Automation Preboot Services in Deployment Solution™ 6.8

Automation Preboot Services in Deployment Solution™ 6.8
Automation Preboot Services in
Deployment Solution™ 6.8
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Deployment Solution 6.8
What is Automation?
Deployment Solution uses two modes to manage computers:
Automation is to the pre-boot environment loaded by
Deployment Server to perform tasks which need to
happen outside of the normal operating system.
If you have ever used a disk imaging utility, or booted a
computer using an installation CD, you are probably
familiar with running computers in a similar
The normal operating system of the computer.
Production tasks include software installation and
personality capture.
Several of the tasks you perform to manage your network can be completed in the
production environment. However, other tasks, primarily imaging, must be performed
before the operating system boots. In Deployment Solution, this pre-boot environment
is called the automation environment, or booting into “automation mode”.
The following table contains a list of Deployment Solution tasks and the environment in
which they execute:
Production Tasks
Automation Tasks
Distribute Software
Create Disk Image
Capture Personality
Distribute Disk Image
Distribute Personality
Scripted OS Install
Get Inventory
Run script
Copy File to
Modify Configuration
Power Control
Run script
In order to manage computers in automation, you must select a method to boot
computers to automation, then decide which operating to use in the automation
Deployment Solution provides support for a broad range of boot methods and
automation operating systems; this section helps you decide which works best for your
In order to set up automation, you must make the following decisions:
Which Automation Boot Method Should I Use? (page 4)
Which Automation Operating System Should I Use? (page 7)
Altiris Deployment Solution 6.8
Automation Boot Methods
Which Automation Boot Method Should I Use?
Deployment Solution supports a broad range of methods to boot computers into the
automation pre-boot environment: PXE, automation partitions, or boot media (CD/DVD,
USB device, or floppy).
This section provides an overview of the available boot methods to help you select the
method that works best for your environment, and contains the following:
PXE (page 4)
Automation Partitions (page 5)
Boot Media (DVD/CD, USB Device, Floppy) (page 5)
Pre-boot Execution Environment (PXE) is an industry standard developed to boot
computers using a network card. PXE can boot computers regardless of the disk
configuration or operating system installed, and doesn’t require any files or
configuration settings on a client. After PXE boot is turned on in the BIOS, a computer
can communicate with your DS PXE server to receive automation jobs.
PXE provides a number of advantages, especially when you are using the initial
deployment features of DS, which enables you to remotely deploy an image to a
computer which has no software installed.
Example: the receiving department of your company could have PXE enabled on their
subnet. When a new computer arrives, a technician could quickly unpack and plug the
computer into the network, and possibly enable PXE boot if it was not enabled by the
When this unknown computer contacts the Deployment Server, it is assigned an initial
deployment job, which could image the computer with the corporate standard image,
install additional packages, then power off the computer. The computer is now ready for
delivery with minimal effort.
PXE also provides an advantage if you need to use multiple automation OSs in your
environment. Since the image containing the automation OS is downloaded when a task
is executed, different OS environments can easily be assigned to different tasks.
At the same time however, this can be a disadvantage if you are using an OS with a
large footprint, such as Windows PE, since the entire image must be downloaded each
time you run an automation task. If you often run automation jobs, especially on several
computers simultaneously, embedding the automation OS on the disk is faster and
significantly reduces network traffic.
It is also possible to use PXE for initial deployment, then install an automation partition
as part of the deployment. In this case, you could use the initial deployment features of
PXE for arriving computers, then install an automation partition in case you need access
to automation at a later time.
This configuration does not require PXE in your general network environment, but still
provides access to the automation environment without physical access.
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When using the DOS automation environment, PXE provides an additional advantage:
multicast boot. This enables your PXE server to simultaneously boot up to 100
computers in a single session to perform automation work.
Although multicast imaging is supported in WinPE and Linux, multicast PXE booting is
not provided in WinPE and is not supported in Linux. That means that after each
computer has booted to automation, an imaging task can be multicast, but you cannot
use multicast to boot these computers.
Automation Partitions
An automation partition is a sector of your hard disk drive partitioned and managed by
DS. This partition contains the automation operating system and the files needed to
contact your Deployment Server, and must be present on each managed computer.
The biggest advantage to an embedded partition is that it does not require PXE, yet it
still enables you to boot into automation remotely. The biggest disadvantages to
embedded partitions are that they consume space on the drive, they require an existing
partition on the drive, and they must be manually installed from a disk on Linux and
Unix OSs.
