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Check that it is actually running:
  ps axu | grep dhcp
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Reboot the Client.

In the tftp directory create a directory named {{{pxelinux.cfg}}} and create a default file there:
Initially, this will fail with a message like
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mkdir /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg
printf "label linuxboot\n\tKERNEL pxeboot\n" >/var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default
  Restarting HPA's tftpd: in.tftpd/srv/tftp missing, aborting.
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=== Configure BIOS ===
On the new to install computer, enter BIOS setup and chose network boot (PXE boot) - sometimes before it is possible to chose network booting only if also some boot rom is enabled.

=== Compile Kernel ===
Grab a kernel from ftp://ftp.kernel.org, unpack and configure it for the new computer, compile it. (Note: Do not use modules.) Be sure to add all the device drivers needed for installation. Especially the CD-/DVD-Rom and harddisk interface driver are needed.

After compiling copy the kernel image to the tftp server directory {{{/var/lib/tftpboot}}}. Name it {{{pxeboot}}}.

=== Install pxelinux.0 ===
Do a
apt-get install syslinux
cp /usr/lib/syslinux/pxelinux.0 /var/lib/tftpboot
Therefore, as root, create the directory ''/srv/tftp''. Restart the TFTP daemon. Check that it is actually running:
  ps axu | grep tftp
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=== Install initrd.gz ===
Mount the CD, copy over the initrd.gz to {{{/var/lib/tftpboot}}}.

=== Status ===
The tftp dir should now looks like:

=== Boot ===
Put the CD in the new computer. Boot the new computer via network. It should get the IP address from the DHCP server and also the pxelinux.0 file from the tftp server. The bootloader prints some lines concering some non existing files which can be ignored and than displays a boot prompt. On the command line enter:
pxeboot initrd=initrd.gz

=== Install Debian ===
At this point, all the drivers that are needed to install Debian on the new system are available and the normal installtion procedure can be used to install the whole Debian system to the new computer.
Reboot the Client.

Installing Debian using network booting


Installation using network booting must not be confused with DebianNetworkInstall. In network install, you start with a CD to install a minimal Linux system before you proceed to download further packages over the network. Here, you need no CD at all. You instruct you BIOS boot menu to boot directly from the network.

To do so, you need a network boot server. As there are no fiducial boot servers out in the wild, you need to setup your own. This is considerably more complicated than installing Debian from CD. Normally, network booting is only used if there is really no way to boot from CD.

In the Web, several articles can be found that describe in more or less detail how to setup a network boot server. They all have the same weakness: You are required to execute a long list of instructions without getting any feedback before the very end of the procedure when you try to boot. If it works, fine. If not, debugging will become very very difficult. Therefore in the following we break down the procedure into steps that can be debugged separately.


The computer you want to install to will be called the Client.

The computer you install from will be called the Server. We assume that the Server is running Debian.

To be specific, we assume that the Client and the Server are part of a LAN with the following IP addresses:

  • router
  • the Client
  • 192.168.0.x the Server

You will find out the value of x later.

The following instructions have been tested with Debian 6.0 (squeeze) in January 2012.

Change boot menu

Setup the BIOS boot menu of the Client to boot from the network.

Reboot. This should produce an output that contains the Client's MAC address. Then, it will fail with

  PXE-E53: no boot filename received.

Set up DHCP server

On the Server, we need to set up a DHCP server.

Current best practice seems to be to use the package isc-dhcp-server, which provides a daemon dhcpd.

It's configuration file is /etc/dhcp/dhcpd.conf. Modify this file so that it contains about the following; adapt IP and MAC addresses to your local needs:

default-lease-time 600;
max-lease-time 7200;

allow booting;
allow bootp;

# in this example, we serve DHCP requests from 192.168.0.(2 to 253)
# and we have a router at
subnet netmask {
  option broadcast-address;
  option routers;             # our router
  option domain-name-servers; # our router, again

group {
  host tftpclient {
    hardware ethernet  00:12:34:56:AB:CD; # replace by the MAC of your Client
    filename "pxelinux.0"; # (this we will provide later)

After each modification of the above, restart the DHCP server with

  /etc/init.d/isc-dhcp-server restart

Check that it is actually running:

  ps axu | grep dhcp

Reboot the Client. On success, it will output the IP addresses of the Server, of the router ("Gateway") as well as its own (192.168.0.x). Then it will hang with a TFTP request.

Setup a TFTP server

Next, we need to set up a TFTP server on the Server.

Again, there are several packages that provide TFTP (trivial FTP, unsafe, to be used in LAN's only). It seems best practice is using the package tftpd-hpa. On installation, a few question are asked. The response to these questions goes into a configuration file, /etc/default/tftpd-hpa. There should be no need to modify the following default contents:


Ignore older Web sites that instruct you to insert something like 'RUM_DAEMON="yes"'.

After each modification of the above configuration file, restart the TFTP server with


Initially, this will fail with a message like

  Restarting HPA's tftpd: in.tftpd/srv/tftp missing, aborting.

Therefore, as root, create the directory /srv/tftp. Restart the TFTP daemon. Check that it is actually running:

  ps axu | grep tftp

Reboot the Client.