If you enjoy dining at the local all-you-can-eat buffet, then the Windows 2000 platform and its smorgasbord of administration utilities should make you step right up and take notice. Depending on your needs, the Remote Installation Service (RIS) will help you deploy the Windows operating system to computers on your network, regardless of where they are. When RIS is installed on a Windows 2000 server, it patiently waits until it is contacted by a client computer. The client computer will either boot using a PXE compliant ROM on the network interface card (NIC) or the optional RIS boot disk. Once the client contacts the RIS server, the specified operating system will be remotely installed, saving you time and your company money. This Daily Drill Down will show you how to configure RIS on your Windows 2000 server and how to use RIS to remotely install Windows 2000 Professional.

RIS prerequisites
The Windows 2000 Remote Installation Service has specific hardware and software requirements that must be met before you can install and use the service. Other than the PXE-compliant network adapters, neither the client nor server requirements should pose much of a problem.

The Windows 2000 Server requirements are:

  • Pentium processor running at 200 MHz or greater
  • 64 MB of RAM (If DHCP, DNS, or Active Directory is on the server, a minimum of 128 MB of RAM is recommended.)
  • 2 GB of disk space, formatted with NTFS 5 or greater (This drive cannot be the same drive that has the operating system installed; however, it can be a separate partition on the same physical drive.)
  • 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps network interface card

The client requirements are more stringent because you must have an NIC that supports PXE DHCP-based boot ROM version .99c or greater. Alternatively, the NIC may be compatible with the optional RIS boot disk, but the list of compatible adapters is a short one.

The client requirements are:

  • Pentium processor running at 166 MHz or greater
  • 32 MB of RAM
  • A hard drive of at least 1.2 GB

In addition to the client and server prerequisites, the network must have a Windows 2000 Active Directory-compliant DNS server, an active DHCP server, and Active Directory services in use.

Installing RIS on the Windows 2000 server
If your server meets the RIS prerequisites, you can install the utility. This section will guide you through a basic installation of RIS on a Windows 2000 file server.

Begin by clicking Start | Programs | Administrative Tools | Configure Your Server. At the Windows 2000 Configure Your Server window, click Advanced and then select Optional Components. Click on the Start The Windows Components Wizard option.

The Windows Components Wizard allows you to add or remove Windows components as desired. To install RIS, select Remote Installation Services and then click Next, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A.
Select Remote Installation Services in the Windows Components Wizard.

The Setup program will install RIS and perform a file copy. You will need either the Windows 2000 Server CD in the computer’s CD-ROM drive or access on the network to the Windows 2000 source files.

When the RIS installation completes, you are asked to click Finish. You will then be prompted to restart the file server. Be sure to remove the Windows 2000 Server CD if it is in the CD-ROM drive.

Configuring RIS
After the server has been rebooted, you will be asked to complete the setup of the file server. To begin this process, click on Finish Setup.

As shown in Figure B, you will be asked to configure Remote Installation Services. To begin the process, click on the Configure button, which will launch the Remote Installation Services Setup Wizard.

Figure B
Choose to Configure Remote Installation Services

The RIS configuration begins by having you select the location for storing the remote installation folder, as shown in Figure C. The drive must be formatted with NTFS version 5 or later, and it must not be the same drive that holds the Windows 2000 operating system files. However, you may use a logical drive that is not on the same partition as the drive holding the Windows 2000 operating system files. After specifying the location, click Next to continue.

Figure C
The Remote Installation Services Setup Wizard will need to know the folder to use for remote installation.

RIS will not support client computers until it has been configured to do so. If you would like to service client computers immediately, you can select Respond To Client Computers Requesting Service, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
If necessary, you can set the server to begin supporting clients immediately. The default is to configure client support after setup.

To continue, you must select the location of the Windows installation files. For purposes of this example, we used the Windows 2000 Professional installation CD. Depending on your needs, you might be better served by copying the source files to the network, which will increase the speed at which they are copied. After specifying the location, click Next to continue.

As the installation continues, you are asked to name the folder that will hold the Windows installation files. After naming the folder, click Next to continue.

Figure E shows you the Friendly Description And Help Text dialog box. Here, you have the opportunity to enter a description and any other comments that can help you choose the right image. Click Next to continue.

Figure E
Enter a friendly description and some help text.

