What Is Network Booting (PXE) and How Can You Use It?
Network booting, also known as PXE booting, is a process that enables a computer to boot over the network rather than through its local hard drive. The acronym PXE stands for Preboot eXecution Environment, a standard created and promoted by Intel that facilitates operating system installation and remote booting in a network environment.
In traditional booting, the computer BIOS searches for bootable media such as a hard drive or USB drive. With network booting, the system instead checks the network card for bootable images sent by a server on the same network. The server stores and delivers a boot image which can contain an operating system install or a small operating system capable of running basic network-connected applications.
To use network booting, there are a few requirements. First, the system must have a network card that supports PXE. Second, the server must support PXE booting and have a DHCP server running to assign IP addresses. Finally, the network card’s boot order must be set to boot from the network first.
There are many potential use cases for network booting. It’s commonly used in enterprise environments to deploy operating systems such as Windows or Linux to multiple machines simultaneously. This eliminates the need to manually install operating systems on each device, greatly reducing the time and effort involved. In addition, network booting allows for remote management of systems, which can be especially useful for IT professionals who need to troubleshoot issues or perform maintenance tasks without physical access to the device.
Network booting can also be used for thin client computing, where workstations essentially function as terminals that connect to resources hosted on a server. This reduces the complexity and costs associated with maintaining individual workstations, as all data and applications can be hosted on a central server.
In general, network booting offers several benefits, such as easy and quick deployment of operating systems, remote management, and centralized computing. However, it does require some specialized knowledge and infrastructure to set up and maintain, which may not be practical for all users. Nevertheless, for those who need it, network booting can provide a powerful tool to simplify and streamline their computing environment.