After my hard disk failure last month, I decided to resurrect a project that I had shelved some time ago – implementing an unattended setup for my PCs at home. I have a variety of computers from HP (Compaq), IBM and Dell, which makes things slightly more complicated than it might otherwise be (although not impossible), so this was an opportunity to implement some of the business desktop deployment (BDD) technologies that I practise at work to implement a standard operating environment (SOE) and allow me to rebuild PCs at will.
My previous experience with unattended installations has largely been on the server side, basically amending and appending OEM installation scripts (e.g. Compaq/HP SmartStart or the HP ProLiant Essentials Rapid Deployment Pack (RDP)). This time I had a plethora of drivers to consider, and a limited (zero) budget. To allow for a repeatable, customisable, build I decided not to use any imaging technologies but instead to create a standard unattended setup, including all the drivers needed for the various PCs and a common set of applications. One thing I could rely on the presence of was Pre-boot eXecution Environment (PXE)-enabled workstations, so I set up and configured Microsoft Remote Installation Services (RIS) to serve my Windows XP + SP2 installation “image” (not really an image, but that’s the RIS terminology).
Incidentally, the most complete resource for information on creating unattended builds that I am aware of is the Microsoft Software Forum Network’s “Creating the Ultimate Unattended XP CD”. Although CD based, this gives much of the information needed for a successful RIS-based installation.
Everything was looking good until I tried to perform a PXE network service boot and connect to the RIS server. I could see that my DHCP server was issuing IP addresses to clients but they received an error:
PXE-E53: No Boot Filename Received
Basically, the PXE clients couldn’t find the RIS server. DHCP was being served from an ADSL router and I couldn’t find any way to configure the router to redirect PXE clients. Logically, interaction between the PXE client, the DHCP server and the RIS server should not have been affected by the router because PXE uses DHCP broadcast requests and all the computers were all on the same subnet but once DHCP was migrated to the RIS server, the error disappeared and the RIS Client Installation Wizard ran as expected. Since then, I’ve found Microsoft PSS’ Technical Guide to Remote Installation Services, which suggests various troubleshooting actions but for now it works, so maybe I’ll investigate further some other time.
The next issue was that Windows XP setup failed as the network drivers for the Broadcom BC570x NIC in my Dell Latitude D600 were not available from the Windows XP installation source:
The operating system image you selected does not contain the necessary drivers for your network adapter. Try selecting a different operating system image. If the problem persists, contact your administrator. Setup cannot continue. Press any key to exit.
Microsoft state that a hot fix is required to resolve this issue; however the Broadcom driver FAQ gives an alternative resolution which involves editing the B57WIN32.INF setup information file. I didn’t want to do this as it would break the digital signature and I would prefer to construct the build using signed drivers only. Instead, I used the latest drivers (v7.86) from Broadcom rather than the Dell-packaged version and once I had integrated the network drivers with the RIS installation source, deleted any instances of precompiled setup information (.PNF) files and restarted the Boot Information Negotiation Layer service, I was able to commence my unattended Windows setup.
This time, a new error halted text-mode setup:
File b57w2k.sys caused an unexpected error (21) at line 3788 in d:\xpsprtm\base\boot\setup\setup.c. Press any key to continue.
Some posts in the Bink.nu and MSFN forums led me to a solution for this by copying the Windows 2000 version of the drivers (B57W2K.SYS) to the Windows XP installation source \i386 folder alongside the Windows XP driver (B57XP32.SYS) and the setup information file (B57WIN32.INF).
Once the Dell PC was working, I had the same issue with an IBM ThinkPad T40 with an Intel PRO/100 VE card and so it seems logical to assume that this issue may apply to a variety of NICs.
For the BC570x, a Windows User Group (Nordic) article which discusses integration of Intel and Broadcom drivers with RIS images suggests rewriting the B57WIN32.INF file to replace all references to B57W2K.SYS with B57XP32.SYS, but again, I avoided this to prevent issues with unsigned drivers. Intel’s solution to installing PRO/100 or PRO/1000 NICs via RIS requires a further download but I got it working by applying the same resolution as for the Broadcom drivers – i.e. using IBM’s distribution of the Intel drivers (v126.96.36.199) and including the Windows 2000 E100BNT5.SYS driver in the Windows XP installation source \i386 folder for text-mode setup.
I should point out that it was only necessary to add these network drivers to the \i386 folder on the Windows XP installation source in order to use the NIC to copy files during setup and it is still necessary to add OEM device drivers to the Windows XP installation source for all undetected devices in order to allow the drivers to be used during the plug and play (PnP) section of setup.
After a couple of days downloading, integrating and testing drivers, my RIS-based Windows XP installation works for all of my computers and now I can focus on the finer points of the build, tuning the Windows XP installation and adding applications to my SOE.