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Install syslinux on Windows Server 2019 WDS

Once Windows Deployment Services is installed and running, locate the folder where WDS is installed. My install is in D:\RemoteInstall.

  1. Rename pxeboot.n12 in D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64 to pxeboot.0.
  2. Rename in D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x86 to abortpxe.0.
  3. Download syslinux. I used version 5.04. Your mileage may vary with other versions.
  4. From the syslinux archive, extract core\pxelinux.0, com32\menu\vesamenu.c32, com32\modules\chain.c32, memdisk\memdisk to D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x86 and D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64.
  5. Rename pxelinux.0 to in both directories.
  6. Create the following directories:
    • D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64\Linux
    • D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64\pxelinux.cfg (this is a directory, not a file)
    • D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64\Linux
    • D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64\pxelinux.cfg (this is a directory as well)
  7. Open a command prompt with Administrator permissions and issue the following commands:
    wdsutil /set-server /bootprogram:boot\x86\ /architecture:x86
    wdsutil /set-server /bootprogram:boot\x64\ /architecture:x64
    wdsutil /set-server /N12bootprogram:boot\x86\ /architecture:x86
    wdsutil /set-server /N12bootprogram:boot\x64\ /architecture:x64

  8. Create a two files called default and graphics.conf in D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64\pxelinux.cfg and D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x86\pxelinux.cfg
  9. Edit default and add the following text for the default menus:
    DEFAULT      vesamenu.c32
    PROMPT       0
    MENU TITLE PXE Boot Menu
    MENU INCLUDE pxelinux.cfg/graphics.conf
    MENU AUTOBOOT Starting Local System in 8 seconds
    # Option 1 - Exit PXE Linux & boot normally
    LABEL bootlocal
          menu label ^Boot Normally
          menu default
          localboot 0
          timeout 80
          TOTALTIMEOUT 9000
    # Option 2 - Run WDS
    LABEL wds
    	 MENU LABEL ^Windows Deployment Services
    	 KERNEL pxeboot.0
    # Option 3 - Exit PXE Linux
    LABEL Abort
    	MENU LABEL E^xit
    	KERNEL abortpxe.0
  10. Edit graphics.conf and add the following text for the default menus:
    MENU ROWS 16
    MENU COLOR BORDER 30;44		#00000000 #00000000 none
    MENU COLOR SCROLLBAR 30;44		#00000000 #00000000 none
    MENU COLOR TITLE 0 		#00269B #00000000 none
    MENU COLOR SEL   30;47		#40000000 #20ffffff
    MENU BACKGROUND background.jpg
  11. Place your ISOs or image files in D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64 or D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x86.
  12. Edit D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x64\default or D:\RemoteInstall\Boot\x86 (depending on the architecture of your OS install) and add the following example text:
    Kernel memdisk
    append iso raw initrd=FILENAME.iso

    Your filename is the name of your ISO file.

Many distros will have their own way of getting this to boot correctly. For example, while Debian provides a relatively easy path to add a network install, with Ubuntu 20.04, Canonical has taken steps to push people to alternative ways to easily do a traditional network install. Much Googling is to be had. See PXE config examples.