How To Easily Setup a Windows-based PXE Server (Serva)

>>This tutorial is available as a video as well! Click here!<<

The golden age of mediums like CD and DVD for installation purposes is long gone. USB, with the added benefits of being faster, more environment friendly and being reusable has taken over the operating system installation game. I only have one problem with it: USB is for casuals.

What isn’t for casuals? PXE!!!

PXE is a technology that allows computers to boot and install operating systems from over the network. Cool, isn’t it? So, in this video I will tell you how to easily setup a windows-based PXE server.

Step 1

Grab yourself a copy of Serva from here and extract it to wherever you like. The non-supporter version is free, but has some limitations. It only allows for a limited amount of clients per session, and each session is limited to 50 minutes, before you need to restart the program. If you like Serva, make sure to support the developers by buying the full version, allowing them to keep the project alive.

Step 2

Create a new folder named “SERVA_ROOT” in a place with enough space, because eventually, we will be placing the contents of your Windows installation images there.

Step 3

Run Serva.exe and allow the program access through the firewall if you get a warning.

Step 4

Click on the TFTP tab and set the Root directory to your “SERVA_ROOT” folder and tick the TFTP Server box. Next click on the DHCP tab, and assuming you have already got a DHCP server handing out IP addresses on your network, tick the proxyDHCP box, and the BINL box. Click OK and restart the program.

Step 5

When Serva loads up again, it’ll have created the necessary folders and files in order for the computers on the network to boot from the new PXE server. Navigate to SERVA_ROOT, and share the WIA_WDS folder to the network, and set access for everyone under the name WIA_WDS_SHARE.

Step 6

Grab yourself an image of your favorite Windows version, mount it and copy its contents to a new folder inside WIA_WDS, named appropriately to the version of Windows you chose. Restart Serva once you are done.

If everything went well, and you followed these steps, you should be able to boot a computer on the network from the PXE server you just created. Keep in mind that you are only able to boot from the network if the computer in question is connected with an Ethernet cable. This won’t work over WiFi.

Also, if your network is like mine, and you kept getting a random MAC address making requests to Serva, filling up the limit of clients connected and making it impossible for you to boot from it because of the non-supporter version, just add the MAC address in question to the list of blocked addresses.

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