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Enhancing Remote Installation Services

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Windows 2000 deployment expert Jeffrey Ferris discusses the advantages of 3Com's RIS Menu editor, which enables you to add tools and utilities to Microsoft's Windows 2000 RIS boot screen.
Windows 2000 deployment expert Jeffrey Ferris discusses the advantages of 3Com's RIS Menu editor, which enables you to add tools and utilities to Microsoft's Windows 2000 RIS boot screen.

Remote Installation Services (RIS) as it ships from Microsoft can be used to boot a PXE-enabled workstation from the network to install the Windows 2000 Professional operating system. RIS includes the capability to add utility options to the RIS boot menu, but the process to add new utilities to RIS is not explained—and it is not easy to accomplish. In theory, a system administrator could add utility options to flash a system's BIOS, create a raw backup image of a hard drive, or even deploy operating systems other than Windows 2000.

Fortunately, 3Com provides an excellent tool, the RIS Menu Editor, which provides a wizard interface to easily add tools and utilities to the Microsoft Windows 2000 RIS boot screen. With the 3Com RIS Menu Editor, you can extend RIS by taking these steps:

  • Adding new menu options to the default RIS menu. These new options can appear under the Maintenance and Troubleshooting menu or the Automatic Setup menu option of the default RIS Installation Wizard.

  • Saving boot floppies as image files that can be called from RIS to emulate booting from a floppy disk. This enables the administrator to create network boot floppies that load DOS network drivers, for example, or to create local boot floppies that perform remote BIOS updates over RIS.

  • Directly modifying the boot floppy image file without recreating the boot disk.

For detailed information on the RIS menu editor, see 3Com's Web site, at http://www.3com.com/products/software/dynamicaccess/dyn_rismenu.html.

The 3Com RIS Menu Editor is a free download from this page. The download includes a Quick Start guide with a step-by-step guide to using the RIS menu editor. Note that you must install the RIS menu editor on a Windows 2000 Server with RIS installed.

Using RIS to Deploy a SYSPREP Image

Out of the box, Windows 2000 RIS cannot be used to deploy a SYSPREP image. The administrator can configure a basic install of Windows 2000 or a RIPREP-enhanced image that includes Windows 2000 with additional applications. With the 3Com RIS Menu Editor, however, you can create RIS options to install images made with SYSPREP.

When you've configured a Windows 2000 Server as a RIS server and installed the 3Com RIS Menu Editor, the rest is easy. First, you'll need to create a network boot disk that will load the DOS network drivers for your target systems. In the AUTOEXEC.BAT file, configure the system to map a network drive to the location of your system image and image utility executable. Chances are, if you're using a disk image to deploy systems over the network, you already have a network boot disk that performs these functions.

Next, use the 3Com RIS Menu Editor to add a new RIS boot menu option that boots using an image of the network boot disk. When you boot your PXE-enabled client workstations to the RIS server, you can select the network boot disk option from the RIS client setup wizard. The system will continue to boot as if you had the floppy from which the boot disk image was created in the local A: drive. Finally, just log in, go to the network location where your SYSPREP image is located, and run the disk-imaging utility to apply your SYSPREP image.

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