installing windows 7 over the network: a battle against TFTP and LAN settings

Hi all, this is my first true post and (hopefully) a helpful one

I happen to have an old DELL desktop PC which i occasionally use for rescuing data from faulty drives and stuff like that. Problem was: it had its original windows xp installation, and was beginning to act strangely but most of all, very slowly

So i decided to freshly install windows 7 on it, but the damn thing just WON’T boot from a CD: no matter what i did, it kept saying “boot device not ready, press F1 to retry”… great!

Next option was installing via USB, but i don’t have an USB drive with enough capacity to fit the win 7 installation files

So my only choice was a network installation… i had only done it once, about a year ago, so i wasn’t entirely new to the subject

Using the files i downloaded that time, and these wonderfully written guides:

I began my quest for a fresh installation, everything looked so easy!

First thing i noticed was that the DELL’s boot menu had no “network boot” option, so i had to go into the BIOS settings and enable it (remember, it’s PXE boot, because there was some other weird option)

Next, since TFTP needs to host a DHCP server to execute the network boot successfully, I had to disable my DSL router’s integrated DHCP server. That was easy, just had to access its web administration console and, under local network configuration, chose “manual configuration”, typed the same address and subnet mask that my network has always had and unchecked the “DHCP server” checkbox.

Then i configured TFTP according to the guides i mentioned earlier (except for some minor details, i’ll post all the technical details by the end of this post), also i ran it in administrator mode and disabled windows’s firewall.

Everything was done just as the guides said, but when i booted the DELL via network it failed with either “No DHCP or proxyDHCP offers were received” or “No boot filename received”, then exited and prompted if i wanted to retry

On the server computer, the TFTP log viewer always outputted:

Rcvd DHCP Discover Msg for IP 0.0.0.0, ...
Client requested address 0.0.0.108 ...
DHCP: proposed address 192.168.1.23 ...
<apparently random number> Request 2 not processed ...

The same thing about 6 times and then stopped (that is, when the DELL displayed the error message and stopped trying)

I played around with TFTP’s options according to some posts i found by googling that dreaded “Request 2 not processed” error message, but nothing worked

Then I finally came across this post: http://wittus.blogspot.mx/2009/11/pxe-odyssey.html which gave me the clue (but not the exact solution) to the problem

The post indicates that you must connect the client and server computers to a plain network switch, because the DSL router interferes with the communication.

Problem is, i don’t have a network switch lying around the house, and it’s practically impossible to get one at 2:00 am

However, that same post instructs you to set the “default router” to the address of the computer running TFTP, but it’s not clear where, so i set it both in the windows’s network adapter settings and TFTP’s DHCP settings tab

I was reading other solutions, so I also set (at about the same time) TFTP’s security to “None” and checked both of its “Bind <thing> to this address: ” checkboxes

Magic. It worked. The DELL successfully booted over the network.

Then i just followed the rest of the original guides’s steps, namely mounting the network drive and starting setup.exe

The installation was surprisingly fast. All that remains is driver hunting and basic software setup, which i’ve done so many times that i now find it quite boring, but whatever

So here’s the final working configuration:

DSL router:

  • 2wire model: dunno, but it’s quite old (at least 5 years)
  • ip address: 192.168.1.254 (the same that it has always had)
  • DHCP turned off
  • Only the two machines involved in the installation were turned on and connected to the network. Everything else was off and disconnected

Server machine:

  • acer laptop already running win 7
  • tftpd32 version 4
  • that boot\pxeboot.com thingy
  • ip address: 192.168.1.64 (the same that it has always had)
  • windows firewall off
  • shared folder with the contents of a win 7 install dvd
  • super extremely important!settings under Network and Sharing Center -> Change Adapter Settings -> Local Area Connection -> Properties -> Internet Protocol Version 4 Properties
    • Use the following IP address:
      • IP address: 192.168.1.64
      • Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0
      • Default gateway: 192.168.1.64
    • Use the following DNS server addresses:
      • Preferred DNS server: 192.168.1.254

Client machine:

  • DELL dimension 8400
  • PXE network boot enabled in BIOS
  • crappy keyboard

TFTPD32′s settings:

  • The defaults. I only list the settings that i changed here
  • TFTP tab:
    • TFTP Security: None
    • Timeout: 10
    • Option negotiation: unchecked
    • PXE compatibility: checked
    • Bind TFTP to this address 192.168.1.64: checked
  • DHCP tab:
    • IP pool starting address: 192.168.1.23 (i just happen to like number 23)
    • Size of pool: 5 (five is cool too)
    • Boot file: boot\pxeboot.exe
    • Default router: 192.168.1.64
    • Mask: 255.255.255.0
    • Ping address before assignation: unchecked
    • Bind DHCP to this address 192.168.1.64: checked
    • Persistant leases: checked
  • Remember: i ran tftp as an administrator

And that’s it. Please remember that you must adapt all this to your network and machines particular settings.

If you’re not familiar with the terms used in this guide, or if everything sounds strange and difficult, please save your time and refrain from attempting it. Stick to a USB installation, which is far easier.

Categories: battles, maintenance, windows | Leave a comment

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