Another drawback, depending on your configuration, might be the fact that only one
automation OS can be installed to a managed computer that is using an automation
partition. If you have tools that are supported only in DOS, this might limit you to DOS
for all automation tasks on a particular managed computer.
Automation partitions have an additional advantage in some configurations. Optionally,
you can create a different type of automation partition, called a hidden partition, to store
an image (or other files) locally.
This provides advantages in environments where computers need to be re-imaged often
or in environments where there is limited bandwidth or network connectivity. Since the
image is stored locally, the time needed to create and restore images is greatly reduced
and network traffic is significantly reduced as well.
Boot Media (DVD/CD, USB Device, Floppy)
Generally, the biggest drawback to boot media is that it forces you to physically access
the managed computer. However, if you are managing smaller numbers of computers or
do not plan to access the automation environment often, it might be a good choice. Also,
if you have employees with the ability and access to boot their own computers using
disks you provide, this could also be a good solution.
Boot media has some configuration limitations though. Deployment Solution is designed
to manage computers remotely, even in the automation mode, and several tasks and
jobs require access to both the production operating system and the automation
An imaging operation first captures configuration details from the production operating
system before booting to automation to capture the image. After imaging, this
configuration is restored.
Because of this, it is often difficult to schedule a job, then coordinate booting the
managed computer to the right environment at the right time. If you assign a job which
requires booting into automation mode, the boot disk must be present at the right time
to boot automation. If a complex job requires access to the production environment
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during this time, the BIOS will most likely continue to boot to automation until the boot
media is removed. If this job, or a subsequent job, requires automation access again,
the boot media must be re-inserted.
To avoid these issues, some customers load the automation operating system, the
RapiDeploy imaging executable, and the image on bootable physical media. They then
boot a computer, execute the necessary commands, then provide the required image
files. In this circumstance, the remote management capabilities of Deployment Server
are not being used, so the process is more manual, but it does not require network
This works especially well when managing thin clients or other computers where all
necessary files can fit on a single disk or USB device.
Altiris Deployment Solution 6.8
Automation Operating Systems
Which Automation Operating System Should I Use?
After you have selected a method to boot computers into automation, you need to
decide which operating system you want to use. In the past, MS DOS was the only
supported option. Deployment Solution now supports Windows PE, Linux, MS DOS, and
This section provides an overview of the available automation OSs so you can find an
environment (or environments) that suit your needs.
An important thing to note is that the automation environment you use is not
constrained by the production OS on the computer. All of the DS automation tools
support these OSs, so you can perform DS automation tasks in any OS (Linux
computers can be imaged from DOS, Windows computers can be imaged from Linux,
and so on).
You might even use two automation OSs for different tasks within the same job.
Example: you might use a vendor-supplied tool to perform a BIOS update in DOS, then
boot to Windows PE or Linux to perform an imaging task.
When you set up your test environment, you might want to run automation jobs in
multiple OSs to see if one performs better in your environment.
The following sections contain an overview of the automation operating systems:
DOS (page 7)
Windows PE (page 7)
Linux (page 8)
Although you can use these environments to perform a wide-variety of management
using scripts and other tools, support for these environments is limited to the task
performed by Deployment Solution.
DOS is still used often today as a pre-boot environment, though new technologies have
emerged that might better suit your environment, such as Windows PE.
The largest roadblocks most companies face when using DOS are access to drivers that
support modern hardware, and security concerns. DOS still performs well for several
tasks though, and can be a good choice if you have the proper driver support.
DOS typically requires only around 1 MB of space.
DOS provides an additional advantage in a PXE environment. When performing an
automation task on multiple computers, the PXE server can use multicast to boot
automation, which enables large numbers of managed computers to boot DOS
Windows PE
Windows PE (Windows Pre-boot Environment) is the next generation boot environment
for Windows computers. Windows PE provides several advantages over DOS, including
Altiris Deployment Solution 6.8
better driver support (Windows PE uses the same drivers used by the other modern
versions of Windows), increased speed, and generally more functionality.
Windows PE typically requires around 150 MB of space.
The biggest drawbacks are its size, which causes increased boot time, especially when
booting over the network using PXE, and its licensing requirements. Additionally, clients
using Windows PE require at least 256 MB of RAM.
Linux provides an alternate pre-boot environment to DOS or Windows PE. Many vendors
provide gigabit and wireless drivers for Linux that are not available in DOS.
