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Setting Up A PXE Install Server On Ubuntu 9.10

This tutorial shows how to set up a PXE (short for preboot execution environment) install server with Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala). A PXE install server allows your client computers to boot and install a Linux distribution over the network, without the need of burning Linux iso images onto a CD/DVD, boot floppy images, etc. This is handy if your client computers don’t have CD or floppy drives, or if you want to set up multiple computers at the same time (e.g. in a large enterprise), or simply because you want to save the money for the CDs/DVDs.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!
1. Preliminary Note

It is important that you have a decent internet connection because your client computers will fetch all needed packages from the repositories in the Internet.

And the most important thing is that your client computers support booting over the network. You should check each computer’s BIOS for this option.

I am going to be using a computer with two network connections, I will have two networks as well one for the internet and one for the client computers.

My server name will be pxe-server my user will be pxe and all passwords will be vadmin.

Most tasks in this guide will be carried out in terminal to access this follow:

Applications –> Accessories –> Terminal
2. Installing Ubuntu 9.10

First thing we are going to need is a Ubuntu 9.10 CD/DVD. This can be obtained though many different distributors or downloaded from

Insert your Ubuntu install CD into your system and boot from it. Select Install to the hard disk:


The installation starts, and first you have to choose your language:


Then select your location and time zone:


Then select your keyboard layout:


Next partitionor will start, and you will need to partiton the hard drive, I have selected the whole disc for ubuntu:


Now enter your user details, my password is vadmin:


Next you will be asked to confirm options and install:


Ubuntu will now install onto your system.

Now reboot.


3. Inital Server Configuation Setup

After the computer restarts, log in with the user (pxe) you created during installation.


We now need to set the password for the root account, open up terminal and type:

sudo passwd

and give root a password. (vadmin)

Now check you have the best update repository setup.

System –> Administration –> Software Sources

Use the drop down list and select Other.


Then click Select Best Server.


It will then test which server is best for you to use.



Let update manager install updates or run in terminal:

sudo apt-get update


Restart your system:

sudo reboot

If you have more than one ethernet port you will need to edit /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules to ensure our network interfaces match the labels on the system

First check if your network connections are as you expected:


If they are not as expected then:

sudo gedit /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules


Switch NAME=”eth1″ to eth0 and vise versa.

Restart your system:

sudo reboot


4. Setting Up A Static IP Address

Newer versions of Ubuntu use an application called network-manager to manage network connections, which works great with desktops and laptops, but not so well for servers, so we are going to remove network-manager.

sudo apt-get remove network-manager

Now let’s set up the static IP addresses:

sudo gedit /etc/network/interfaces

Enter the following information in the text file, eth0 will be our Internet connection and eth1 will be our client connection:

   auto lo
   iface lo inet loopback
   auto eth0
   iface eth0 inet static
              address           [your.static.ip]
              netmask           []
              network           []
              broadcast         [your.broadcast.addy]
              gateway           [your.gateway]
 auto eth1
 iface eth1 inet static
              address           [your.static.ip]
              netmask           []
              network           []
              broadcast         [your.broadcast.addy]

Here is a example:

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static
auto eth1
iface eth1 inet static
 #             gateway   leave out otherwise your internet  connection wont work

Then save this file and restart your networking settings.

sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

You can confirm your ip address is set by typing the following after your networking has restarted.


5. Installing Necessary Packages

We are going to install the packages required for the PXE server:

  • tftpd-hpa – this is the file transfer server
  • dhcp3-server – linux dhcp server, not needed if you allready have a dhcp server
  • openbsd-inetd – new inetd server

sudo apt-get install tftpd-hpa dhcp3-server openbsd-inetd


6. Setting Up Tftp Server

Edit /etc/inet.conf to and ensure the line is correct, last part is important:

sudo gedit /etc/inetd.conf

tftp           dgram   udp     wait    root  /usr/sbin/in.tftpd /usr/sbin/in.tftpd -s /tftpboot

Ensure that it reads /tftpboot rather than /var/lib/tftpboot.

We need to check that the tftpd server is running.

netstat -lu

Check for this line:

Active Internet connections (only servers)
Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address           Foreign Address         State
udp        0          0             *:tftp                                *:*    

If you don’t see the tftp line, then go back and edit /etc/inet.conf again.

