Two ways to circumvent the DVD drive requirement for installing Windows Server 2008

If you want to install Windows Server 2008 on a capable system without a DVD drive or boot from USB capability, Rick Vanover describes two tricks that you can use to get around this requirement.

Windows Server 2008 installations from media are only available on DVD. If you want to install Windows Server 2008 on a capable system without a DVD drive or boot from USB capability, installation may seem to be an obstacle. Here are two tricks for getting around this requirement.

Trick #1

One method is to use the Windows Pre-Installation Environment (PE) boot environment. You can perform a boot to a basic environment, where you can launch Windows setup.

To do this, simply boot from the Windows PE CD and map a drive to a network resource. Once you have access to the network resource, place the contents of the DVD that contains the Windows Server 2008 installation files in that location. From there, the setup.exe program will run from the network resource. You may need to refresh your memory about how to use the net use command within a command line environment; once you do, you can launch the Windows Server 2008 installation.

The setup process will interact mostly with the \sources path of the DVD, but for good measure, you should make sure the entire disc contents are available on the network resource. After the setup process issues the first reboot to the system, the network resource will not be required to continue the setup process. (Note: If you are booting from a Windows PE disc or any other 32-bit environment, you cannot launch a 64-bit version setup process from the 32-bit boot environment.)

Trick #2

Another way to install an operating system without the optical drive available is to use hardware re-direction to an image file. The two popular examples are the Dell Remote Access Controller (DRAC) and the HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) products. These products allow you to connect an image file to the server to function as a virtual CD or DVD drive. With this configuration, the server can boot from an .ISO image file kept locally on your workstation or available remotely on a central resource. You can also insert the DVD disc into your workstation's optical drive and tell the DRAC or iLO to use your drive by drive letter.


These two tricks, among others, are some of the more accessible methods that you can use to install Windows Server 2008 without having a DVD drive on your servers.

Keep in mind that when you're preparing a migration without additional hardware purchases, it's important to evaluate the use of available systems that meet the minimum system requirements for Windows Server 2008. You should also make sure that you are purchasing DVD drives on server systems.

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