Linux typically requires around 10 MB of space.
Linux can be a good choice if you do not want to license MS DOS or Windows PE, but you
need updated driver support.
Altiris Deployment Solution 6.8
Installing and Configuring Automation
This section explains:
Configuring Automation Operating Systems (page 9)
Configuring Automation Boot Methods (page 11)
Deploying Automation to Managed Computers (page 13)
Configuring Automation Operating Systems
The following sections guide you through installing and configuring the automation
operating systems supported by Deployment Solution.
Obtaining and Installing Windows PE, Linux, or DOS
Automation operating systems are installed using the Boot Disk Creator, which is
available in the Deployment Console by clicking Tools > Boot Disk Creator.
The following files are required to install the listed automation operating system:
Windows PE 2005 installation CD. Currently, Windows
PE is available to volume licensing customers through
Microsoft. See
programs/sa/support/winpe.mspx for information on
obtaining Windows PE.
Windows 2003 Server SP1 installation CD.
The Linux 32 and 64-bit and FreeDOS preboot
environments are available on the Deployment Solution
for Clients or Servers download page at http://
Click the Linux and FreeDOS Automation Environment
link and save the file. Browse to the downloaded file
when prompted during the installation, or when adding
preboot operating systems using the Boot Disk Creator.
A Windows 98 installation CD (Windows 98 SE is
preferred), and the proper licensing to use this on the
intended computers. Files are copied from the win98
folder from this installation CD.
The FreeDOS preboot environment is contained in the
same file as the Linux preeboot, see the Linux
instructions for details. For additional information on
FreeDOS visit
To install
In Deployment Console, click Tools > Boot Disk Creator.
In Boot Disk Creator, click Tools > Install Pre-Boot Operating Systems.
Altiris Deployment Solution 6.8
Click Install and complete the wizard, providing the files listed in the previous table
when prompted.
For complete details on this process see the Boot Disk Creator help.
Adding Additional Files
Occasionally, you might need to make additional files available within an automation
environment, such as utilities or mass storage drivers. These files can be added to every
automation configuration of a specific type, or to select configurations only. This is
determined by the location you add the files in Boot Disk Creator:
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The following example provides an overview of this process.
Adding Mass Storage Drivers for Windows PE
Select either the Windows PE Additional Files folder, or a specific Boot Disk Creator
Right-click and select add > Folder. Using this add folder command, create the
following path: i386\system32\diskdrivers
Within the diskdrivers folder, create the necessary folders to contain your drivers.
The folders you add should contain a txtsetup.oem file, and at least one *.sys file,
and possibly additional files. You must also ensure that any sub-folders specified by
txtsetup.oem are included, and that the [defaults] section references the proper
device driver (some textsetup.oem files might support multiple devices and drivers,
and the proper device must be specified in the [defaults] section).
The diskdrivers path is for adding mass storage drivers. If you are adding different
driver types, you might need to modify this path.
Configuring Automation Boot Methods
When pre-boot tasks need to be performed, DS sends a message to the client computer
to restart in the automation environment. This includes a shutdown command issued
from DS, and a modification to the MBR if using an automation partition.
After the managed computer reboots, the automation environment is loaded from PXE,
an automation partition, or from boot media. The deployment agent then contacts the
Deployment Server.
After a connection is established, the Deployment Server sends the client computer its
assigned jobs and tasks. After the automation tasks run, a status message is sent to the
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Deployment Server indicating that all work is complete. The Deployment Server then
sends a message that the client computer should reboot back to the Production
environment (the MBR is then restored when using automation partitions).
The following sections guide you through the process of setting up PXE, automation
partitions, or media to boot your computers into the automation mode:
Configuring PXE
Configuring Automation Partitions
Configuring Boot Media (DVD/CD, USB device, Floppy)
Configuring PXE
PXE is a server-based technology, and requires additional components on your DS
server, and possibly other computers. Setting up and configuring PXE is covered in detail
in a separate document, PXE in Deployment Solution.
Configuring Automation Partitions
DS provides two types of automation partitions:
A small embedded section installed on the production
partition of a managed computer which contains the
automation OS. Depending on the OS, the size varies
from 5 to 200 MB (you specify the size when the
partition is created based on recommendations).
Hidden Partition
A larger partition installed on the hard drive of a
managed computer to contain not only the automation
OS, but to provide room to store images and other files.
