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Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab

Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Introduction

In my never-ending quest to continue learning as much as I can in the IT industry, one thing has always caused me some headaches until now. Setting up the proper foundation for my testing in the form of a virtual test lab where I can install multiple servers and clients easily without having to worry about taking up 40GB+ for each virtual machine.

I have received a lot of comments, private messages, and emails from the community asking me what I suggest for them to do in order to learn System Administrator topics in order to help them in job interviews or to help them in their current job if they are already working in the field.

Introduction: Ultimate VBox Setup

One answer always comes to mind with these types of questions; Virtualization. Setup a virtual test lab by configuring a virtual server (virtual pc), download the trial versions of Microsoft’s operating systems, install them and practice practice practice. Setup a domain controller or two. Take one offline and practice bringing another one online to simulate a down domain controller, Setup SQL server, WSUS, and so on.

This article is part 1 of 6 in the series:

  • Part 1: Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Intro
  • Part 2: Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Configure Vbox
  • Part 3: Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Install pfSense
  • Part 4: Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Install Windows 2012 Base
  • Part 5: Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Prep for .vdi Compacting
  • Part 6: Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Linked Clones
  • Bonus: Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – RDP to Virtual Machines

citrix-logo  hyper-v-logo Virtualbox_logo vmware-logo

In the past, I have setup many different virtual lab environments including:

For this article, I chose to go with Oracle VirtualBox. If money wasn’t an issue, I would probably choose VMWare Workstation. Actually, if money really wasn’t an issue, I would buy a nice server with a SAN and setup VMWare ESXi. Ok, enough dreaming.

One of the issues I faced was having enough resources on the host’s computer where I can run 3 or 4 servers along with a couple of client computers at the same time while not worrying about CPU, RAM, and hard drive space.

Since I recently built a new computer as my main box to handle video editing (and anything else I want to throw at it), I finally decided to search out the best methods for hosting all of my virtual machines on this box. These days, I use my laptop about 95% of the time and only touch my big desktop for video editing. Why not put this computer’s horsepower to use since I’m hardly using it as is.

The specs of this machine are as follows:

At this point what I want to do is give you a visual of what I have in mind. I am not an artist by any means so hopefully you can understand what I’m illustrating here. This is just a basic idea of the SSD/HDD configuration:

Click to enlarge
Drawing of Ultimate VirtualBox Setup

To help better explain the drawing, here is what is going on. We are going to be usingLinked Clones to setup many virtual machines. The main reason I am using Linked Clonesis to save on hard drive space.

A brief description of Linked Clones: Setup a “base” virtual machine, install all patches/updates, sysprep and shutdown the machine (You will not turn this machine back on). This will be the base image that all future machines (same OS) will use when setting them up. Any changes made to the Linked Clones will be saved in their own .vdi in their own folder.

This is a HUGE plus for me since my SSDs are not very large. Also, using SSDs for this task is a huge advantage. Since I will be having multiple virtual machines running at the same time, they will all be using the base image so having the fast read/write speed will help with performance. I have not tried it using non SSDs but am curious how well it works.

As a side note: You can still have a standard HDD for things like SQL Databases, WSUS updates storage, network share storage, and more where speed is not as crucial.

Download the software and ISO images to prepare for the setup:

This article was only the beginning, introducing you to building the ultimate VirtualBox test lab.

In the next article (coming soon), we will be setting up the environment. I will walk you step-by-step in the entire process and by the end of the series, you should have a well-rounded and stable virtual test lab. From there on, you can go wild with setting up different servers, clients, testing group policies, pushing out software, breaking servers and learning how to handle disaster recovery and so on.

Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Configure VBox

Begin to learn how to become a System Administrator on your own by building the ultimate VirtualBox test-lab.

We briefly discussed what to expect with this video series and the overall configuration with hardware as well as linked clones.

Virtualization is key when wanting to setup a virtual machine test-lab. This tutorial is going to be considered video number 1 in the Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab series and will show you how to setup your virtual server environment. The tips shown here will help with setting up the foundation before we begin setting up our virtual machines and linked clones.

