Windows Based PXE Boot Server Software - CCBoot

  1. PXE Boot Server Brief

    PXE was introduced as part of the Wired for Management framework by Intel, it's short for Preboot eXecution Environment or Pre-Execution Environment. Nutshell, PXE boot server is a combination of DHCP server and TFTP server. It responds requests from diskless stations over network, allocates IP addresses via DHCP for them, pushes necessary data to these stations so that they can boot on LAN even without a harddisk. CCBoot supports install windows 7 via pxe boot.

    How to configure windows pxe server? With PXE boot server, diskless computers booting process is as bellow:Power on -> BIOS -> PXE stack built-in the NIC (Network Information Center)-> NBP (Network Boot Program) downloading from server to client's RAM by TFTP-> NBP's responsibility to perform the next step (a.k.a. 2nd stage boot).

    Benifits of PXE boot server
    • 1, Reduce initial capital and implementation costs, reduce power and cooling requirements, reduce complexity and risk.
    • 2, Accelerate deployments, upgrades, and server repurposing.
    • 3, Implement enhanced Disaster Recovery solutions.
    As an administrator responsible for a network of dozens of computers or more, PXE boot server program will be very helpful. it can handle Windows XP, 2003, Vista, Windows 7 and 2008 booting. PXE boot server software will drastically reduce your daily workload. If you want to install or upgrade various softwares for all computers in the network, you just need to do operate the boot image, then all computers using this image can get changed after rebbot. It can also bring you enhanced Disaster Recovery solutions, all computers will get into a clean OS after reboot.

    In this article, we will introduce a Windows based PXE boot server software - CCBoot.
  2. Install PXE Boot Server with CCBoot and Use It for Network Booting Windows

    1. Install PXE Boot Server with CCBoot
      Download PXE boot server software - CCBoot server installation package from - http://www.ccboot.com/download.htm.
      Launch ccbootsetup.exe on the PXE boot server and keep press the next button to the end.


      Figure 1

      CCBoot will use the following ports - 67 (DHCP), 69 (TFTP), 3260 (iSCSI), 1000 (Image Upload), 8001 (Service Control). You need to open these ports in the firewall of the PXE boot server. Since CCBoot v2.1, you also need to open port 66. V2.1 uses port 66 as DHCP backup.

      Note: Please shut down the other DHCP services on the LAN especially the DHCP service in the router.

      Launch CCBoot and you will get the main interface as bellow:


      Figure 2

    2. Initialize the PXE Boot Server
      Demo Environment

      Server IP: 192.168.1.10
      Gateway: 192.168.1.1
      DNS Address: 192.168.1.1
      IP Mask: 255.255.255.0
      DHCP Range: 192.168.1.101-192.168.1.254

      Launch the PXE boot server software - CCBoot, menu "Options" -> "Options Wizard" and configure step by step as bellow:


      Figure 3

      You need to select the correct local IP address as "DHCP Server IP". Press "Scan DHCP" to check if there are other DHCP services on the LAN. You need to stop other DHCP services on the LAN.


      Figure 4

      Set "Server IP Address". Normally, it’s the same as "DHCP Server IP".
      Set "Write-back File Path" and "Image Save Path" as you want.

      "Write-back File Path" is used to store the clients' write-back data. You'd better use a big volume hard disk as "Write-back File Path". This disk should be formatted as NTFS and 64K bytes per cluster.

      "Image Save Path" is used to store the boot images. This disk should be also formatted as NTFS and 64K bytes per cluster. You’d better use a fast speed hard disk as "Image Save Path". For example, use an SAS hard disk.


      Figure 5

      Keep default values in "Server Cache Settings".


      Figure 6

      Keep default values in "Other Settings". Press the "Finish" button and confirm the popup dialog box.

    3. Upload Image to The PXE Boot Server for Windows XP
      To network boot Windows XP with the PXE boot server software - CCBoot, we first of all need to create a system image and here're the steps -
      1. Choose one client PC as master PC used to upload image to the PXE boot server. Attach a hard disk on the PC.
      2. Delete all partitions first. Allocate a small MBR partition about 40G size and leave the rest unallocated. Format the 40G partition with NTFS. Install Windows XP and the latest SP into this partition.
      3. After complete Windows installation, open the local area connection network properties and configure as bellow:


        Figure 7

        Click "Properties".


        Figure 8

        Select "Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)" and click "Properties".


        Figure 9

        Select "Obtain an IP address automatically" and "Obtain DNS server address automatically", then click "OK" to save.
      4. On the PXE boot server, open CCBoot main window, you will find a client in the client list (Figure 10) that was added by CCBoot automatically when the client PC got IP address from the CCBoot DHCP service.


        Figure 10

      5. Double click the client to edit and check both "Enable Upload Image" and "Keep Write-back File" (Figure 11), when press "save" button it will ask you "Are you sure to delete write-back file?" Just press "No".


        Figure 11

      6. Download CCBoot client installation package from: http://www.ccboot.com/download.htm. Launch ccbootsetupclient.exe and keep press the next button to the end. Then launch CCBoot client and you will see the main interface as bellow (Figure 12).


        Figure 12

      7. Press the "Install CCBoot Client" button. After finished, it will require reboot system. Reboot the client PC.
      8. After reboot, launch CCBootClient again, input the correct "Server IP address", it should be the IP address of the PC on which CCBoot server has been located. Input the image file name as you want in the "Image File Name". Press the "Upload Image" button to upload the image to the CCBoot server. Then CCBoot will create an image in the server "Image Save Path".

        Note: CCBoot supports two types image file format. It supports VMDK if you are using Windows 2003 as CCBoot server system. It will support both VMDK and VHD if you are using Windows 7 or Windows 2008. As you can see in Figure 12, the file format depends on what you have set for "Image File Name". For example, "XP01.vmdk" and "XP01.vhd".

    4. Network Boot Windows XP from The PXE Boot Server
      1. On the PXE boot server, open CCBoot main window, double click PC101 (Figure 10) to open the master PC’s properties dialog box, uncheck "Enable Upload Image" and "Keep Write-back File".
      2. Remove the HDD from the master PC, set it firstly boot from LAN (or network, PXE rom, or some similar settings) in BIOS settings so that it will start network booting Windows XP from the PXE boot server.(Figure 13).


        Figure 13

      3. The first time booting Windows XP from the PXE boot server, you can modify its computer name (Figure 14).


        Figure 14

        Set the computer name as you wish then press enter key to boot it (Figure 15).


        Figure 15

      4. On CCBoot server, "Options" -> "Settings" -> "Default Client Settings" -> "Disk Group" -> press the ">>" button, select "XP01.vmdk" as the default boot image in "System Image Selection" section.
      5. Do the same as Step 2 and Step 3 for other client PCs with the same specifications as the master PC to network boot Windows XP for them.

    5. PXE Boot Server Used for Windows 7 and Vista
      PXE Boot Server for Windows 7.
      PXE Boot Server for Vista.

Try to Build PXE Boot Server for Windows 7/XP/Vista/2003/2008 in Your LAN!