Testing Required PXE Booting without the OS Deployment

Network-Windows-Client-icon

If you have ever had the need to test the PXE booting capabilities using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager using a Required Deployment, but did not want the OS Deployment part, then this blog is for you.  With Available Deployments, the user has to press an additional key to get the system to PXE boot.  Once the system boots into WinPE, the wizard is displayed with the list of available Task Sequences.  This makes it nice and easy to test PXE booting functionality and network connectivity of your boot image without starting an actual Task Sequence.  However, with a Required Deployment, no additional key press is required and when you are in WinPE, it is off to the races.  Not a big deal if you are testing on virtual machines, but what if you want to test on a new physical device that you need to roll out and you do not want to go through the whole OSD process?

You could simply put a pause in the beginning of a full Task Sequence, but why bother since there is likely more policies that need to be download.  Also, why take the risk?  Here is a simple three step Task Sequence that you can use to do all of the Required (and Available) PXE boot testing without the OS Deployment.

Start by creating a new custom task sequence and add the boot image you want to test with under the Advanced tab of the Task Sequence Properties:

01 Required PXE

Next, edit the Task Sequence and add a Apply Operating System Image step, selecting an existing image package.  This step is required to make CM think that it is an OSD Task Sequence.

02 Required PXE

Click on the Options tab in order to create a condition so that the step will always evaluate to false.  This can be done by testing for a Task Sequence variable name NEVERTRUE equals TRUE (or if you want to mess with your coworker you can use their NAME equals AWESOME – but just in case they really are awesome you might not want to do this Smile):

03 Required PXE

Create a second step using the Run Command Line step so the TS will pause.  Having this pause is useful when multi-tasking and you look away and miss it.  It also gives you the option to do other cool stuff like dump the Task Sequence variables.  Enter the following for the command line: cmd.exe /c “start /wait cmd.exe”
(Be careful of “smart” quotes if copy and pasting.)

04 Required PXE

Set continue on error on the Options tab.

05 Required PXE

Create a third step using the Run Command Line step so the TS will reboot WinPE.  Enter the following for the command line: wpeutil reboot
Set continue on error on the Options tab on this step as well.

06 Required PXE

Save your changes and then then test it by creating a Required Deployment to a test collection to enjoy non destructive Required PXE Booting!

Originally posted on https://miketerrill.net/

WIM Sizes

Windows_logoWindows Image sizes continue to get bigger and bigger.  I recently recreated my WIMs that I use for testing and applied all important updates through March of 2015 before taking the capture (using MDT of course).  For Windows 7 (both 32-bit and 64-bit), I started with the latest available Windows 7 Enterprise with SP1 ISOs.  For Windows 8 (both 32-bit and 64-bit), I started with the latest available Windows 8.1 Enterprise with Update (released in December 2014).

Prior to the capture, I ran the Disk Cleanup utility to remove any unnecessary files and reduce the size of the final captures.  Below is the end result with a comparison of the original ISO sizes.

OS WIM Size ISO Size
Windows 7 ENT SP1 x86 3.29 GB 2.26 GB
Windows 7 ENT SP1 x64 4.93 GB 2.96 GB
Windows 8.1 ENT with Update x86 2.93 GB 2.84 GB
Windows 8.1 ENT with Update x64 3.86 GB 3.85 GB