Configure VBox

Let’s begin

  • Open Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager
  • File -> Preferences -> General
  • Default Machine Folder: Navigate to the folder you want to store all your VMs in
    Virtualbox Default Machine Folder
  • Select Network in the left column
  • Highlight the adapter and click the edit button
    VirtualBox Edit Network
  • Select the DHCP Server tab
  • Remove the check from Enable Server
    VirttualBox Disable DHCP Server

That’s it for configuring Virtualbox for our Ultimate VirtualBox lab.

The next tutorial will begin by setting up pfSense to act as our lab’s router out to the internet.

Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Install pfSense

Continuing on with our self-learning to become a System Administrator, this article of Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab series we are focusing on how to install pfSense in VirtualBox.

I suggest you check it out since it has a couple key configuration changes in VBox that will save you some headaches later.

Install pfSense in VirtualBox

Before we get started I would like to explain the reason I have decided to use pfSense within our virtual lab for learning. When setting up a virtual server test lab, I like to try and mimmic an actual business environment as closely as possible. Because we want to use virtualization for this task, what pfSense will do is act as our virtual test lab’s router (to allow the virtual machines access to the internet). This will keep my host’s machine safe as well as any computers/devices on my host’s network. I guess you can look at it as my host’s network is acting as an ISP for my virtual environment.

Another reason why I wanted to use pfSense is so I can produce some tutorials on some key features of pfSense in the future when things settle down here at the house (remodeling/selling/buying another new house, etc.)

Let’s Get Started

We need to setup pfSense first so that during the other VM setups we can get out to the internet to install updates.

You can find the download links on this page.

Normally I like to include a lot of screenshots within these tutorials, but I think since the below instructions are pretty straight forward (and there is an associated video), I think I will hold off on the screenshots. If you feel they would help with this tutorial, please let me know in the comments section below and I will happily add them.

Create a new VM with minimum specs (pfSense doesn’t need to be run on a powerful machine).

  • Name: pfSense
  • Type: Linux
  • Version: Other Linux
  • 256MB of RAM
  • 8GB for the Dynamically allocated vdi (hard drive) should work out fine. You don’t need this one to be stored on an SSD but if you have the space, go for it.
  • 1 CPU
  • 2 NICs
    • Adapter 1: Enable Network Adapter
      • Attached to: Bridged (This will be our WAN port in pfSense)
    • Adapter 2: Enable Network Adapter
      • Attached to: Internal (This will be our LAN port in pfSense)
  • Attach the pfSense ISO to the CDRom drive so we can boot off of the CD
  • Disable:
    • Floppy drive
    • Enable absolute pointing device
    • USB Controller
    • Audio
  • If using an SSD, tell VBox that the VM is stored on an SSD
    • Select the vdi under the SATA Controller
    • Put a check in the Solid-state drive option under Attributes (This tells the guest OS that it’s drive is an SSD so it can take appropriate actions to deal with an SSD such as Windows disabling defrag, etc..)

Power on the VM and begin the setup

  • Select option 1 to boot pfSense
  • Pay attention during the install, you will see an option to select “I” to install, otherwise it will auto continue with running the live CD. Select “I”
  • Follow the prompts to install pfSense (I selected the Quick/Easy install)
  • During the first boot off of the hard drive, we need to configure a few things
    • Do you want to set up VLANs now: N
    • Enter the WAN interface name: em0
    • Enter the LAN interface name: em1
    • Optional 1 Interface: (leave blank and press Enter)
    • Let’s configure our WAN port to be static
      • Select number 2 (Set interface(s) IP address
      • Select number 1 (WAN)
      • Configure WAN interface via DHCP?: N
      • Type in the IP you want to give it (has to be on your host’s subnet) (I’m setting mine to
      • Type in the Subnet mask (more than likely you will be using 24)
      • Revert to HTTP….: N

At this point we are done setting up pfSense. Once we setup our first Windows VM we will web into pfSense to finish a couple small configuration changes to allow our VMs access to the internet.

Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Install Windows 2012 Base

We will be focusing on installing Windows Server 2012 Base for our Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Test Lab series. We will configure a few basic settings, and install all Windows Updates to ensure we are patched up.

Quick reminder: We are setting up linked clones so we can maximize disk usage on our virtual server. If we were to setup normal clones and/or VMs, we would quickly run low on disk space. Since we are using SSDs to store the VDI (virtual hard disk files for our virtualbox VMs), it is very important that we use Linked Clones for this task.

Setup Windows 2012 Base for Linked Clones

Windows 2012 ISO Download

All of the downloads can be found HERE.

Let’s begin

Configure a new Base VM

  • Name: *_Base (i.e. Windows_Server_2012_Base)

VirtualBox Name Server 2012

  • 1024 MB RAM
  • Create a virtual hard drive now
    • VDI
    • Dynamically allocated
    • 40GB
  • 1 CPU
  • Disable:
    • Floppy drive
    • Enable absolute pointing device
    • USB Controller
    • Audio
  • NIC: Internal
  • Attach ISO for installation

VirtualBox Attach ISO and SSD

  • If using an SSD, tell VBox that the VM is stored on an SSD
    • Select the vdi under the SATA Controller
    • Put a check in the Solid-state drive option under Attributes (This tells the guest OS that it’s drive is an SSD so it can take appropriate actions to deal with an SSD such as disabling defrag, etc..)

VirtualBox Configure For Linked Clones

Install and Configure VM

  • Install the guest OS
  • Install VBox Guest Additions

VirtualBox Windows Server 2012 Install Guest Additions

  • Configure the network adapter
    • Set the IP statically (your information will probably be different than mine):
      • IPV4:
      • Subnet:
      • Gateway: (pfSense LAN IP)
      • DNS: (for now, set it to your home router’s LAN IP or a public DNS so we can resolve hostnames until we setup our server to be a DNS server)

Finish Configuring pfSense

  • Web into pfSense using the it’s LAN IP from within the VM lan (on this Windows 2012 VM). (For me, I connect to
    • Username: admin
    • Password: pfsense
    • System -> Setup Wizard
      • Run through wizard
      • Take note of the WAN Gateway: Set this to your home’s router IP address. This will ensure that pfSense knows where to send all of the VM’s internet traffic out to the internet.
      • Set a new/secure password

Final Windows Configurations

  • Make sure the timezone is set properly and the VM has the correct time
  • Install .NETt Framework 3.5 Features (if Windows Server)
    • Server Manager -> Add Roles and Features

VirtualBox Add Role to Server 2012

  • Run through the wizard until you get to Features
  • Select .NET Framework 3.5 Features and finish the wizard
  • Install all available Windows updates / patches

VirtualBox - Windows Server 2012 Windows Updates

  • Configure Windows Updates to only check and notify if there are updates so we have control of the process.

Next Step

Now that the virtual machine is installed and updated, the next part in this series will walk you through step-by-step how to prep this VM and .vdi for compacting in order to be used as a Linked Clone.

Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Prep VDI for Compacting

we installed Windows 2012 and made some basic configuration changes.

This article we will be focusing on prepping the VM for compacting the .vdi (virtual hard disk) for  Installing Windows Server 2012 Base for our Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Test Lab series.

It is comprised of deleting some folders/files in order to free up as much space as possible, running sdelete.exe, sysprep, and a few other little changes in order to simplify all future linked clone installations.

Quick reminder: We are setting up linked clones so we can maximize disk usage on our virtual server. If we were to setup normal clones and/or VMs, we would quickly run low on disk space. Since we are using SSDs to store the VDI (virtual hard disk files for our virtualbox VMs), it is very important that we use Linked Clones for this task.

Prep VM for .vdi compacting

Let’s Begin

Windows Update

  • Power on the Windows 2012 VM.
  • Configure Windows Updates to only check and notify if there are updates so we have control of the process.
  • Or… disable it all together and make sure to check/update every month.

