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I have the following situation on a laptop that I need to get Win8 (32-bit) onto:

The Ingredients

  • A laptop that:
    • Can't boot from USB
    • Doesn't have a working DVD drive apparently
    • Apparently does have the ability to network boot
    • Does not have a working version of Windows 7 on the laptop any more (since I attempted to start the install by formatting the HD to free up space. D'oh!)
  • A Windows 8 32-bit install disc
  • An ISO of the install disc
  • My machine, a beefy Win8 Desktop that I could throw a VM onto if I had to.

I'm looking into PXE /TFTP solutions but don't need something to work for hundreds of machines, just easily this one time.

Can you make any recommendations as to the process I could utilize to achieve this?

The Initial Symptom

  • Attempting to install Windows 8 yielded an error about setup files not existing.
  • The evidence seemed to point to a faulty DVD drive (which would make sense; the laptop is quite old).
  • Burned the ISO of the disk on my desktop and transferred to USB, upon which I realized that this laptop can't boot from USBs.

Things I've Tried so Far

(will update as I keep going)

  • Looked into this ServerFault question but the answer in this case is to run the .exe from windows 7, which isn't an option for me due to having formatted the device and killed the boot sector.
  • Looking into an app called Serva, which seems like it could be a solution but might be overkill and difficult to configure.
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migrated from Aug 11 '13 at 21:19

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

Have you tried a USB DVD drive? – Frederik Nielsen Aug 11 '13 at 16:34
Frederik, I certainly would have tried that...if I have one on hand. Hoping there's a way to do this without making an additional purchase since the laptop is already a money pit of sorts. Will be buying one later if I have to.. – SeanKilleen Aug 11 '13 at 16:35
Frederik, just to follow up on that. If I was to purchase a USB dvd drive right now, wouldn't I still have a problem, because the laptop can't boot from a USB and therefore wouldn't see that drive to boot from it? Or would I start the installation in the DVD drive, move the install DVD to the USB drive, and then try to boot from there somehow? A little confused as to how you'd suggest implementing your idea. – SeanKilleen Aug 11 '13 at 16:39
Just a note, but errors during install are often due to bad RAM rather than bad media. Also, are you sure it can't boot from USB? Did you make the USB disk using the Microsoft tool? – Dan Aug 11 '13 at 16:45
As you've implied that Win 8 booted though it gave you an error, did you try booting another bootable iso on CD/DVD in case the Win 8 disk is the issue? – archery1234 Aug 11 '13 at 21:52

The canonical way to deploy Windows over the network is to use Windows Deployment Services. You should read the documentation and configure it to automate your Windows deployments via PXE.

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The "practical" way to do this is using Serva.

If you do not know WDS forget about it. You'll need a lot of time learning the tool, on the other hand Serva is the “easiest” PXE server around.

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I'd note that serva's developer got suspended from both SU and SF for spamming links to his product in answers. I'd suggest that unless the answer can demonstrably show that its better, I'd go with doing it the 'right' way. – Journeyman Geek Aug 15 '13 at 12:24
up vote 0 down vote accepted

I ended up purchasing a USB DVD drive as Frederick suggested in the comments. Worked just fine.

Unfortunately it doesn't answer the question directly, but I think it gets the answer here because while WDS with PXE would have been a viable option, it seemed to be overkill for one-time use and I didn't want to go there.

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