Configuration Manager 2012: PXE Setup and Boot Image Management

In a previous post, I talked a little about the changes to the distribution point and integration of PXE services. In this post I want to go into some more details and the setup and management of PXE service starting in Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2. 

Initial Setup of PXE services: As I mentioned in my last post, PXE is no longer a site role. So enabling PXE is no longer completed through the Create Roles wizard and selecting PXE Service Point. The setup of the PXE service point can be done in two ways. First way is during the setup of a distribution point, the option to setup PXE is now present. The setup has the same options as Configuration Manager 2007 and is still requires Windows Deployment Services (WDS) to be installed. The second is from the properties page of the distribution point. Once a distribution Point is setup, you will see a PXE tab and can enable it at anytime. (Note: Unlike IIS, we currently do not automatically install WDS. You will need to install that manually).

In Configuration Manager 2007, a boot image had to be distributed to a PXE Distribution Point share for clients to download the boot image. This created a lot of confusion and increased administrative overhead. Let’s cover some changes in this area.

Note: You will still need to have both an x86 and an x64 PXE enabled boot image distributed to your distribution point for PXE to be successful. 

Distributing and Updating Boot Images: Starting with Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2 there is no longer a PXE distribution share. This now means there is no separate distribution action to enable a boot image on a PXE server. Instead there is a setting on the boot image Data Source tab which reads Deploy this boot image from the PXE service point . When this is setting is enabled, Configuration Manager will distribute the boot image to the RemoteInstall folder on any distribution point that has PXE services enabled and has the boot image distributed to it. Additionally, when the option is enabled or disabled, distribution manager will notify the Distribution Point provider (more on this component in another blog post) to add or remove the image for the RemoteInstall folder on Distribution points that already have the boot image distributed. (Note: the boot image will not recopy over the network for this action. It will be copied or removed locally by the distribution point provider.)

Customizing Boot Images: In Configuration Manager 2007 there was an option to set a pre-execution hook (we will reference this as a prestart command starting with Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2) to enable a command to run prior to a task sequence running. This is a common way to increase flexibility of scripting and automation scenarios. While the use of the prestart command is flexible, the its configuration created some additional overhead. Starting with Beta 2, there are some changes to the boot image property sheets. The Windows PE tab is no longer present and the settings on the tab have been moved. We have added two new tabs to address custom configuration needs. There is a tab labeled Drivers that is where the administration of drivers will occur. This still works the same as it did in Configuration Manager 2007. There is another tab called Customization, this iswhere you can set the WinPE background or enable command prompt support. Also, we have no added support to configure the prestart command from the Customization tab. To enable the prestart command for a specific boot image, from the property pages perform the following steps:

  1. Select the Customization tab
  2. Select the Enable prestart command checkbox
  3. Enter the custom command line you would like to run.
  4. If you need to include some custom files, select the Include files for the prestart command checkbox.
  5. Specify the UNC path for the files that you would like to add to the boot image.
  6. When you are complete, click OK.
  7. You will be prompted with Distribution Point Update Required, select Yes and complete the Manage Distribution Points Wizard.

Just like that the prestart command is part of the boot image.

I will continue to discuss more features and functionality over the next days to weeks. Feel free to comment if you have a specific ask for more information on portions of this overview.

Additional Configuration Manager 2012 Information:

  • Introduction to Configuration Manager 2012 - link
  • What’s New in Configuration Manager 2012 - link
  • Fundamentals of Configuration Manager 2012 - link

John Vintzel
Microsoft Corporation | Sr. Program Manager | System Center Configuration Manager
| twitter: jvintzel

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EDIT: Updated old references