Clean-up storage

  • Remove SP (Service Pack) installation files (if any)
    • Launch an elevated cmd or PowerShell window
    • Run: dism /online /cleanup-image /spsuperseded
  • Remove Windows update backup files
    • Launch services
    • Stop Windows Update service
    • Delete the following folder and all it’s contents: C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution
    • Start Windows Update
  • Disable hibernation
    • Launch an elevated cmd or PowerShell window
    • Run: powercfg.exe /hibernate off
  • Defrag two times (If .vdi is on a non-SSD)
  • Run sdelete to prepare for vdi compacting
    • Download sdelete and extract it’s contents
    • Launch an elevated cmd or PowerShell window
    • Change your working directory to the extracted sdelete folder
    • Run: sdelete.exe -z c:

Compact vdi

  • Shutdown VM
  • On the host computer (the Virtual Server):
    • Launch a NON-elevated cmd or PowerShell window
    • Change your working directory to “C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox\”
    • Run: vboxmanage.exe modifyhd <image path and name>.vdi –compact

Prepare VM to be a template

  • Power on the VM
  • Within the VM, run sysprep
    • Launch a cmd or PowerShell window
    • Run: c:\windows\system32\sysprep\sysprep.exe
    • Select: OOBE
    • Select: Generalize
    • Select: Shutdown

At this point you DO NOT want to power on this VM until you are ready to install updates to the base system in the future.

Create Base Snapshot

(All linked clones will be based on this snapshot)

  • Name: Version 1.0
  • Description: Initial version of <Windows version> all patched up to <date>. Sysprep OOBE executed before shutdown.

Set the Base VM not to boot

  • Open the settings for this VM up in VirtualBox
  • System -> Motherboard
  • Boot Order: Uncheck all devices
    This will ensure the Base VM doesn’t accidentally get booted up

Next Step

Now that the VM’s virtual hard disk is cleaned up as much as possible and then compacted, the next part will walk you through step-by-step on creating our first Linked Clone

Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – Linked Clones

we prepped our vm and compacted the .vdi to save as much space as possible.

This article, we will be setting up a few servers using the linked clone feature available in VirtualBox.

The reason I am using “linked” clones is because I am installing my lab environment on an SSD drive. Since I didn’t win the lottery or rob a bank, I am somewhat limited on the size of the SSD I can install the VMs on.

Below briefly explains what a full clone is compared to a linked clone. See for more information on the cloning process.

Full clone: In this mode all depending disk images are copied to the new VM folder. The clone can fully operate without the source VM.

Linked clone: In this mode new differencing disk images are created where the parent disk images are the source disk images. If you selected the current state of the source VM as clone point, a new snapshot will be created implicitly.

How to Setup Linked Clones

Let’s Begin

Setup a Linked Clone

  • In VirtualBox, right click the Base VM and select Clone
    Ultimate Vbox - Clone
  • Name the VM to your Server naming conventions (I am going to simplify things and name this one DC_1 for Domain Controller)
  • Select Reinitialize the MAC address
    Ultimate VirtualBox - Name and Initialize MAC
  • Select Linked Clone
    Ultimate Vbox - Linked Clone
  • Go into the Settings of the Linked Clone and select Hard Disk for the Boot Order
    Ultimate Vbox - Boot Order

Power-on Your New Linked Clone

You can now start your Linked Clone VM.

Since we SysPrep’ed the Base VMs, the initial boot of the linked clones will go through the standard Windows startup / configuration steps.

Don’t forget you will need to re-setup your IPv4 Static address as well as name the server. I personally like to give the main/first server in my environment a .10 address (i.e. For non-servers, I like to stick with DHCP.

Setup other Base VMs for different operating systems by following the same procedures.
ultimate vbox - setup lots of linked clones


I ended up enabling Windows Update on all of the linked clones individually rather than on the base system. This is because each linked clone will be running something different (ie. WDS, Exchange, SCCM, SQL, etc…).

