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1E 8.1 (on-premises)

Introducing PXE Everywhere

An introduction to the features of PXE Everywhere, what it does, how it can benefit your organization, and a high-level explanation of the PXE Everywhere architecture.

PXE Everywhere allows computers to automatically boot up into Windows PE, which then allows a Windows Operating System to be installed. The following deployment scenarios are supported:

  • Installing a Windows OS image for the first time (the 'New Computer' scenario, sometimes known as 'bare-metal')

  • Installing a Windows OS image when the current OS is not bootable (often referred to as 'break-fix')

  • Installing a Windows OS image when the current OS can be wiped and there is no requirement to retain user data (for example, when preparing a previously used computer for a new user).

Typically this is achieved using either USB media or booting directly from the network using the Pre-Execution Environment (PXE) code built in to the network adapter. Booting from the network requires one or more PXE servers to be implemented that serve the Windows PE boot image to the booting PXE client. Implementing PXE in Configuration Manager requires DPs with the PXE role enabled. To avoid PXE clients downloading the Windows PE boot image (anything upwards of 200MB) over the WAN, DPs need to be located wherever you need to use PXE. It is unlikely that you have Distribution Points in every location, especially if you are using 1E Nomad to eliminate remote Distribution Points. As PXE requests are broadcast on the local subnet, if there is no PXE server on the local subnet you need to configure IP helpers on routers to forward the PXE requests to the PXE server. The PXE client will then try to download the Windows PE boot image from the PXE server over the WAN, which can take hours on slow links and provides no bandwidth management.

PXE Everywhere addresses this issue by implementing a lightweight PXE server (the PXE Everywhere agent) on computers, enabling you to eliminate Configuration Manager PXE servers and instead make every computer (or as many as you want) on the network a potential PXE server. Each subnet therefore has one or more PXE servers available to serve the Windows PE boot image so there is no router configuration required unless DHCP Snooping is enabled, and the Windows PE boot image is not downloaded over the WAN. The boot image can be staged on the PXE Everywhere agent machines using Nomad, which ensures the boot image can be safely transferred to remote subnets ahead of deployments without slowing down other traffic on the network.

When a PXE client boots up, the PXE request is intercepted by each of the PXE Everywhere agents. These agents then elect one agent to check with Configuration Manager to see if there are any OS deployments targeted at the booting PXE client. If so, the PXE Everywhere agents will then hold a second election to determine which PXE Everywhere agent should respond to the booting PXE client. The elected agent sends the response and the booting PXE client downloads the boot image from the elected agent. PXE Everywhere supports booting BIOS and UEFI systems. It integrates with Configuration Manager and works with your existing OS Deployment Task Sequences.