I’ve written a few posts previously for this blog about Microsoft Remote Installation Services (RIS), but today I needed to do something I knew was possible in theory but had never done before – using RIS to serve a boot image of something that’s not an unattended Windows setup.
Although slightly complicated by the need to use Active Directory for security, RIS is, at its most basic, a PXE server, capable of serving boot images via TFTP to suitable client PCs (before an operating system is loaded). In theory, any bootable floppy can be converted into a RIS boot image file but Microsoft doesn’t provide the tools – for that you will need the 3Com RIS Menu Editor (RISME). The original version of this is a free download from 3Com – later versions (e.g. emBoot RIS Menu Editor 2.0) are available for a small price (with a free trial period) but I found the 3Com version to be perfectly adequate (although it only runs locally on a Windows 2000 RIS server, whereas v2.0 of the emBoot product allows remote creation and editing of RIS menus and boot images, and supports Windows Server 2003).
After running RISME to capture an image from boot media, an additional folder structure will have been created on the RIS server, either in \\servername\RemInst\Setup\English\Images\3com\i386\ or in \\servername\RemInst\Setup\English\Tools\3com\i386\, depending on whether or not the image was created via the Automatic Setup or the Maintenance and Troubleshooting tabs.
Along with the image (.IMG) file (which can be edited directly using a utility such as WinImage), is an appropriate boot loader (.LDR) file and a RIS setup information (.SIF) file containing something similar to the following text:
Description = "<em>description</em>"
Help = "<em>helptext</em>"
LaunchFile = "Setup\English\Images\3Com\i386\tool1.ldr"
Version = "1.00"
RIS should automatically pick up the new .SIF file and offer it as a menu choice in the OS Choices menu although it may be necessary to edit the User Configuration | Remote Installation Services | Choice Options within the Default Domain Policy group policy object in Active Directory to allow access to some of the RIS menus (e.g. Maintenance and Troubleshooting).
I now plan to use this method to deploy Ghost images (via an MS-DOS boot disk, captured as an image) and a PXE boot to a RIS server but for more information (including links to enable PXE booting of Linux), check out Google’s cached version of an article on how to use RIS to bootstrap other operating systems (unfortunately the original is no longer available online).