Windows 2000 Remote Installation Services

    May 27, 2002

Remote Installation Services (RIS) is a tool included with Windows 2000 Server products that is used to install Windows 2000 Professional over a network. I have heard that this can/may work with Windows 2000 Server now (it did not in the past), but I have not tried it and cannot verify that it does work.

Ideally this is not done without a network boot disk, but rather through a PXE-enabled (Preboot eXEecution) network interface card (NIC). This is a nice feature in that you do not have to go around to every machine that you are installing the operating system on with an installation disk and perform time consuming manual installations. Instead, you simply enable network booting in the system BIOS (Basic Input Output System) and boot the machine. It will find the RIS server and install Windows 2000 for you, unattended. The only thing that you may have to enter will be the Product Key from the original installation media.

There are some drawbacks and several requirements that you will need to be aware of before deploying RIS. First of all, RIS depends on DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol – if you need to know more about DHCP click here:, DNS (Domain Name System), a unique NTFS (New Technology File System) partition that is at least 800Mb (and should be larger, especially if several images are to be used), and Active Directory.

The very first thing that you will have to do is install RIS on your server. Simply go to Start-> Control Panel-> Add/Remove Programs-> Add/Remove Windows Components, check the “Remote Installation Services” checkbox and finish the wizard. You will be prompted for your Windows 2000 Server CD; however, if you have the installation folders on a local drive or a mapped network drive you can access them from there. Finally, reboot and you are ready to configure RIS.

Note: Before configuring RIS make sure that you have already created the partition that RIS will be using and that you have already formatted it with NTFS. Also note that this partition CANNOT be the same partition that your operating system (for your server) is installed on. This is because, in an effort to conserve disk space, Microsoft uses the SIS (Single Instance Storage) filter driver. The SIS filter is used so that duplicate copies of the same file are not stored on the same drive; rather a link (“shortcut”) from where any subsequent copies would be stored is created that points to the original copy.

In order to configure RIS you have one of two options. The first is to setup RIS from the “Configure Your Server” dialog box. The second (and probably easiest) method is to run risetup.exe from the run command. This will start the “Remote Installation Services Wizard”. Click next to move past the welcome window. The next dialog box will prompt you for the location of where you would like to install the installation files from.

The next dialog box will ask if you would like to respond to clients. You will probably want check “Respond to Client Requesting Service”. If you answer yes, you will have the option of restricting responses to only “known” or “pre-staged” computers. This is helpful in the event that there are other RIS or BootP servers on the network. You simply choose “Do Not Respond to Unknown Client Computers”. Pre-staging is simply creating a computer account in Active Directory.

RIS Setup now asks where you would like the installation files to be installed. This will be the partition (NTFS, not the same as the Windows system partition) mentioned earlier. Create a name for your installation folder (make it something you can remember; if you later add more installation images, distinguishing amongst them can be confusing). Click finish to commit to your choices. It will take several minutes for all of the final checks and file copying to take place. Now, click “Done”, because you are.

Next, before you can service any clients, you must authorize the server. First of all, DHCP needs to be authorized. Go to Administrative Tools/DHCP and right-click DHCP in the directory tree on the left. Select “Manage Authorized Servers”; if your server is not listed, click “Authorize” and enter the IP address of your new RIS server. That is it, your server is now ready to process requests.

If you want users to be able to setup their own machines, you will need to authorize the necessary users/groups in Active Directory Users and Computers. Right-click the Domain Name at the top of the snap-in, and click the Delegate Control option. A wizard starts. Click Next. Click Add to add users who are allowed to install their own computers using Remote OS Installation. Click OK. Click Next to continue. Check the Join a Computer to the Domain option, and click Next. Click Finish. Users can now create computer account objects during the OS installation using the RIS service.

If you want these installs to be truly unattended, you will need a *.sif file. This can be gotten by utilizing the “Setup Manager” utility on the Windows 2000 Server disk. The file can be found in /support/tools/deploy. Be sure to make a new folder somewhere on your machine and then run setupmgr.exe and point it to your new folder. Copy the setupmgr.dll from the installation disk to your folder and then run.

NOTE: In the user data section of the unattend.txt (unattend.txt is the default name of the file created by Setup Manager, which will have to be renamed with a “.sif” extension in order to work) you will have to add a line as follows: ProductID=12345-67890-12345-67890-12345 where the string is your valid Microsoft Product Key.

If you need to make custom images to install from, or have questions about RIS and unattended setup, follow these links. To download Microsoft’s official “Technical Guide to Remote Installation Services” white paper (this is a pretty extensive document), see the link below.

If you would like to see a little more “user friendly” page, click here:

Jay Fougere is the IT manager for the iEntry network. He also writes occasional articles. If you have any IT questions, please direct them to