Fdisk and Format without rebooting

By mrsharky ยท 5 replies
Apr 25, 2006
  1. This situation is unique and does require some creative thinking/solution: I haven't figured it out yet, but hopefully with your help we'll get there.

    We have 200+ computers (I will refer to this as the "farm"). Users are only allowed access to the farm by network KVM. There is no physical access to the machines. The machines don't have floppy drives (and for the sake of argument) they don't have CDROM drives. They are configured to network boot; aka PXE boot.

    The point of this question is to see how to partition and format a 40Gb drive with FAT32 -> then copy over windows xp install files to the local disk and start the unattended installation all without rebooting. By accomplishing this, this eliminates any requirements that the windows xp installation needs (i.e. the install disk, boot disk, etc).

    Here's what I know:
    The windows xp install already does this but only for drives =< 32Gb. It can delete, create and format the local disk with fat32 without having to reboot. Needless to say, this feature is already built into the NTFS option.

    What I've been able to do
    I've been able boot into a DOS environment and automatically partition the drive (fdisk). I can't seem to format the drive because the partition table has changed.

    I'm looking for either A) away around this using other software (i.e. fdisk dirivetives, freedos, etc) as long as we don't have to reboot between the fdisk and format (fat32). or B) an idea on how to reread the partition table so format.com (or which ever) will format the drive.

    Sounds like a wierd situation huh.. well it is!! Please don't be concerned with "why" I want to do with. I've been given the restrictions and design specifications and am trying to accomplish them. This isn't for anything illegal, it's actually for research that I'm working on in grad school for a project called "ISEAGE". Google it. Any questions/comment, I'd love to hear em.

  2. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

    DOS is a very simplistic OS and the partition table is only loaded at boot time. One would have to rewrite FreeDOS to make it behave differently.

    Is the reboot really a nono? How about making an image of the FAT32 with the Windows unattended install? Then you just boot a cloning program from PXE, that takes the disk image, applies it to the local hard drive and reboots. At reboot, the hard drive is used and the Windows installation is loaded automatically by DOS startup files?

    Or make the initial PXE-booted DOS environment smart enough to see whether you need to create partitions or not and then either partition-reboot or format-install?
  3. mrsharky

    mrsharky TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I forgot to mention that all 200+ computers are of different hardware, therefore imaging/images is not a solution. Good thought though... keep it coming. Please note: Reboot is no allowed. "This can be done, Surprise Me" - Antitrust
  4. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

    I did not mean imaging a Windows installation. I mean imaging a DOS installation with Windows install files that would boot into the unatteneded Windows setup.. DOS doesn't give a damn about hardware as long as it's PC.

    How custom is this supposed to be? Should it be done with off-the-shelf software?
  5. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

    Actually, the task is impossible. If we assume, that the hardware on every machine is different, then the network cards are different too. This means that there is no universal solution. When booting from PXE, you may get the initial bootstrap and the kernel, but in order to retrieve anything from the network (including the Windows installation files), you need drivers for the NIC.
  6. mrsharky

    mrsharky TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Solved!!! I'll post the "huge" manual in the forth coming days!!
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