Building the Ultimate VirtualBox Lab – RDP to VMs

We will be focusing on setting up pfSense firewall’s port forwarding to allow RDP (Remote Desktop) connections from the host computer (Virtual Server) to the individual virtual machines within VirtualBox’s internal VM network.

Call me weird or old-school but I’m not a huge fan on using the console session of VirtualBox to work on the VMs. Instead I like to use Remote Desktop to connect to the virtual machines.

Follow along in this step-by-step article on how to set up port forwarding through pfSense so we can easily remote desktop to the virtual machines from the host machine.

Disable pfSense’s ‘Block Private Network’ option

  1. Open Internet Explorer in one of your VMs
  2. Connect to your pfSense’s web interface
  3. System -> Setup Wizard
    Ultimate Vbox pfSense Setup Wizard
  4. Continue pressing Next until you get to Configure Wan Interface
  5. Scroll down to the bottom of the page
  6. Uncheck Block RFC1918 Private Networks optionUltimate-Vbox-pfSense-Disable-Block-Private-Network
  7. Continue pressing Next and then Reload to finish the configuration change

Configure NAT rule to allow pfSense to port forward ports to VM’s 3389 MSRDP port

  1. Firewall -> NATUltimate-Vbox-pfSense-Firewall-NAT
  2. Add a NAT port forward by pressing the icon with the plus symbolUltimate-Vbox-pfSense-Add-Port-Forward
  3. Destination: Any
  4. Destination Port Range: From: <whatever port you want to use>
  5. Destination Port Range: To: <leave blank>
  6. Redirect Target IP: <IP Address of the VM you want to connect to>
  7. Redirect Target Port: MS RDP
  8. Description: Remote Desktop to <server name>
  9. Save and then Apply ChangesUltimate-Vbox-pfSense-RDP-Port-Forward-Settings

Now when you want to connect via Remote Desktop, your server address will be:

  1. Server: <pfSense WAN IP>:
  2. Example: Server:

For other servers/clients that you want to connect to, simply add another NAT Port Forward rule but use a different Destination Port (ie. 5002, 5003, etc…).

The Perfect Lab – PXE Server on Linux


The Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) is an industry standard client/server interface that allows networked computers that are not yet loaded with an operating system to be configured and booted remotely by an administrator. The PXE code is typically delivered with a new computer on a read-only memory chip or boot disk that allows the computer (a client) to communicate with the network server so that the client machine can be remotely configured and its operating system can be remotely booted. PXE provides three things:

  1. The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), which allows the client to receive an IP address to gain access to the network servers.
  2. A set of application program interfaces (API) that are used by the client’s Basic Input/Output Operating System (BIOS) or a downloaded Network Bootstrap Program (NBP) that automates the booting of the operating system and other configuration steps.
  3. A standard method of initializing the PXE code in the PXE ROM chip or boot disk.

The PXE process consists of the client notifying the server that it uses PXE. If the server uses PXE, it sends the client a list of boot servers that contain the operating systems available. The client finds the boot server it needs and receives the name of the file to download. The client then downloads the file using Trivial File Transfer Protocol (Trivia File Transfer Protocol) and executes it, which loads the operating system. If a client is equipped with PXE and the server is not, the server ignores the PXE code preventing disruption in the DHCP and Bootstrap Protocol (BP) operations.


Why would you want to boot a PC from the network?

Having PXE Server opens the door to booting diskless workstations, eg: Internet Cafe PC’s, or if you regularly install tens or hundreds of PC’s, you can start the installer on all those machines at once without needing to have individual boot/install media for each machine. You can even use Linux PXE for starting Microsoft Windows network installers and tools.

