A few months ago, our IT staff needed to replace all 1000 of our systems with new workstations running Windows XP Professional Edition and add a Windows 2000 server in each site. We wanted to install the workstations at the 50 remote sites rather than at a staging site. We decided to use Microsoft Remote Installation Services (RIS) with the Remote Installation Preparation tool (riprep.exe) to distribute the image to the clients. Although the installation was successful, we encountered several problems.

We used an XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) clean installation and connected a few Compaq Evo 310 workstations to a simple 10Mbps hub as a test environment to install RIS on our Win2K SP3 test server. Before we tested the image, we used RIS to install a clean instance of XP SP1. We used the network boot (i.e., Preboot Execution Environment--PXE) to start the workstation, entered the user credentials, and selected the OS from the RIS menu. The installation stopped with the error message The operating system image you selected does not contain the necessary drivers for your network adapter. Try selecting a different operating system image. If the problem persists, contact your system administrator. As the Microsoft articles "How to Add a Third-Party OEM Network Adapter to an RIS Installation" (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=315279) and "How to Add Third-Party OEM Network Adapters to RIS Installations" (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=246184) recommend, we put the .sys and .inf files into the clean installation's i386 directory.

When we tried to download the image from the server, the installation stopped with a blue screen. The Microsoft article "'Stop 0x0000006b' or Setup Stops Responding at 'Setup is starting Windows' When You Install a Windows XP SP1 Client Image from a RIS Server" (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=327536) suggests using an XP SP1 update from a Win2K server. Also, the Microsoft article "How to Deploy Windows XP Images from Windows 2000 RIS Servers" (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=304314) suggests installing a Riprep update from the \RemoteInstall\Admin\i386 folder. We installed the updates and finished downloading the image to the master workstation. Next, we used the unattend.doc file from the Win2K installation CD-ROM's support\tools\deploy.cab file to configure the master image. Then, we uploaded the final image to the server.

We tested the image at one of our sites. The clients didn't receive an IP address from the DHCP server during a network boot. We discovered that the clients' DHCP request timeout was causing the problem. Because of spanning-tree checking, the Cisco Systems' switch interface takes 30­50 seconds to change the state to Up. To solve this problem, we upgraded the Evo 310 workstations' BIOS versions, then entered the Spanning-tree Portfast command in each interface of the Cisco switch that was connected to a workstation. (Be careful if you use this command on a device that needs spanning tree--e.g., a hub--because the command might cause bridging loops.)

The time it took to download a complete image from RIS was about 20 minutes in our test environment. We expected better performance at our production sites because the test environment included a 10Mbps hub whereas our production sites use a Cisco Catalyst 2950T-24 10/100Mbps switch. However, the production installation took about 60 minutes. To solve this problem, we removed the speed 100 and duplex full commands from each of the Catalyst 2950T-24 switch's ports. The installation then took only 12 minutes per workstation.