Ramblings From The Litter Tray of Life

How To Build A Network Boot Disc

Posted by graycat on 16 May 2009

If you’re using a network based system for deploying your corporate images such as Symantec’s Ghost Solution or Suite then you will no doubt be familiar with network boot discs. As a concept they simply load a small operating system into RAM from CD or floppy disc during boot with the sole aim of getting the machine on the network. Usually once they’re actually chatting away on the network happily you then map a drive and run an executable like ghost.exe and have fun from there.
Unfortunately there are limitations with the ones built with ghost etc so here’s my guide on making a super-duper all singing and dancing one. Hopefully this will work with all the network cards on your network but every now and then you run into an awkward one. As a fail safe, I thoroughly recommend you have an Intel Pro network card spare and to hand and use that in a pinch.

Software needed:
1. The bootdisk – http://netbootdisk.com/index.htm
2. Menu editor – http://netbootdisk.com/menuedit.htm
3. Floppy disk to image – http://www.winimage.com/download.htm
4. CD Burner – Nero works but I prefer “CD Burner XP Pro v3” as it’s freeware. I recently tried the latest version and struggle. When I’ve worked it out, I’ll repost.  

Overview
1. Make the floppy.
2. Edit the setup to suit.
3. Create bootable CD from that.

Method
1. Making the Floppy
– download the latest version from netbootdisk.com and unzip to somewhere on your machine
– format a floppy disc – make the floppy an XP bootable disk (an option on the format menu)
– run the batch file in the unzipped folder
– check it works by test booting a machine with it
2. Edit the default settings to suit
– download the Menu Editor GUI from netbootdisk.com
– launch the executable and make and changes you wish, ie: default username, password, domain etc
– enabling the CD drive at this point is very useful
– save file over existing to update disk
3. Create CD
– create image of floppy disk using WinImage
– insert floppy disk and run WinImage
– select Disc -> Read Disk (make sure a:\ drive is selected first)
– once read has been done, click save and save as a *.ima file.
– run CD Burner XP Pro v3 and select data disk (top option)
– select Disc -> Boot Options
– tick “Make Disc Bootable”
– select the floppy image you’ve just made and hit ok. It might query you to the file type but just ignore it and leave it alone
– hit “burn disc” and burn the CD
– test the CD in a machine and see what it does.

Optional extras– you can copy extra files of applications to the root of the CD before burning. As long as you enable CD in the original menu edit, you’ll be able to access the CD drive as R:\. If you do, you can add such things as ghost.exe or even a whole image to the CD and run the entire imaging session from there.

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