Install Windows OS from Another Computer in the Network?
We’ve already posted a tutorial about installing a Windows operating system with the help of a USB stick a long time ago. Now, we have decided to move a step forward. So, here’s a tutorial that will guide you through the process of installation of any Windows operating system in a computer from other computers in the same network that the computer in which the operating system is to be installed is connected to.
This sounds like a complex process but you don’t need to worry since you don’t need to be a computer geek to be able to do this. Just go through the lines carefully and you’re done!
Requirements and Prerequisites
There are many things that should be made ready before starting the process in order to ensure that the process runs efficiently and smoothly. We do not recommend you to skip any of these requirements since skipping any one will increase the chances of failure of the process. Below is the list of the requirements and prerequisites for starting the process:
- Firstly, a tool named Serva should be downloaded and extracted. You need to download the appropriate version ( (32-bit or 64-bit) for your operating system from which you are going to install Windows OS in another computer. You will find that there are two versions, ‘Non-Supporter’ and ‘Supporter’ versions of Serva. The ‘Non-Supporter’ version is the free version of Serva that includes a small annoyance at the time of its starting. This version contains a few limitations too. But these limitations won’t make any effect unless you’re a Network Admin or an IT professional who needs to make installations of a large number of operating systems on many network computers. However, in case you’re such a professional, you can get the ‘Supporter’ version of Serva by paying $29.99.
- Now, if you’ve successfully downloaded Serva, it’s time for you to extract it in a folder with a short name, directly on the root of one of your computer’s partitions. For illustration, I have extracted it at ‘D:\SERVA’. You can just choose a similar path on your computer.
- Keep this in mind that you need to have the original installation files for the operating system(s) that you want to install over the network. You will have to copy them to a special folder, without any type of modifications.
- Identify the exact network card model(s) of the computers where you are going to install Windows OS over the network. After identification, download appropriate drivers for the Windows version which is going to be installed on them. By default, Windows setup programs support a less number of network cards. Hence, if your system is new, then it is likely that your network card won’t be supported and the installation procedure will fail.
- Serva should always be run with administrator rights. For running it with administrator rights, just right click on it and click on ‘Run as administrator’.
- Please keep note of your firewall at the time of running Serva because if your firewall interferes, your computer will be unable to transfer any files over the network. So, the application, Serva, must be set as allowed on the computer in which it runs.
- The computer in which the Windows installation files are stored and the one in which you want to install Windows OS must be connected to the same network. Connecting both computers with the help of a router and RJ45 is a nice idea. Another way of connecting two computers is connecting them with a crossover cable.
Now, let’s move to the steps that should be taken in order to run the process.
- Run Serva with administrator rights: Run Serva as administrator. The ‘Non-Supported’ or free version of Serva will make you wait for 7 seconds before you can use it. Once the wait is over, you will have to click ‘Thanks, not today’.
After that, the window of Serva opens up. Then click ‘Settings’, which is at the bottom of the window.
Then go to the DHCP tab. In case your computers are part of the same network and the management of IP addresses is looked after by your router, enable proxyDHCP and BINL.
BINL is a special add-on which as an extension of DHCP protocol. It is used by Serva during its procedures of preparation and maintenance.
proxyDHCP is a special setting which notifies Serva that there’s no need to act as a DHCP server itself in order to provide IP addresses to the computers that are connecting to it.
Although the developers of Serva don’t recommend enabling this setting, we have learned that it assists in the elimination of some issues. Therefore, enable the box which says ‘Bind DHCP to this address’ and leave the default IP address provided.
Now, move to TFTP tab. The full form of TFTP is Trivial File Transfer Protocol and it is the protocol used by Serva to transfer files over the network. It needs some setup too.
Firstly, the box near TFTP Server needs to be checked. Then, the so called ‘root’ directory needs to be specified. The root directory is the place where you plan to store the Windows installation files. This folder can also be the same folder where you extracted Serva or a new one. And please remember that short paths should be used and spaces and special characters (&, “, *) should be avoided in this path or directory name.
In order to help in eliminating problems created in some networking environments, the act of checking the box near ‘Bind TFTP to this address’ and leaving the default IP address unchanged is carried out.
After that, click on OK to save your settings. Close Serva and start it again with administrator rights. During the process of its restart, Serva will create a special folder structure in the specified root folder.
Folders named WIA_WDS and WIA_RIS can be found among the list of folders created by Serva. If they are not found in the root folder, then you’ll have to understand that something has gone wrong with Serva’s configuration.