This partition is not normally viewable in the production
An embedded partition doesn’t create an actual disk partition, it reserves space on an
existing partition by marking the sectors on the disk as unusable. The target drive must
have an existing partition before an embedded partition can be installed.
A hidden partition creates an actual disk partition, but this partition is hidden from
normal view within the production system, though it is still viewable by FDISK or by an
administrator. The partition is listed as a non-DOS partition.
When a computer using an automation partition is assigned jobs, the Master Boot
Record (MBR) of the computer is modified to boot to this hidden partition. After the work
is completed, the MBR is restored to the previous configuration.
Hidden partitions are very useful for computers which are imaged often, such as those in
a test lab or provided for general use (such as a hotel or a library). After the visiting
person is done using this computer, you may want to quickly re-image to ensure that the
next visitor finds the computer in good working order. In these circumstances, a hidden
partition enables you to quickly restore an image without needing access to a high
bandwidth network.
Automation partitions can be installed using an installation package deployed from DS
(windows only), or installed from a CD, USB device, or floppy. This is different than
using boot media to access automation, because the automation partition media is used
once per computer to install, then the partition is used to perform tasks.
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Using boot media to access automation doesn’t leave any files on the computer, but the
media must be used each time you want to access automation.
Configuring Boot Media (DVD/CD, USB device, Floppy)
Creating and using boot media is a straightforward process. Boot media boots a
managed computer to automation without leaving any files on the computer, and can be
installed to DVDs, CDs, USB devices, or floppy disks.
Boot media is created directly from the Boot Disk Creator utility.
Deploying Automation to Managed Computers
Automation partitions and boot media configurations are created using the Boot Disk
Creator utility. PXE configurations are created using the PXE configuration utility.
This difference is due to the way in which the automation OS is deployed to the
managed computer. Automation partitions and boot media use install packages or boot
disks, while PXE uses a configurable menu to provide boot options, with each option on
the PXE menu linked to a specific automation configuration.
This section contains guidelines to create PXE, automation partitions, or boot media
configurations and deploy these configurations to managed computers.
Using Automation Partitions or Boot Media
Install the automation OSs you want to use, as explained in Obtaining and Installing
Windows PE, Linux, or DOS.
In Boot Disk Creator, Create a new configuration. The wizard is accessed by clicking
File > New configuration.
This configuration contains the automation OS files, network drivers, IP address of
your server, and other settings which control how the managed computer
communicates with your Deployment Server.
This configuration does not specify how this automation configuration is installed.
This is done using the Create Boot Disk wizard, which is launched automatically
after you create a configuration.
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The Create Boot Disk wizard provides three options:
Create an automation
partition install
Creates an executable, or configures a CD, USB
device, or floppy to install the automation
environment. This process is executed once per
device. After that, the computer uses the files from
the automation partition.
Select this if you are using automation partitions.
For managed linux computers, you need to use a
CD, USB device or floppy because not executable is
provided for this platform.
Create an automation
boot disk
Configures a CD, USB device, or floppy with the
files necessary to boot a computer to automation
mode. After booting, the computer executes any
automation work previously scheduled, or waits for
work to be assigned.
Select this if you are using boot media to boot
computers to automation. None of these files are
installed, so the media must be used each time you
need to access automation.
Create a network boot
Configures a CD, USB device, or floppy with the
files necessary to boot to a prompt.
This is useful if you have management task you
need to perform that doesn’t require interaction
with DS, as your Deployment Server is not
contacted in this scenario. None of these files are
installed to managed computer.
After selecting how you want to install automation, complete the wizard.
See the Boot Disk Creator help for additional details.
You can also uninstall an automation partition using an install package, or configure a
CD, USB device, or floppy from Boot Disk Creator.
Using PXE
Install the automation OSs you want to use, as explained in Obtaining and Installing
Windows PE, Linux, or DOS.
In the PXE Configuration utility (Start > All Programs > Altiris > PXE Services >
PXE Configuration Utility), create a new menu item to correspond to the
automation configuration you want to install.
Click Create Boot Image to launch the configuration wizard. This wizard is identical
to the wizard used when creating configurations for automation Partitions or boot
When this option is selected from the PXE menu, the necessary files are loaded, the
job is performed, then the computer boots to the production OS. None of these files
are saved on the managed computer, they are downloaded each time the computer
boots to automation.
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Provide any additional configuration options, then click Save.
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