Windows Deployment Server Selection Menu (PXE)

This post is about a somewhat hidden option of WDS, which allows you to modify the default behavior the WDS PXE provider/listener.

While this isn’t per se entirely new to everyone, I do find it worth elaborating the uses of this option.

There might be multiple scenario’s where you might find the need to be able to select from which server you actually want to PXE boot from, without specifying with the wdsutil a server that a device should boot to (specify /ReferralServer:<server name>).

The best example I can give you, is that you’re wanting to try to implement System Center Configuration Manager. So lets say you want to try to get to know the product, you’d run it in your lab or test environment which also already has a regular WDS(+MDT; fully optional though) server and it’s used to build your reference images on. Now you could stop the WDS service on that server or shut the server down entirely, but another option would be to allow you to select from which server you want to boot the client pc when it’s doing a PXE boot. There’s one small “requirement” for this setup though,

The “regular” WDS server, which uses the WDS PXE listener, needs to be the server that responds to clients first. So the response delay needs to be lower then the response time of the PXE listener of the SCCM PXE service point. This will ensure that the WDS PXE listener is used to “catch” the clients that are sending out PXE boot requests. Now to enable the usage of the server selection screen, you will need to edit a value in the registry.

You can paste the code below into a text file and save it as .reg to update the value for you, or browse to it manually and edit the value from 0 to 1. After this change the WDS service needs to be restarted.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00



Once this change has been made, the next time a client will boot from PXE, the screen will be slightly different. In the first screenshot below, I’ve already pressed F11 to start the discovery of PXE servers. Once it has found all servers, it will bring you to the second screen, notice how it lists the second server as [UNKOWN] ? the reason behind this is because it actually uses a different PXE provider (SMSPXE instead of BINLSVC). And SMSPXE cannot be configured from the registry like BINLSVC can, SMSPXE can only be configured from the SCCM console, and has less options available for configuration. That’s the reason behind leaving the “regular” WDS server as the primary PXE boot server.


I hope you found this informative, if you have any questions feel free to email me or leave a comment.


Kind regards,

Stephan Schwarz

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