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Changing Boot order for MDT Litetouch November 10, 2009

Posted by keithga in MDT 2010.

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) has the ability to initiate a new computer installation from several different sources:

  • Boot from Litetouch CD Boot image. This is about a 200MB *.iso image that allows you to connect to a deployment share on the network.
  • Network Booting. You can also take the Litetouch Boot image and PXE boot over the network if you have a WDS (Windows Deployment Services) Server available.
  • Media Builds. You can also copy a subset of the deployment share onto a DVD drive for installs that do not have any network access or slow network access.
  • OEM installs. If you have a Media Build ready, MDT also has the ability to prepare the DVD for OEM installation.
  • USB Flash/USB Hard Disk. If you have a USB Drive, you can prepare the drive to boot either the Litetouch Boot Image, or a Litetouch Media image to boot off of USB. This is helpful if you are trying to deploy an image that is larger than 8GB, the largest DVD Dual Layer size.

Booting from CD/DVD and from the hard disk are fairly straight forwards. But booting from Network and/or USB requires a little bit of work.

Just a few years ago, in order to boot from other devices, each user would need to ensure that the local machine was configured to boot from these other devices by going into the BIOS at the start of the computer boot-up sequence. This method had problems, since it’s possible to configure the machine to boot into these other devices and leave the machine in an unsecure state.

I had a case recently where a user re-configured the boot order to boot from a USB Hard disk first for a “New Computer” install from USB. Unfortunately, he forgot to change the BIOS boot order back to the default settings after he initiated the install, so after the MDT 2010 Litetouch “New Computer” WinPE phase was complete, it did not reboot into the OS, it booted back into WinPE.

Thankfully, most modern BIOS’es have the ability to boot from these other devices without permanently changing the boot order into an unsafe configuration.

Recommended configurations:

So, what if the boot order settings of your BIOS have been modified beyond recognition?

For most machines, I recommend the following boot order:

  • Boot from CD-ROM
  • Boot from Hard Disk
  • Boot from Network
  • Everything else

For Security Paranoid people, I recommend:

  • Boot from Hard Disk
  • Boot from CD ( Remove from the list if possible )
  • Boot From Network ( Remove from the list if possible )
  • Everything else

For Network/Lab machines that Boot from WDS, you could also do:

  • Boot from Network
  • Boot From CD-ROM
  • Boot From Hard Disk
  • Everything Else

Dynamic Selection of Boot Devices

Instead of modifying the boot order in the BIOS, I recommend changing the BIOS boot order dynamically per boot. Most Modern PC’s support the ability to dynamically select the BIOS boot order during boot up using some combination of F12, F10, or sometimes: F9

For example, my Dell machines, pressing F12 should bring up a menu of all available boot devices.

My HP machines have a similar option, pressing F9 should bring up a menu of available boot devices as well.


Keith Garner is a Deployment Specialist with Xtreme Consulting Group


1. Mya - January 11, 2012

Need to know how to set PXE boot up for Lite Touch Deployment. It works with CD but I can’t get it to work otherwise.

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