Install DHCP & TFTP packages

sudo apt-get install dhcp3-server inetutils-inetd tftpd-hpa

DHCP Setup

Edit /etc/default/dhcp3-server, Ethernet interface for DHCP service


Edit /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf‬ DHCP service configuration PXE specific configurations: filename & next-server

default-lease-time 600;
max-lease-time 7200;
subnet netmask {
    option subnet-mask;
    option routers;
    option broadcast-address;
    filename "pxelinux.0";

Setup a static IP for eth0 -

Start service

sudo /etc/init.d/dhcp3-server restart

Check status

netstat -lu


Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address           Foreign Address         State      
udp        0      0 *:bootpc                *:*                                

TFTP Setup

Edit ‪/etc/inetd.conf, remove #<off># from the beginning of tftp line.

tftp    dgram   udp wait    root    /usr/sbin/in.tftpd  /usr/sbin/in.tftpd -s /var/lib/tftpboot

Enable boot service for inetd

sudo update-inetd --enable BOOT

Open UDP port 69 to allow clients in the network to connect to the TFTP server.

sudo ufw allow proto udp from to any port 69

Start service

sudo /etc/init.d/tftpd-hpa restart

Check status

netstat -lu


Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address           Foreign Address         State 
udp        0      0 *:tftp                  *:*                          

PXE boot files setup

Your tftpboot should look like this:

 |-- pxelinux.0
 |-- pxelinux.cfg/
 |   `-- default
 `-- Ubuntu/
     |-- initrd.gz
     `-- vmlinuz

SYSLINUX is a boot loader for the Linux operating system. We can use it to display a menu during system boot. To proceed, install SYSLINUX.

sudo apt-get -y install syslinux

When the client boots, DHCP will provide it with the TFTP server and filename (pxelinux.0). In order to boot from the file, copy it to the TFTP boot folder.

sudo cp /usr/lib/syslinux/pxelinux.0 /var/lib/tftpboot  

The “vesamenu.c32” is used to display a graphical menu, so lets copy it from the syslinux folder to the TFTP boot folder

sudo cp /usr/lib/syslinux/vesamenu.c32 /var/lib/tftpboot/

SYSLINUX will read its configuration from the “pxelinux.cfg” directory.

sudo mkdir -p  /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/

Create the PXE configuration file

sudo nano /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/pxe.conf   

Add the following content

MENU COLOR border               30;44      #ffffffff #00000000 std

Its possible to customise the menu based on the MAC address and IP address of the client. In this case, we’ll create a default menu for all TFTP clients.

sudo nano /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default

Add the following content. It creates an Ubuntu menu, allowing us to add more Linux distributions to TFTP.

DEFAULT vesamenu.c32 
MENU INCLUDE pxelinux.cfg/pxe.conf
LABEL BootLocal
        localboot 0
        TEXT HELP
        Boot to local hard disk
        LABEL Previous
        MENU LABEL Previous Menu
        TEXT HELP
        Return to previous menu
        MENU EXIT
        MENU INCLUDE Ubuntu/

Create the folder where we’ll store Ubuntu menus.

sudo mkdir /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/

Create the Ubuntu Menu. The file is being referenced by “/var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default”.

sudo nano /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/

Add the following content. Notice the TFTP server IP Addresses as well as the paths the kernel and preseed.cfg is loaded from. Change it to suit your environment.

        MENU LABEL Ubuntu 14.04 (64-bit)
        kernel tftp://
        append auto=true priority=critical vga=788 initrd=tftp:// locale=en_US.UTF-8 kbd-chooser/method=us netcfg/choose_interface=auto url=tftp://
        TEXT HELP
        Boot the Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit DVD

Create directories to store the media. If you recall, we exported an NFS share /srv/install.

sudo mkdir -p /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64

Download Ubuntu Server 14.04 ISO


Mount the ISO and copy all the files to the TFTP folder.

sudo mkdir /mnt/loop
sudo mount -o loop -t iso9660 ~/ubuntu-14.04-server-amd64.iso /mnt/loop
sudo cp -R /mnt/loop/* /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64
sudo cp -R /mnt/loop/.disk /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64
sudo umount /mnt/loop

Create a preseed.cfg to automate the Ubuntu 14.04 installation. The following file was copied from the Ubuntu Site.

wget -O /var/lib/tftpboot/preseed.cfg

It is also possible to make separate directories within tftp root folder.

