Introduction to Remote Installation Services

Using Remote Installation Services,  Windows Operating Systems can be remotely installed over a network.

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RIS has the following advantages over standard installations: No need of pre-formatting,  RIS automatically partitions and formats the drive.Ideal for computers without CD-ROMs or floppy drives, but which have a compatible network card. Working with answer files, RIS can enable unattended installations of many machines. RIS can also automatically join clients to a domain.

Used in conjunction with Application Publication and Assignment, computers can be very easily configured and setup with RIS. RIS also allows you to image a machine (using RIPREP) and copy it to other machines on the network. This means essential applications as well as the operating System can be installed. This differs from SYSPREP, because SYSPREP requires a third-party disk imaging program, whilst RIPREP uses RIS to copy the image.  Once the RIS server has been set up and configured, and all the correct services are available on the network, the RIS server will listen on the network for any requests.  The client machine (currently unformatted), boots up using its network card, and requests an IP address from a DHCP server. Once the client has an IP address, it is able to communicate with the RIS server. The client machine loads the necessary files of the server. The user logs in and then all the files needed to install Windows are copied from the server and the installation begins as if booting straight from the CD-ROM.  Used in conjunction with answer files, large numbers of computers can be easily installed by booting straight from the network.

N.B. Although it is possible to install Windows XP Professional using RIS on a Windows 2000 Domain Controller, Microsoft recommends you use Windows Server 2003.  Windows 2000 Server can’t be installed using RIS in Windows 2000. However Windows Server 2003 can be used to deploy both Windows 2000/XP and 2003. When RIS is installed on a Windows Server 2003 computer, three services are automatically installed and configured:

  • Boot Information Negotiation Layer (BINL).
  • Trivial File Transfer Protocol Daemon (TFTPD).
  • Single Instance Store (SIS).

The TFTPD is used to transfer any required files from the server to the client to begin the installation. The BINL service is responsible for ensuring that the correct computer is being installed and can be used to create a new computer account within the domain. The SIS service saves space on the RIS server by ensuring that if there are any two files the same in the RIS server’s images, only one is saved and a link is created for the other.

RIS Requirements

These are essential:

  • A Domain Controller or a standard member server on the domain with a free 2GB NTFS partition N.B. The boot/system partition can’t be used for RIS.
  • A DHCP server authorised with Active Directory to provide IP addresses to the new clients. Ensure there are  enough addresses available in the scope.
  • A DNS server to provide name resolution.
  • A Domain Controller running Active Directory with RIS installed.

Client Requirements for RIS

To use RIS the client machines must have the following:

  • The computer must meet the minimum hardware requirements for Windows.
  • Clients must have a PXE-Compatible network card or a card supported by the Remote Boot Floppy Generator (which allows the computer to boot from the network by using a floppy disk).

For RIS to work correctly all services must be able to communicate. E.g. on this network a DHCP relay agent is required.