Windows 7 Netboot/Netinstall notes

I recently went through the trouble to get one of my machines without a hard drive to boot the Windows 7 install over the network, install to a network based ISCSI drive, and then boot over the network off that drive. Here’s my notes on what I did. A full post may follow later. The whole procedure is documented in many other places so you won’t find that here.

Initial setup

I used dnsmasq, samba, and iPXE on the server side. The server was running Arch Linux with a 3.6 kernel, so it had all the iSCSI stuff built in already. There’s instructions on the Arch wiki on how to set up an iSCSI target.

I used the Windows AIK on a 64 bit virtual machine in order to prep the install image.

Don’t chainload iPXE

I could not for the life of me get the Windows 7 Install program to use my iSCSI drive. If I tried to set up iSCSI manually, it would see the drive, but not install to it. If I tried to use iPXE to sanboot from the drive, then the install would hang.

This all came down to the fact that I was chainloading iPXE from the NIC’s original firmware. I fixed the issue by using an iPXE kernel image instead.

Use Gregory Strike’s instructions for modifying the WinPE image

Gregory Strike’s iSCSI WinPE customizations are great for getting iSCSI going in the WinPE image you boot to get your Windows 7 install running.

However, using his registry hacks verbatim made it so that the network didn’t work out of the box. I took out the following section of his registry hack and had no problems.