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Ever installed an OS? I'm sure the readers of my blog have before... if not, then high mom, dad and Meredith (my wife). :)

It's a joy right? What about those of us that install OS's more frequently than others for instance like creating new virtual machines? Always fun getting the install media or mounting ISO's right? If you're running Windows 2008 in your network, then you have a very slick zero-cost option available to you: Windows Deployment Services (WDS).

WDS basically provides this: you boot a machine (physical or virtual) from the network. It finds your WDS server and boots from a boot image over the network. You then pick one of the available OS' and poof, the install kicks off.

Let me step back a bit to explain how this gets set up and works...

Basically what you do is install this capability in your Windows 2008 Server (it's a Role you enable). You then take the installation media of an OS and find the *.WIM file. This is the Windows image file that contains all the binaries of the OS. Go into the WDS console and import the OS options. You also need to import a boot.wim file (also on the install media) to have something to boot from. At this point, WDS is setup and has boot images as well as install images. Here's what mine looks like:

aWDS console with added OS'(click image to see enlarged versions)

With that done, you then boot your machine (again, physical or virtual). When given the option, you pick a network boot. The boot process then searches an available boot image and prompts you to press [F12] to do a network services boot.

1 2Network boot searching for WDS, then prompting to proceed using the found PXE (network) boot image(click images to see enlarged versions)

Next, it contacts WDS to see what boot options are available. I really only needed one or two so don't ask why I have three :)

3 4Window Boot Manager boot options and boot process(click image to see enlarged version)

Now the install kicks off like what you've seen time and time over! But you will see that when prompted pick an OS (like those of us who get media off MSDN for development purposes), except this shows you all the OS's you've added to your WDS console!

From there, the install is like what you've always seen.

5 8More gratuitous screenshots :)(click images to see enlarged versions)

What's so nice about this is that you don't have to worry about finding installation media when installing a new OS or, in a virtual environment, keeping a bunch of ISOs around of DVDs and mounting them to the VM to install the media). Has made installing a new OS much faster for me over the last few months!

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