Setting up Ubuntu PXE booting

I’ve recently had to set up a new machine, but didn’t have an install
cdrom available, so I decided to use the easiest method for installing
Ubuntu; PXE booting. Here’s how I did it. PXE involves setting up two
simple technologies, DHCP and TFTP. We start by setting up TFTP.

TFTP is Trivial
File Transfer Protocol
, a cut down version of FTP. There are a
number of TFTP servers in Debian and Ubuntu, but not all of them support
the extensions that the pxelinux bootloader used by debian-installer
need. Experience has shown that tftpd-hpa works correctly, so we’ll want
to install that.

ace root% apt-get install tftpd-hpa

Note: If this installs an inetd at the same time, you may need to
restart the inetd so it enables the tftpd service.

The tftpd will serve files out of /var/lib/tftpboot, so we
need to add some files for it to serve. You can use this script to fetch
various netboot installers from Ubuntu’s servers.


set -u
set -e

cd /var/lib/tftpboot

for dist in dapper feisty gutsy hardy intrepid; do
    mkdir -p $dist
    for arch in amd64 i386; do
        mkdir -p $dist/$arch/
        (cd $dist/$arch/ && ncftpget -RT 


Now we need to alter our dhcpd configuration. (You are using DHCP
aren’t you?) All we need to add is a group declaration to your subnet
declaration, adding a next-server and a filename
parameter. You can then add a host declaration for any machine you want
to netboot into the installer.

group { # intrepid amd64
     filename "intrepid/amd64/pxelinux.0";
     host foobar { hardware ethernet 00:22:15:45:cc:fa; fixed-address; }

You’ll need to restart the dhcp server so it picks up the new
setting. The next-server parameter is the name or IP address of your
tftp server. filename is the path to the bootloader. Obviously,
you can use this to pick which version of the installer you want to
run. If you do a lot of installations, it might be worth configuring
every installer you’re likely to use and then move hosts in and out of
the suitable group as and when you need to install them.

All that’s left to do now is to boot the computer and set it to boot
from the network and enjoy medialess installation.

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