You can use Netboot as template, where pxelinux.cfg/default includes display_ubuntu/menu.cfg which by itself includes display_ubuntu/text.cfg which contains the main menu of Ubuntu boot:

$ tree -L 2
├── bios_flash.img
├── clonezilla
│   ├── filesystem.squashfs
│   ├── initrd.img
│   ├── parameters.txt
│   └── vmlinuz
├── display_ubuntu
│   ├── adtext.cfg
│   ├── f10.txt
│   ├── f1.txt
│   ├── f2.txt
│   ├── f3.txt
│   ├── f4.txt
│   ├── f5.txt
│   ├── f6.txt
│   ├── f7.txt
│   ├── f8.txt
│   ├── f9.txt
│   ├── menu.cfg
│   ├── po4a.cfg
│   ├── prompt.cfg
│   ├── splash0.png
│   ├── splash1.png
│   ├── splash.png
│   ├── splash.xcf
│   ├── stdmenu.cfg
│   ├── text.cfg
│   └── vesamenu.c32
├── etc
│   └── boot.conf
├── FDSTD.144
├── hello.boot
├── memdisk
├── Notes.txt
├── openbsd
│   ├── bsd
│   ├──
│   ├── bsd.rd
│   └── pxeboot.0
├── pxelinux.0
├── pxelinux.cfg
│   ├── default
│   └── default.backup
├── ubuntu_14.04
│   ├── initrd.gz
│   └── vmlinuz
├── ubuntu_mini.iso

Example: of pxelinux.cfg/default

include display_ubuntu/menu.cfg
default display_ubuntu/vesamenu.c32
prompt 0
timeout 0

Example: display_ubuntu/menu.cfg

menu hshift 7
menu width 65
menu margin 5

menu title GNU/Linux Rescue Collection

include display_ubuntu/stdmenu.cfg
include display_ubuntu/text.cfg

menu begin advanced
    menu title Advanced options
    label mainmenu
        menu label ^Back..
        menu exit
    include display_ubuntu/stdmenu.cfg
    include display_ubuntu/adtext.cfg
menu end

label help
    menu label ^Help
    config display_ubuntu/prompt.cfg

Example: display_ubuntu/text.cfg

DEFAULT ubuntu_14.04_install

LABEL test_kernel
    MENU LABEL ^Test Kernel
    KERNEL hello.boot

LABEL clonezilla
    MENU LABEL ^CloneZilla
    KERNEL clonezilla/vmlinuz
    APPEND initrd=clonezilla/initrd.img boot=live union=aufs noswap noprompt vga=788 ocs_live_keymap=NONE ocs_lang=en_US.UTF-8 fetch=tftp://

LABEL mini_ubuntu
    MENU LABEL Mini-Ubuntu
    KERNEL memdisk
    APPEND initrd=ubuntu_mini.iso

LABEL freedos
Testing boot from Floppy IMG.
    KERNEL memdisk
    APPEND initrd=FDSTD.144

LABEL bios_flash
    MENU LABEL Bios Flash
    KERNEL memdisk
    APPEND initrd=bios_flash.img

LABEL openbsd
    KERNEL openbsd/pxeboot.0

LABEL ubuntu_14.04_install
        menu label ^Ubuntu 14.04 net install
        kernel ubuntu_14.04/vmlinuz
        append vga=normal initrd=ubuntu_14.04/initrd.gz -- quiet

LABEL ubuntu_14.04_cli
        menu label Ubuntu 14.04 ^command-line net install
        kernel ubuntu_14.04/vmlinuz
        append tasks=standard pkgsel/language-pack-patterns= pkgsel/install-language-support=false vga=normal initrd=ubuntu_14.04/initrd.gz -- quiet

LABEL pxeserver2
        menu label Switch to 2nd PXE server...

Over http ?

For that we need a webserver: Install apache package

apt-get install apache2

Copying… Ubuntu files

Create an ubuntu directory under your freshly installed apache’s document root and copy all of the contents of the Ubuntu Alternate CD to that directory

mkdir /var/www/ubuntu
cp -r /media/cdrom/* /var/www/ubuntu/

Customising the install

There is a package called system-config-kickstart which is a GUI frontend to creating kickstart files. The kickstart file tells the installer where to get its packages from, what to install and a number of other useful settings.

