Using your corporate network to install Windows 2000 Professional can be a smart move for you when installing the operating system on your client computers. Not only will the installation be faster, but you can also perform it from virtually anywhere, providing you have the TCP/IP boot disk that I’ll show you how to create in this Daily Drill Down. After creating the boot disk, you’ll be able to use it to install the Microsoft Network Client for MS-DOS on the workstation and then connect to a server holding the Windows 2000 Professional source files. From that point, you’ll be able to install Windows 2000 Professional as if you were using the installation CD.

Ensuring hardware compatibility
Before installing Windows 2000 Professional, you must ensure that your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements for the operating system. In addition, all of the hardware components must be compatible with Windows 2000 Professional. You can verify compatibility by finding your components on the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). Both of these topics have been covered in TechProGuild’s Daily Drill Down “Installing Windows 2000.”

Preparing the disk drives
In our previous Windows 2000 Professional installation Daily Drill Down, you were given a choice of using FAT, FAT32, or NT File System (NTFS) file systems. However, when you install Windows 2000 Professional over a network connection, you must use FAT or FAT32. If you‘re determined to use NTFS, don’t despair because you can always convert the file system to NTFS after installing the operating system.

You’ll use our old DOS friend FDISK to prepare the computer’s hard drive for the Network Client v3.0 for MS-DOS and Windows. First, you should create a partition of more than 220 MB on the drive. Windows 2000 requires at least 219 MB of free disk space to perform the installation.

Once you create the partition, you must use DOS to format it as a bootable system disk. After verifying that you can boot the system using the hard drive, you can turn your attention to the floppy disk.

Because the hard drive has already been formatted with the appropriate file system, you can use it to format and create a bootable DOS floppy disk. This disk will become the bootable network installation disk that we’ll use to boot the client computers. After verifying that the disk is bootable, you are ready to move on and create the network installation boot disk.

Creating the network installation boot disk
Windows 2000 doesn’t provide you with the necessary utility program to create a network installation boot disk. However, the same files you might have used with Windows NT 4.0 Server can be used with Windows 2000.

The Network Client Administrator utility files are located in the I386 directory of the Windows NT 4.0 Server installation CD. After creating a folder called C:\Ncadmin, copy Ncadmin.cn_, Ncadmin, and Ncadmin.hl to the folder.

Before you can use the Network Client Administrator program, you must unpack the files. To do this, go to the command prompt and change directories to C:\Ncadmin. You will then issue the command
expand –r ncadmin.*

to unpack the files.

Once the files have been unpacked, you can return to the GUI and launch Ncadmin.exe to activate the Network Client Administrator utility. As shown in Figure A, the first dialog box asks you to select the type of activity you want to perform. You should keep the default selection of Make Network Installation Startup Disk.

Figure A
Use Ncadmin.exe to create a network installation startup disk.

The next dialog box allows you to copy the client files to a new directory and create a share for the folder, as shown in Figure B. The default path selection should represent the Windows NT 4.0 Server CD-ROM if the installation disk is in the computer’s CD-ROM drive. You can modify this path if necessary so that it reflects the appropriate path to the NT 4.0 source files. As stated earlier, the client files are located in the I386 directory.

Figure B
Ncadmin.exe will ask you to set a path for installation files as well as a destination path.

The default activity selection is Copy Files To A New Directory And Then Share. These values should reflect the appropriate path and share name you’ll use for storing the client files. For this example, we accepted the default location of C:\Clients and the share name of Clients. When you click OK, the client files will be copied from the Windows NT 4.0 CD-ROM to the specified location. As stated in the dialog box, the files will take up approximately 64 MB of space.

When the files have been copied, you’ll see a window indicating how many directories were created and how many files were copied. Click OK to continue.

The Target Workstation Configuration dialog box will let you specify the type of boot disk that you will create. As shown in Figure C, your first selection is the type of floppy disk that will be used for the boot disk. Since the majority of today’s computers are using the 3.5” floppy disk, it has been made the default selection.

Figure C
The Target Workstation Configuration dialog box lets you choose the type of floppy, network client, and network adapter card to use.

