First, let me preface this by saying I'm sure there's a simpler way to implement our backup process, but what we have now requires making changes in only one place, rather than on individual user's workstations, so it works well enough for us (I manage the backups of about 15 workstations for a small company).

I'd like to set up a scheduled task in Windows that will change the boot order such that PXE boot occurs before the HDD. Ideally this is something that could also execute in a Windows PE environment so I can change the boot order back to HDD first when my Windows PE task completes. I've seen mention of using bcdedit to change the OS boot order when there are multiple OS's installed, but we just run single-OS systems, and I'm trying to change the boot order of other hardware. I also tried fiddling with bcdedit and didn't see anything that looked like what I'm after.

I suspect this isn't possible, but I'm mostly just curious if I can do this. It's more a matter of convenience to the user than anything else. Even if it's not the best solution for us, I'm still curious how to do it.

Here's a more complete sequence of what I'd like to achieve:

  1. Scheduled task wakes PC and boots into Windows.
  2. After waking, the task changes the boot order so the network adapter comes before the HDD.
  3. Scheduled task reboots the PC.
  4. PC boots to a Windows PE image from a WDS server.
  5. Windows PE performs a customized backup of the PC.
  6. After backup is complete, Windows PE changes boot order back to HDD first.
  7. Windows PE shuts down the PC.

The reason I want to do this is our current setup requires all the workstations to keep the BIOS boot order such that a PXE boot occurs before the HDD. Since the WDS server is only running when needed for the backup, this boot sequence times out after a couple of minutes (unless the user presses Esc). It would be nice to avoid this so the the PC normally just boots directly into Windows, and only tries to boot over the network when needed.

  • You are correct, you cannot change the BIOS boot order from within Windows.
    – jnovack
    Apr 7 '13 at 3:58

Most, if not all, BIOSs are inaccessible from within the OS. I have seen a few manufacturer based programs that let you access some of the BIOS functions, but not in a very, very long time.


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