Remote Installation Services

In previous columns, I discussed two important automated technologies for deploying Windows 2000: answer files and Sysprep. This week, I talk about Remote Installation Services (RIS), a new technology that you can use to automate Win2K deployments. RIS lets you perform new Win2K Professional installations without knowing how to initiate the installation, where the source files are located, or how to correctly configure the installation.

Although RIS can be a great way to perform some Win2K installations, it has a few limitations and dependencies. You can use it only to perform new installations, not upgrades. It lets you perform Win2K Pro installations only, not Win2K Server or Win2K Advanced Server (Win2K AS) installations. And, if you want to load Win2K on a client machine without a network boot disk, you must have a particular type of network adapter card.

Installing RIS
Before you can use RIS on a network, you must install DHCP, Active Directory (AD), and DNS. Also, you must have an NTFS non-system partition with at least 2GB of free space on the machine that you want to configure as the RIS server. After you meet these requirements, start the Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel to install RIS. Next, reboot the machine and go back into Add/Remove Programs to configure RIS using the Remote Installation Service Setup Wizard. The wizard creates the required folder structure, starts the required services, and creates the initial image that you will make available for installation on the clients.

You've now installed and configured RIS, but you're not yet ready to start servicing client requests. With Win2K, you first have to authorize certain services in AD, including RIS and DHCP. This requirement prevents anyone from configuring a server on the network to perform unauthorized installations or to give out incorrect IP configuration information. To authorize an RIS server, open the DHCP snap-in for the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), right-click DHCP, choose Manage Authorized Servers, and click Authorize. Next, enter a name or IP address, as Screen 1 shows. It might seem like you're authorizing the RIS server as a DHCP server, but you're not. Appropriately, only members of the Enterprise Admins group can authorize a DHCP or an RIS server.

Now you're ready to start servicing clients. However, not all machines can act as RIS clients. For machines that support the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE), you can boot from the network, receive an IP address from a DHCP server, and locate an RIS server to install from. For machines with network adapter cards that don't support PXE, you might be able to install from an RIS server, but you'll have to boot from an RIS startup disk. To create an RIS startup disk, use the Remote Boot Disk Generator utility, which the RIS server automatically shares as \\servername\reminst\i386\rbfg.exe. Most machines with PCI network adapter cards can use the startup disk that rbfg.exe creates.

Two Image Types
RIS supports CD-ROM-based images and Remote Installation Preparation (RIPrep) images. CD-ROM-based image aren't images that you write to a CD-ROM, but rather images that the installation process creates from the Win2K Pro installation CD-ROM. Using the Setup Manager utility, you can create additional answer files and associate them with the CD-ROM-based image to automate and customize the Win2K Pro installation that you'll load on client machines.

RIPrep images are similar to images that you create using third-party imaging tools. To create a RIPrep image, begin with a reference machine that you have configured carefully and tested thoroughly. Next, run the Remote Installation Preparation Wizard, which you can find on the RIS server at \\servername\reminst\admin\i386\riprep.exe. The wizard walks you through the remaining steps you need to create the image.

Which image type is better? That depends on your situation. An RIPrep image lets you install applications with the OS, and the process is faster, but the reference and target machines must use the same Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL). CD-ROM-based images are easier to customize, and you don’t have to worry about HAL restrictions.

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