Configuration Manager 2012: PXE Setup and Boot Image Management

In a previous post, I talked a little about the changes to the distribution point and integration of PXE services.  In this post I want to go into some more details and the setup and management of PXE service starting in Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2. 

Initial Setup of PXE services:  As I mentioned in my last post, PXE is no longer a site role.  So enabling PXE is no longer completed through the Create Roles wizard and selecting PXE Service Point.  The setup of the PXE service point can be done in two ways.  First way is during the setup of a distribution point, the option to setup PXE is now present.  The setup has the same options as Configuration Manager 2007 and is still requires Windows Deployment Services (WDS) to be installed.  The second is from the properties page of the distribution point.  Once a distribution Point is setup, you will see a PXE tab and can enable it at anytime. (Note: Unlike IIS, we currently do not automatically install WDS.  You will need to install that manually).

In Configuration Manager 2007, a boot image had to be distributed to a PXE Distribution Point share for clients to download the boot image. This created a lot of confusion and increased administrative overhead. Let’s cover some changes in this area.

Note:  You will still need to have both an x86 and an x64 PXE enabled boot image distributed to your distribution point for PXE to be successful. 

Distributing and Updating Boot Images: Starting with Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2 there is no longer a PXE distribution share.  This now means there is no separate distribution action to enable a boot image on a PXE server.  Instead there is a setting on the boot image Data Source tab which reads Deploy this boot image from the PXE service point .  When this is setting is enabled, Configuration Manager will distribute the boot image to the RemoteInstall folder on any distribution point that has PXE services enabled and has the boot image distributed to it.  Additionally, when the option is enabled or disabled, distribution manager will notify the Distribution Point provider (more on this component in another blog post) to add or remove the image for the RemoteInstall folder on Distribution points that already have the boot image distributed.  (Note: the boot image will not recopy over the network for this action.  It will be copied or removed locally by the distribution point provider.)

Customizing Boot Images:  In Configuration Manager 2007 there was an option to set a pre-execution hook (we will reference this as a prestart command starting with Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2) to enable a command to run prior to a task sequence running.  This is a common way to increase flexibility of scripting and automation scenarios.  While the use of the prestart command is flexible, the its configuration created some additional overhead.  Starting with Beta 2, there are some changes to the boot image property sheets.  The Windows PE tab is no longer present and the settings on the tab have been moved.  We have added two new tabs to address custom configuration needs.  There is a tab labeled Drivers that is where the administration of drivers will occur.  This still works the same as it did in Configuration Manager 2007. There is another tab called Customization, this is where you can set the WinPE background or enable command prompt support.  Also, we have no added support to configure the prestart command from the Customization tab.  To enable the prestart command for a specific boot image, from the property pages perform the following steps:

  1. Select the Customization tab
  2. Select the Enable prestart command checkbox
  3. Enter the custom command line you would like to run.
  4. If you need to include some custom files, select the Include files for the prestart command checkbox.
  5. Specify the UNC path for the files that you would like to add to the boot image.
  6. When you are complete, click OK.
  7. You will be prompted with Distribution Point Update Required, select Yes and complete the Manage Distribution Points Wizard.

Just like that the prestart command is part of the boot image.

I will continue to discuss more features and functionality over the next days to weeks. Feel free to comment if you have a specific ask for more information on portions of this overview.

Additional Configuration Manager 2012 Information:

  • Introduction to Configuration Manager 2012 - link
  • What’s New in Configuration Manager 2012 - link
  • Fundamentals of Configuration Manager 2012 - link

John Vintzel
Microsoft Corporation| Sr. Program Manager | System Center Configuration Manager | twitter: jvintzel

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The blog is own by some members of the System Center Configuration Manager product team. These postings are provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confer no rights.

EDIT: Updated old references

Comments (8)
  1. John.V says:

    The boot image needs to be on the PXE distribution Point that services the PXE requests.  Generally you setup PXE forwarding on the routers to a specific server.  That delivers the initial boot image.  At that point the client agent in the boot image will find the nearest distribution point for the remaining content.

  2. John.V says:

    You can add items using the prestart command and doing something simple like an "Echo" command or a WScript.Quit(0) to include files.  You can also still add them via mounting and injecting with DISM before import.

  3. Hi Paul024

    PXE is part of the Distribution Point in ConfigMgr 2012, therefore you have to make that server a DP and enable PXE on it. You can chose not to distribute package to it and use it only for PXE.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We are planning to do a clean migration from 2007 to 2012.  Can we share the same PXE server? and can we  just have PXE point and not use at a distribution point?

  5. John.V says:

    Scott, the behaviour for PXE is still the same as ConfigMgr 2007.  With the separation of site from the task sequence in ConfigMgr 2012, the expectation is there is less boot images per architecture required to be used.

  6. Nico S. says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the great post, looking forward to your futher findings.

    If I want to add for instance Trace32 to my boot image, what's the best way to this?

    I have the impression I can only do this while checking the prestart command box but I don't want to use a prestart command.


  7. Scott W. says:

    Thanks for posting these upcoming changes.  A quick question: does this change the way the "default" boot image is selected for PXE.  In 2007, I believe the boot image of the latest advertisment was selected.  In order to go back to a previous boot image on the PXE point, that advertisement had to be deleted, or a new one created.



  8. Marxt M. says:


    I don't understand how PXE works in environment with several distribution points .

    The PXE feature must be enable on all distribution points in order to pick the boot image from the nearest DP?

    In this case how I could configure my DCHP server? Which DP should be indicated in DCHP as PXE responder?

    Thnaks in advance

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