Remote Installation Services (RIS)

Although the basics of RIS have been covered in previous articles, you’ll need to know a little more about what it is capable of. Remote Installation Services is part of a broad group of Windows 2000 services that also go by the name Intellimirror. These technologies are meant to allow configuration management to be automated. With RIS, Microsoft has provided a technology that will allow a computer capable of booting off the network to start and automatically download its operating system image. The idea is that in combination with technologies such as group policy, a user could have their complete environment ‘rebuilt’ without necessitating that a technical support person make a physical trip to their location. Note that as far as Microsoft is concerned, RIS only distributes images of Windows 2000 Professional, not Server (or 9x, NT, etc).
As a review, remember that in order for RIS to function, 3 services must be available on the network. These include:

  • DHCP (to give the OS-less client an IP address for network connectivity)
  • DNS (to allow the client to find Active Directory, and subsequently a RIS Server)
  • Active Directory (to control who which users / computers have permissions to access an images, which RIS server provides the requested image, and to determine the computer account placement)

There are also requirements with respect to the client computer in terms of RIS Support. In order for a client machine to be able to boot and obtain an image via RIS, the client requires PXE functionality. PXE stands for Preboot Execution Environment, a technology that allows a PC that supports the standard to obtain TCP/IP network connectivity. This is accomplished in one of three ways.

  1. The client computers meet the PC98 or NetPC specification
  2. The client computers have a PXE-compliant BIOS
  3. The client computers have a supported PXE-compliant network adapter card.

Note that if your client machines do not meet the specs above, there is still hope. Windows 2000 includes support for a small number of network cards that are not PXE-compliant. This support allows a boot disk to be created that allows the PXE to be emulated. In order to create this disk, the rbfg.exe utility must be used (found at \\servername\REMINST\Admin\I386\RBFG.exe).

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.