Before continuing, you are asked to review the configuration that you have completed, as shown in Figure F. If everything is correct, click Finish.

Figure F
Review your settings before you continue.

Setup shows a progress bar and checks off tasks as it completes them, as shown in Figure G. Among its many tasks, the Setup program will copy the Windows Installation files to the installation directory that you specified earlier, which can take quite a while and requires some patience.

Figure G
The Remote Installation Services Setup Wizard displays tasks completed and progress.

When the Setup program has completed its tasks, click the Done button, which will return you to the Add/Remove Programs window. Close the Configure Your Server window and restart the server. Remember to remove the CD-ROM from the drive if you are using one.

Creating the Remote Client Boot Disk
After configuring RIS on the Windows 2000 server, you will turn your attention to the client side of things. RIS relies on two methods of communication between the client and server. The traditional method requires the client computer to boot from a PXE ROM network interface card that is using ROM version .99c or greater.

If your client NIC is not PXE-compliant, there is an alternate method of communicating with the server. Using a boot disk created from the server, you can establish communication with the server and perform the remote installation. However, this method requires that a boot disk be inserted into the client computer’s floppy drive, which eliminates some of the advantages of performing a remote installation.

To begin the boot disk creation, click on Start, select Run, and browse to C:\WINNT\SYSTEM32\REMINST\RBFG.EXE.

The Remote Boot Disk Generator window will appear. Click the Adapter List button and select the appropriate network adapter from the list, as shown in Figure H. At the time of this writing, there are twenty-five adapters that can be used with the RIS boot disk. If your client computer NIC is not on the list, you cannot use the boot disk.

Figure H
Choose your adapter from the Supported Adapters list.

Insert a disk into the floppy drive and click the Create Disk button to write the appropriate files to the newly created boot disk. After the disk creation is complete, you will be asked if you want to create another disk. You can create as many boot disks as necessary. When you are done, click Close.

A final pair of server configurations
Now that RIS has been configured on the server and you have either created a boot disk or verified that the client computer has a PXE-compliant network adapter, there are two more Windows 2000 server parameters that you can configure. Both of these settings are configured using the Active Directory Users And Computers utility.

In order to allow the RIS server to respond to client requests, you must configure the server to do so. From the Start menu, select Programs | Administrative Tools | Active Directory Users And Computers. As shown in Figure I, locate your RIS server, right-click it, and select Properties.

Figure I
Select your RIS server and open its Properties dialog.

Click on the Remote Install tab and select Respond To Client Computers Requesting Service. Your network configuration and security may also dictate that you select Do Not Respond To Unknown Client Computers.

A nice feature on this screen is the Verify Server button. This will perform a quick check of the RIS configuration on the server and alert you if there are any problems.

Another optional setting is to configure the format that the client computer names will use. To do this, click the Advanced Settings button that is on the Remote Install tab of the server’s Properties page. After doing so, you can use the drop-down menu to select the client computer naming format. As shown in Figure J, you will use the Username for your installation.

Figure J
Set the type of computer naming format to use.

Performing the RIS Installation
Once the RIS server has been configured and your client computer has been prepared for RIS installation, you are ready to give the remote installation a try.

Booting the client computer from the NIC or the boot disk.
When the client establishes communication with the RIS server, you will be prompted to press [F12]. After doing so, you will be presented with the Client Installation Wizard welcome screen. Press [Enter] to continue the installation.

Then, you must provide a valid user name, password, and domain name. The user that authenticates must have Administrator rights in order to perform the remote installation. After authenticating, you will be shown a screen giving you four options: Automatic Setup, Custom Setup, Restart A Previous Setup Attempt, and Maintenance And Troubleshooting. You can use the arrow keys to highlight each option, and a description will be displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Once you have made your selection, you will be warned that all data on the hard drive will be deleted. If this is truly what you want to do, press [Enter] to continue. You may back out of the installation by pressing [Esc].

If you continue, the next screen will provide you with the computer account, Global Unique ID, and RIS server name. If you are using the boot disk, you should remove it at this time. Pressing [Enter] will begin the remote installation.

Final Thoughts.
While there are many other remote installation products such as SMS and ZENWorks, the RIS installation is easy to use. Since it comes bundled with the Windows 2000 utility smorgasbord, it is also free. It’s hard to beat that.
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