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netboot.xyz boots PCs from an image on the web

02 February 2016, Mike Williams

netboot.xyzIf you’ve been managing computers for a few years then you’ve probably build up a library of supporting discs or USB keys. OS installers, antivirus rescue discs, backup tools, partition repair, hardware checkers, and the list goes on.

These aren’t just a hassle to build. You’ll also need to keep them up-to-date, and make sure they’re around and working whenever you need them.

Netboot.xyz is an interesting alternative. It’s a bootable environment which uses iPXE to display a web-based menu of assorted OS installers and utilities. Choose one, it’s downloaded and your system boots from it – no local media required.

To get started, download the netboot.xyz ISO, burn it to a CD or DVD, create a bootable USB key, or assign it to your favourite virtualization tool.

Boot from netboot.xyz and it automatically connects to http://netboot.xyz and displays your various options: “Boot from local hdd”, “Linux Installers”, “BSD Installers”, “FreeDOS installers”, “Utilities”, “iPXE shell”, “Network card info”.

netboot

Browse the boot menu to find the image you need

If you want to install Ubuntu, say, you’d select Linux Installers > Ubuntu, choose your preferred release and install type (Install, Rescue Mode, Expert Install, Specify preseed url).

If you’re running a PC then you’ll be most interested in the Tools menu, where you’ll find applications to edit the Windows password, recover lost partitions, test RAM, detect and remove viruses, run or restore image backups, securely erase your hard drive, and more.

Select what you need from the menu and netboot.xyz downloads the appropriate image. This uses a link to the original project directory or a trusted mirror, not a netboot.xyz-hosted copy, so there are minimal security concerns.

Once the image arrives, your system boots from it, and you carry on just as if you’d booted from a local DVD or USB key.

Netboot.xyz worked well for us: it’s lightweight (a 1MB ISO), connected automatically with no intervention required, ran quickly and displayed enough status information to make it clear what was going on, for anyone interested. Check it out.

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