Your next choice is the type of network client you will use. In this example, I selected Network Client v3.0 for MS-DOS and Windows. Windows 95 is your other option.

The final choice you can make is the type of network adapter card your client computer uses. Use the pull-down menu to select the client’s adapter. If your adapter is not in the list, you should select one that is similar and then modify network adapter settings to reflect those of your computer. In this example, I selected 3Com EtherLink III.

The Network Startup Disk Configuration dialog box lets you specify some startup options for your boot disk. For example, you can choose a computer name, user name, domain, network protocol, and TCP/IP settings. In the example shown in Figure D, I named the computer W2K-PRO and accepted the rest of the default settings.

Figure D
Set up your boot disk’s network configuration.

After clicking OK, you’ll be prompted to insert the bootable floppy disk into the disk drive. Once you have done this and clicked OK, you’ll be presented with the Confirm Network Disk Configuration window. If the configuration settings are correct, click OK to begin copying files.

When the file-copying process is complete, you’ll see a message window. At this point, the network installation boot disk has been created. If you were unable to select the correct network adapter from the drop-down list, you must modify the network adapter settings in the Protocol.ini and System.ini files before attempting to use the boot disk.

Using the network installation boot disk
Once the boot disk has been configured appropriately for your network, you should be able to insert the disk into the client computer’s floppy drive and use it to boot the computer and establish TCP/IP network connectivity using an IP address assigned by a DHCP server. If the configuration is correct, you should be prompted to type a user name or press [Enter] to accept the user name you supplied during the boot disk configuration.

After entering the user name, you’ll be asked to supply the password. Once you have done so, you’ll be prompted to create a password-list file for the user name. You can elect to do so, but you should realize that if you lose your boot disk, the password file is stored on it, allowing anyone who has the disk to gain access to the network. If you do not create the password file, you’ll be asked to do so each time you authenticate. This is a minor inconvenience when compared to the possible consequences of losing the boot disk with the user name and password.

Once you are authenticated, you’ll be prompted to set up Microsoft Network Client v3.0 for MS-DOS. After pressing [Enter] to continue, you can specify the path to be used for installing the files.

Use the first screen to select the user name, setup options, and network configuration of the DOS network client. The setup options you can modify are described below. You must use the arrow keys to navigate throughout the menus.

  • Change Redir Options—You can select either Use The Full Redirector or Use The Basic Redirector. If you’re going to log on to a Windows NT or LAN Manager domain, or you plan to use advanced network features such as named pipes, you must use the Full Redirector. This is the default setting.
  • Change Startup Options—You can select Run Network Client, Run Network Client And Load Pop-Up, or Do Not Run Network Client.
  • Change Logon Validation—You can select either the default choice of Do Not Logon To Domain or Logon To Domain.
  • Change Net Pop Hot Key—This option allows you to change the key you’ll use to activate the pop-up interface with the default key combination of [Ctrl][Alt]N.

When your options are configured correctly, select The Listed Options Are Correct to finish the client installation. After the file-copying process is complete, remove the floppy disk from the disk drive and press [Enter] to restart the computer.

Installing Windows 2000 Professional using the DOS network client
When the computer reboots, it will use the DOS network client to connect to the network. If you are logging on to a domain, you’ll be prompted for the domain password for the user after entering the user name and password. After doing so, you’ll be authenticated to the domain and can access the shared location of the Windows 2000 Professional source files.

For example, I used the following command to access the Windows 2000 Professional source files:

After connecting to the share that has the Windows 2000 Professional source files, you can execute the setup program Winnt.exe (or Winnt32.exe if you are using the Windows 95 client). These files are found in the I386 directory.

From this point on, the installation procedure should be similar to any other Windows 2000 Professional installation.

Using the network installation boot disk to perform a Windows 2000 Professional installation over your company’s network allows you to quickly establish network connectivity to perform the operating system installation. Even if you elect to use a disk-imaging program such as Ghost, you can still use the versatile network installation boot disk to establish TCP/IP connectivity to the server holding the appropriate files for such an installation.
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