This package does not have to be installed on your install server, it can be on a convenient Ubuntu desktop somewhere.

Create a custom ks.cfg with system-config-kickstart, be sure to specify HTTP under “Installation Method”. Provide the IP of you install server and make the HTTP Directory /ubuntu/ Save the file and copy it to your install server under /var/www/html/

A very minimalist ks.cfg file which only uses the installation files on the install server and asks for all other questions might look like this

url --url

Use your ks.cfg

In order for your network Ubuntu install to use your kickstart file, you have to tell it where to find it.

Edit /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default and add ks=http://<installserver>/ks.cfg to the append line. It should then look something like this (note that the append line is one line)

label linux
       kernel ubuntu-installer/i386/linux
       append ks= vga=normal initrd=ubuntu-installer/i386/initrd.gz ramdisk_size=16432 root=/dev/rd/0 rw  --

In Jaunty the default file has been broken up into includes. The append line can be found in /ubuntu-installer/i386/boot-screens/text.cfg

label install
        menu label ^Install (from my http server)
        menu default
        kernel ubuntu-installer/i386/linux
        append ks= vga=normal initrd=ubuntu-installer/i386/initrd.gz -- quiet

 Make Your PXE Server really useful with Clonezilla

Besides Clonezilla Live CD and Live USB, Clonezilla Live can be put on a PXE server so that a client can be booted via network to use Clonezilla live. This is how:

  1. Prepare a PXE server. We assume the pxelinux config file is /tftpboot/nbi_img/pxelinux.cfg/default, and the image files are in /tftpboot/nbi_img/.
  2. Download Clonezilla live zip file (You have to use Clonezilla live 1.2.0-25 or later), and unzip the required files (vmlinuz, initrd.img, and filesystem.squashfs in dir live) to /tftpboot/nbi_img/. You can make it by something like: “unzip -j clonezilla-live-*.zip live/vmlinuz live/initrd.img live/filesystem.squashfs -d /tftpboot/nbi_img/” (Replace clonezilla-live-*.zip with the file name you just downloaded).
  3. Edit your PXElinux config file /tftpboot/nbi_img/pxelinux.cfg/default, and append the following:
    label Clonezilla-live
    MENU LABEL Clonezilla Live (Ramdisk)
    KERNEL vmlinuz
    APPEND initrd=initrd.img boot=live config noswap nolocales edd=on nomodeset ocs_live_run="ocs-live-general" ocs_live_extra_param="" keyboard-layouts="" ocs_live_batch="no" locales="" vga=788 nosplash noprompt fetch=tftp://$serverIP/filesystem.squashfs


    1. Replace $serverIP with your IP address of tftp (DRBL) server.
    2. Remember to check kernel, initrd file names and boot parameters in syslinux/syslinux.cfg from the zip file, copy them to here. It might be different from here, say vmlinuz path maybe different.
      For more info about pxelinux, you can refere to here.
    3. Here we do not put “ip=frommedia” in the boot parameters because the /etc/resolv.conf get in live-initramfs won’t exist in the system after initramfs is done.
    4. “fetch” also supports http or ftp, if you want to use http or ftp instead of tftp, you have to put the file filesystem.squashfs in your http or ftp server and the corresponding path.
    5. If you want to do unattended clone, you can assign clonezilla live parameters (ocs_live_run, ocs_live_extra_param, ocs_live_keymap, ocs_live_batch and ocs_lang) in kernel parameters. For example, you can use:
      append initrd=initrd.img boot=live union=aufs noswap noprompt vga=788 keyboard-layouts=NONE locales=en_US.UTF-8 fetch=tftp://$serverIP/filesystem.squashfs

      in the above example to assign your PXE client to use default keymap (US) and English environment. For more info about those parameters, you can refer to CloneZilla live documentation