are reading this I imagine you’ve done it already. Ours is running on a Windows Server 2003 box but it should work fine with the latest, more secure, stuff.

  • We will be adding bits to the folders within the \\WDS\REMINST share

Step Two – Install PXELinux

PXELinux is part of the SysLinux package

  • Download SysLinux from here
  • There’s quite a bit in SysLinux but you only need to extract the following files
    • ZIP\core\pxelinux.0
    • ZIP\com32\menu\vesamenu.c32
    • ZIP\com32\modules\chain.c32
  • Copy the files into \\WDS\REMINST\Boot\x86
  • Rename pxelinux.0 to pxelinux.com
  • You also need to make copies of two original WDS files in this folder
    • Copy pxeboot.n12 and rename it to pxeboot.0
    • Copy abortpxe.com and rename it to abortpxe.0
  • Create to new subfolders
    • \\WDS\REMINST\Boot\x86\Linux
    • \\WDS\REMINST\Boot\x86\pxelinux.cfg
  • The pxelinux.cfgfolder is where you store the files that make up the PXE boot (F12) menu.
    • All the files we will put in there are text files, even though they don’t use a .txtextension
  • First create a new text file called default.  This is the first menu that loads.
  • Paste the following text into it
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    DEFAULT      vesamenu.c32
    PROMPT       0
    MENU TITLE PXE Boot Menu (x86)
    MENU INCLUDE pxelinux.cfg/graphics.conf
    MENU AUTOBOOT Starting Local System in 8 seconds
    # Option 1 - Exit PXE Linux & boot normally
    LABEL bootlocal
    menu label ^Boot Normally
    menu default
    localboot 0
    timeout 80
    TOTALTIMEOUT 9000
    # Option 2 - Run WDS
    LABEL wds
    MENU LABEL ^Windows Deployment Services
    KERNEL pxeboot.0
    # Option 3 - Exit PXE Linux
    LABEL Abort
    MENU LABEL E^xit
    KERNEL abortpxe.0
  • Now create a text file called graphics.conf
    • This file controls how the menu is displayed. It’s very versatile so have a play around until it looks as basic or as flashy as you like
  • Paste the following text into it
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    MENU MARGIN 10
    MENU ROWS 16
    MENU TABMSGROW 21
    MENU TIMEOUTROW 26
    MENU COLOR BORDER 30;44     #00000000 #00000000 none
    MENU COLOR SCROLLBAR 30;44      #00000000 #00000000 none
    MENU COLOR TITLE 0      #00269B #00000000 none
    MENU COLOR SEL   30;47      #40000000 #20ffffff
    MENU BACKGROUND background.jpg
    NOESCAPE 0
    ALLOWOPTIONS 0
  • If you want to use a custom background, place it in the \\WDS\REMINST\Boot\x86folder.
    • The image should be a 640×480 jpeg file.
    • Make sure it has the same name as specified in the MENU BACKGROUND line in graphics.conf
  • Now we need to change the default boot program in WDS
    • Open the Windows Deployment Services Console
    • Right Click on your Server and select Properties
    • From the Boot tab change the default boot program for x86 architecture to \Boot\x86\pxelinux.com
    • In Server 2008 R2 you have to use the wdsutil  command line to set the the default boot program with these commands
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wdsutil /set-server /bootprogram:boot\x86\pxelinux.com /architecture:x86
wdsutil /set-server /N12bootprogram:boot\x86\pxelinux.com /architecture:x86

Step Three – Test it out

Before you go any further, do a test PXE boot to check everything is OK.

I use a Hyper-V VM to make this testing process quicker. Just make sure it’s set to boot to a legacy network adapter in the settings

wds-pxe-menu
Image Source: http://simpledesktops.com/browse/desktops/2011/may/13/invaders/

If it doesn’t load make sure you have the following files and folders in the right place within the \\WDS\REMINST share

  • \Boot\x86\pxelinux.com
  • \Boot\x86\vesamenu.c32
  • \Boot\x86\chain.c32
  • \Boot\x86\pxeboot.0
  • \Boot\x86\abortpxe.0
  • \Boot\x86\background.jpg
  • \Boot\x86\Linux\
  • \Boot\x86\pxelinux.cfg\
  • \Boot\x86\pxelinux.cfg\default
  • \Boot\x86\pxelinux.cfg\graphics.conf

Step Four– Add new boot options

If you can boot into the new menu and still load WDS then we are ready to add our Linux distros and other tools. If not, go back to step one and check everything.

This stage is relatively easy. It is just a case of putting the relevant netboot files for your preferred distribution in to the \Boot\x86\Linux folder and then adding a menu option for them. You can find more info on where to get these from on the official WDSLinux wiki. I’ll show you a more generic way of doing things using Debian as an example

  • Create a new subfolder
    • \Boot\x86\Linux\Debian\
  • Download the netboot files (initrd.gz and linux) from a Debian mirror
  • Copy them into the Debian subfolder
  • Create a menu entry for them in \Boot\x86\pxelinux.cfg\default
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    LABEL debian6Netinstall
    menu label ^Debian 6-0 Net-install
    # Load the correct kernel
    kernel /Linux/Debian/Linux
    # Boot options
    append priority=low vga=normal initrd=/Linux/Debian/initrd.gz

That’s all there is to it. As long as you download the correct files and boot the correct boot options on the append line of the menu, you should be OK.

