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Knowledge Base > Products > Image for Linux > FAQ > How to network boot the IFL Boot Disk using the PXELINUX boot loader

How to network boot the IFL Boot Disk using the PXELINUX boot loader

This is a summary of how to set up a network boot using the pxelinux network boot loader, which is a derivative of syslinux. When booted in this manner, the IFL boot disk will work exactly the same as when booted from other boot media, such as an optical disc or USB flash drive. Additional information on pxelinux can be found at the syslinux web site here:

Booting IFL over the network will require the following:
1. A system BIOS and network adapter that support network booting.
2. A DHCP server on your network configured to point to a TFTP server.
3. A TFTP server on your network to serve the IFL files to the client.

The DHCP and TFTP servers can reside on the same physical machine, although
that is not a requirement. In order to work with pxelinux, the TFTP server
is currently required to support the "tsize" option, which not all TFTP servers
do. One TFTP server available for Linux that supports this option is atpftd
(advanced tftp daemon), and it is packaged for Debian and its derivatives, as
well as for other Linux distributions.

A brief summary of the steps required are listed below, followed by a more
detailed description of each step:
1. Run makePXE script to create PXE files (from Linux distro or from boot disk)
2. Set up the TFTP server and copy the required files to it
3. Set up the DHCP server (or modify an existing setup)

1. Run the makePXE to create IFL PXE files in pxe directory:
   ./makePXE      -> create PXE files based on the default configuration
   ./makePXE /c   -> create custom version (required to include scripts)
   When the /c option is used, makePXE will also present the IFL Boot Media
   Settings menu from which several options (keyboard, video, etc.) are
   available to customize the IFL disk, as well as the restore discs it
   creates. In addition, the options for requiring a console login and changing
   the defaut password are presented. All options can be left at their defaults
   by just pressing <Enter>. At its completion, the pxe directory will be
   created (if it doesn't already exist from a previous run), and all files
   required for PXE boot will be in that directory.

   Those files are as follows:
   pxelinux.cfg    (directory)

   These files will need to be copied to the TFTP server once that is set up.
2. Set up the TFTP server and copy the required files to it

   This step will depend on which TFTP server you use, but in general it will
   consist of installing the server and then populating its working directory
   with the files needed to launch pxelinux and boot IFL. As already mentioned
   the TFTP server needs to support the "tsize" option, or it will not work
   with pxelinux. One TFTP server available for Linux that supports this
   option is atpftd (advanced tftp daemon). The atftpd server is packaged for
   Debian and its derivatives, as well as for other Linux distributions.

   The minimum set of files that the TFTP server requires are listed in step
   1 above. These files need to be in the TFTP server's working directory,
   which often is at /tftpboot, although it can be at another location
   depending on the server and its configuration.
   To summarize, if your TFTP working directory is at /tftpboot, here is an
   example of what that directory is required to look like for the most basic
   setup possible:

   -r--r--r--  1 root root      256 Feb 16 14:40 azerty.ktl
   -r--r--r--  1 root root      256 Feb 16 14:40 dvorak.ktl
   -r--r--r--  1 root root      256 Feb 16 14:40 fgGIod.ktl
   -r--r--r--  1 root root 14479378 May  9 13:59 initrmfs.gz
   -r--r--r--  1 root root      218 Mar  5 09:55 menu.txt
   -rw-r--r--  1 root root    13324 Sep 28  2006 pxelinux.0
   drwxr-xr-x  2 root root     4096 Jul 31  2006 pxelinux.cfg
   -r--r--r--  1 root root      256 Feb 20 12:40 qwerty.ktl
   -r--r--r--  1 root root      256 Feb 20 12:40 qwertz.ktl
   -r--r--r--  1 root root  1542640 May  7 10:31 vmlinuz

   -r--r--r--  1 root root 297 May  9 13:59 default
   The above only describes the most basic set up possible. For example,
   when the pxelinux.cfg directory contains only the 'default' config file,
   the IFL boot disk will boot from ANY network-boot-capable machine on your
   network. Since this may not be desirable, please refer to the pxelinux
   documentation, as well as their web site, for information on more advanced

3. Set up the DHCP server. In order for the TFTP server to serve the IFL files
   over to the client machine, a DHCP server must be configured to:

   a. assign an initial IP address to the client on boot

   b. tell the client where the TFTP server is located (its IP address)

   c. tell the client the path/filename for the pxelinux boot loader on the
      TFTP server.

   These items are typically specified in the configuration file for the DHCP
   server. The details will, of course, vary depending on which DHCP server is
   used. The example below shows a minimal config file (dhcpd.conf) for dhcpd,
   which is a DHCP server commonly used on Linux systems.

   subnet netmask {
     default-lease-time 86400;
     max-lease-time 86400;
     option routers;
     option ip-forwarding off;
     option broadcast-address;
     option subnet-mask;
     option domain-name-servers,,;
     filename "/tftpboot/pxelinux.0";

   Without the last 2 lines (next-server and filename), this would just be a
   standard DHCP server config that would assign a dynamic IP address in the
   range of 150 to 199 to DHCP clients on the subnet. It also will
   supply the clients with the default route and dns server IP addresses.

   It will still do all of the above for DHCP clients, but the addition of the
   "next-server" and "filename" lines will cause it to supply network boot
   clients with the IP address of the TFTP server (next-server), and the
   path/filename of the pxelinux boot loader on the TFTP server (filename).
   The network boot client will use the "next-server" IP address to connect
   with the TFTP server. Note that the TFTP server and DHCP server can reside
   on the same machine, and therefore have the same IP address. However, the
   TFTP server IP address must still always be specified.

   The entire sequence of events for the network boot (as configured above)
   can be summarized as follows:
   1. Client is booted with network boot option selected
   2. Client contacts the DHCP server and requests an initial IP address
   3. DHCP server supplies the client with:
      - the intitial IP address for the client
      - the TFTP server IP address (next-server)
      - the path/filename for the boot loader on the TFTP server (filename)
   4. Client contacts TFTP server and requests boot loader file (pxelinux.0)
   5. Client receives and executes pxelinux.0
   6. Pxelinux requests its config file (pxelinux.cfg/default in this case)
   7. Based on config file, pxelinux requests menu.txt and displays boot menu
   8. When boot delay times out (or user presses Enter), pxelinux requests
      Linux kernel (vmlinuz), and then the compressed rootfs (initrmfs.gz).
   9. Pxelinux boots the kernel, and the boot proceeds normally from there.

Additional information:
For the sake of clarity, the above information describes the requirements in
probably the most basic way that it could be implemented. The setup can be fine
tuned, for example, to boot a different configuration of the IFL boot disk
depending on which machine (based on MAC address) it is booted from. Or it
could be configured to prevent booting IFL from certain machines etc.

The following is a list of information sources that you can refer to in
order to modify or improve on the very basic configuration described above:

  a. The syslinux/pxelinux web site:
     This web page contains several links to additional information, as well
     as explanations and examples of how to use pxelinux.

  b. The pxelinux.doc and syslinux.doc files are in the help directory. This is
     the documentation for pxelinux and syslinux. There will also be a man page
     for syslinux (but not for pxelinux) on any Linux distro where the syslinux
     package has been installed.

     This is an old article, but gives a good, basic explanation of network

  d. is another article related
     to network booting


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