Then enable inetd at boot:

sudo update-inetd –enable BOOT

Now restart your inetd server:

sudo /etc/init.d/openbsd-inetd restart

Next we need to edit the /etc/default/tftpd-hpa file to change the boot directory:

sudo gedit /etc/default/tftpd-hpa

Change the file to look like this:

OPTIONS="-l -s /tftpboot"

Restart tftpd server:

sudo /etc/init.d/tftpd-hpa restart

We now need to create a folder to store our boot stuff in.

sudo mkdir /tftpboot

Now we need to change the user to nobody:

sudo chown nobody /tftpboot

Then we need to let everyone read and write to /tftpboot:

sudo chmod 777 /tftpboot

Now check if that worked:

ls -ld /tftpboot

You should see a line similar to this:

drwxrwxrwx 2 nobody root 4096 2010-01-28 15:04 /tftpboot


7. Setting Up DHCP Server

On what network interfaces should the DHCP server (dhcpd) serve DHCP requests? Answer this question by editing the line in /etc/default/dhcp3-server file. Separate multiple interfaces with spaces, e.g. “eth0 eth1”. As I only want the DHCP server running on eth1, I need to change this line.

sudo gedit /etc/default/dhcp3-server

Change the INTERFACES line to:


Now we need to back up the configuration files for dhcpd server:

sudo cp /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf_orig

Now we can configure dhcpd:

sudo gedit /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf

Here is my file, you will need to change the values to suit.

default-lease-time 86400;
max-lease-time 604800;

subnet netmask {
        filename "pxelinux.0";
        option subnet-mask;
        option broadcast-address;
        option routers;

This will dynamically assign IP addresses from the range to to your client computers. The gateway is

It is important that you have the line filename “pxelinux.0”; in your configuration!

Then restart your DHCP server:

sudo /etc/init.d/dhcp3-server restart

If you already have a DHCP server in your network, you must modify its configuration. Let’s assume you have something like

subnet netmask {
        option subnet-mask;
        option broadcast-address;
        option routers;

in the configuration. You must add

filename “pxelinux.0”;

to it (where is the IP address of our Ubuntu PXE server) so that it looks like this:

subnet netmask {
        option subnet-mask;
        option broadcast-address;
        option routers;
        filename "pxelinux.0";

Now verify that it DHCP is running (if not, you may have a problem with you dhcp config file).

ps ax | grep dhcpd


8. Setting Up Boot Files

We now need to get the netboot files.

cd /tftpboot

Download files with lftp:

lftp -c “open; mirror”

Instead, if Ubuntu is in your cdrom drive:

mount /media/cdrom
cp -a /media/cdrom/install/netboot/* /tftpboot/

Now we can add a splash screen to our configuration, first we need the versamenu.c32 file.

cp /tftpboot/ubuntu-installer/i386/boot-screens/vesamenu.c32 /tftpboot

Second we need a splash image;

Here is one I created for Kreationnext, download.

lftp -c “get;”


We then need to edit /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default to include our boot options and splash screen, the file is pretty self-explanatory.

sudo gedit /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default

default vesamenu.c32
Menu Background Kreationnext_pxe.png
Menu Title Boot Menu

label install
   menu label ^Install
   menu default
   kernel ubuntu-installer/i386/linux
   append vga=normal initrd=ubuntu-installer/i386/initrd.gz -- quiet

label expert
   menu label ^Expert install
   kernel ubuntu-installer/i386/linux
   append priority=low vga=normal initrd=ubuntu-installer/i386/initrd.gz --

label cli-expert
   menu label Command-^line expert install
   kernel ubuntu-installer/i386/linux
   append tasks=standard pkgsel/language-pack-patterns= pkgsel/install-language-support=false priority=low vga=normal initrd=ubuntu-installer/i386/initrd.gz --

label rescue
   menu label ^Rescue mode
   kernel ubuntu-installer/i386/linux
   append vga=normal initrd=ubuntu-installer/i386/initrd.gz rescue/enable=true -- quiet

label Local_drive
   localboot 0
   menu label ^Local Drive

prompt 0
timeout 0

Your /tftpboot directory should look like this:



9. Booting The Client

(Please make sure that the computers that you don’t want to reinstall have the network boot option disabled in their BIOS settings because otherwise it is possible that you or someone else accidentally installs Ubuntu over the existing operating system!)

Now you can boot up your first client computer. Make sure you specified in its BIOS settings that it should use the network as its first boot device. If everything goes well, you should see the splash screen, and you can choose from one of the installation options from the /tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default file.

Don’t forget to change the order of the boot devices after the successful installation (e.g. disable booting over the network and make the HDD the first boot device) because otherwise you will start another installation!