What if I need 64-bit options

This is easy too just replicate everything we did in \Boot\x86 into \Boot\x64. Don’t forget to change the WDS Server boot program for the x64 architecture (as shown in step 2) to \Boot\x64\pxelinux.com

Taking it further

Hopefully you are reading this because you have numerous ideas of what you could boot to. To help you along I’ve included my current default menu as well as adding sub-menus for Linux and Tools. Most of them were fairly straightforward as they had special PXE version with instructions on their website, e.g. GParted & Clonezilla

default

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DEFAULT      vesamenu.c32
PROMPT       0
MENU TITLE PXE Boot Menu (x86)
MENU INCLUDE pxelinux.cfg/graphics.conf
MENU AUTOBOOT Starting Local System in 8 seconds
# Option 1 - Exit PXE Linux & boot normally
LABEL bootlocal
menu label ^Boot Normally
menu default
localboot 0
timeout 80
TOTALTIMEOUT 9000
# Option 2 - Run WDS
LABEL wds
MENU LABEL ^Windows Deployment Services
KERNEL pxeboot.0
# Go to Linux sub-menu
LABEL linux
MENU LABEL ^Linux Distros
KERNEL vesamenu.c32
APPEND pxelinux.cfg/graphics.conf pxelinux.cfg/linux.menu
# Go to Tools sub-menu
LABEL tools
MENU LABEL ^Tools
KERNEL vesamenu.c32
APPEND pxelinux.cfg/graphics.conf pxelinux.cfg/tools.menu
# Exit PXE Linux
LABEL Abort
MENU LABEL E^xit
KERNEL abortpxe.0

linux.menu (save in same place default)

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MENU TITLE Install a Linux Distro
LABEL debian6.0-amd64-Netinstall
menu label ^Debian 6-0 amd64-Net-install:
kernel /Linux/Debian-Net-Install-amd64/Linux
append priority=low vga=normal initrd=/Linux/Debian-Net-Install-amd64/initrd.gz
LABEL Centos5.0-Install
menu label ^Centos 5-0 32bit install:
kernel /Linux/Centos-5.0-32-bit/vmlinuz
APPEND ks initrd=Linux/Centos-5.0-32-bit/initrd.img ramdisk_size=100000
LABEL Debian-5.08-Installer
menu label ^Install 5.08 (Lenny)
kernel /Linux/debian-installer/i386/linux
append vga=normal debian-installer/allow_unauthenticated=true  initrd=/Linux/debian-installer/i386/initrd.gz
LABEL Main Menu
MENU LABEL ^Back to Main Menu
KERNEL vesamenu.c32
APPEND pxelinux.cfg/default

tools.menu (save in same place default)

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MENU TITLE Tools
LABEL memtest
menu label ^Memory Test: Memtest86+ v4.20
kernel \Linux\memtest\memtestp
LABEL Clonezilla Live
MENU LABEL ^Clonezilla Live
kernel \Linux\Clonezilla\vmlinuz
append initrd=\Linux\Clonezilla\initrd.img boot=live live-config noswap nolocales edd=on nomodeset ocs_live_run="ocs-live-general" ocs_live_extra_param="" ocs_live_keymap="" ocs_live_batch="no" ocs_lang="" vga=788 nosplash fetch=http://192.0.0.24:81/RemoteInstall/Boot/x86/Linux/Clonezilla/filesystem.squashfs
LABEL gparted
MENU LABEL ^GParted Live
kernel \Linux\gparted\vmlinuz
append initrd=\Linux\gparted\initrd.img boot=live config  noswap noprompt  nosplash  fetch=http://192.0.0.24:81/RemoteInstall/Boot/x86/Linux/GParted/filesystem.squashfs
TEXT HELP
GParted live version: 0.8.1-3. Live version maintainer: Steven Shiau
Disclaimer: GParted live comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY
ENDTEXT
LABEL Main Menu
MENU LABEL ^Back to Main Menu
KERNEL vesamenu.c32
APPEND pxelinux.cfg/default

Conclusion

This is a really useful tool to have in our SysAdmin arsenal. I encourage you to give it a go. Let me know if your successful, or if you are having any problems getting it working, in the comments section. I’d also love to hear of any other tools you’ve added to the PXE menu.

https://thommck.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/deep-dive-combining-windows-deployment-services-pxelinux-fo…

Peaceful Coexistence: WDS and Linux PXE Servers

https://sysadminblogger.wordpress.com/tag/memtest-wds/

Found on Spiceworks: https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/1449197-wds-pxeboot-gparted-clonezilla-linux-distros?utm_source=copy_paste&utm_campaign=growth

Found on Spiceworks: https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/1449197-wds-pxeboot-gparted-clonezilla-linux-distros?utm_source=copy_paste&utm_campaign=growth