- Copy the Windows Installation Files: Now, in this step, you’ll need to go to the root folder that you specified. This is the place where you need to copy the Windows installation files, in the way they are, without any modifications from your side.
If you want to install older versions of Windows (Windows XP or Windows 2000), you need to copy those files into the WIA_RIS folder. Since these operating systems are quite old, we don’t recommend their use.
If you want to install Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, open the WIA_WDS folder. There, you’ll have to create a new folder named according to the Windows version you want to copy. It’s better to use simple folder names, without spaces or special characters mentioned above. Here, I’ve used Windows_7.
Create separate folders, containing different names for all the Windows versions you want to install over the network by the use of Serva.
Inside that folder, copy and paste all the installation files for the Windows version you want to install over the network. Simply go to the root of the installation disc and copy its entire file and folder source.
- Start Serva: It’s time to start Serva again with administrator rights. Now, you will have to wait for it to detect the installation files that you added just now. It will create its special folder structure that is needed to distribute the installation files over the network.
Then, close Serva.
- Copy the Network Card Driver(s): Now, you need to copy the network card drivers for the computer(s) on which you want to install Windows.
Go to the folder where you copied the installation files. Here, it is ‘D:\Serva’ (both the root and Serva installation folder), followed by ‘WIA_WDS\Windows_7’.
Here, go to ‘$OEM$\$1\Drivers\NIC’. If you can’t find these folders, you will have to create them manually.
Then, the network card drivers should be extracted and the extracted contents should be placed inside. If your drivers come as ‘setup.exe’ or as a self-extractable archive, extract it first. Make sure the driver’s ‘.inf’ and ‘.cat’ files are stored directly in the NIC folder.
- Share WIA_WDS folder with the Network: You need to share WIA_WDS folder with the network so as to allow Serva to distribute the Windows installation files over the network and to allow the computers in the network to access them. Unfortunately, Serva requires you to share WIA_WDS folder (but not its subfolders or other folders) using a very specific share name: WIA_WDS_SHARE. The process may fail if other share names are used.
You first need to enable advanced sharing in Windows and share it, in order to share this folder with the name we have mentioned. In order to share a folder with the network, you need to right click on that folder and click ‘Properties’. Then, go to ‘Sharing’ tab and click on ‘Advanced Sharing’. Now you will have to check the box near ‘Share this folder’. Then, you will be allowed to change the share name and permissions. Choose your own settings and click on ‘Apply’ and OK.
You must give the user Everyone read-only permissions. This folder can also be shared with specific user accounts, whose login details will be used by used later during the network installation process. Again, read-only permissions are enough.
- Start Serva: Now start Serva again with administrator rights. It will detect the network drivers which were added and make a few changes to ensure that the drivers are distributed correctly when the installation process is launched on other computers. Serva can be left open and now you can wait for network connections.
Now go to the computer(s) in which you want to install Windows OS.
- Enable LAN booting and boot from Network (on the computer where Windows is to be installed): Go to the computer where you want to install Windows and go to BIOS. Make sure that network booting is enabled. The name of the setting can be ‘Boot from the network’ or ‘Boot from PXE’.
Then, start the computer and press the required key to bring up the Boot Menu. Depending upon the BIOS version, you will have to press F12 or F8 to go to the boot menu. Select Network or PXE (the name depends upon your computer’s BIOS), so as to boot from the network by using Serva.
If there are no errors in configuration, you will see a screen similar to the one given below. In the screen, the MAC address of the computer is displayed and the network card requests an IP address via DHCP.
When the computer is successfully connected to the network, Serva loads and displays a screen with the operating systems available for installation. Pick the one that you want and press Enter.Then the installation files are loaded and a small window with the name ServaPENet is displayed. At this step, Serva installs the network driver you added earlier, loads network resources and connects to the Windows installation folder. Depending on how you shared the WIA_WDS folder, it will ask for a username and password to access it. Type the required credentials and connect.
Then Windows installation process starts, if all the configurations are right.
- Install Windows: Now, you need to install Windows like you always do.
Troubleshooting Problems with Serva
If the steps are not observed and followed properly, the installation process is likely to fail. Here are some common errors that are seen in case there are errors in the configuration:
- If ServaPENet gives this error: ‘Failed No NIC/Driver, Aborting!’, you need to understand that you have forgotten to copy the network card drivers as stated in Step 4. If you have copied them and you still see the error, check that you have the correct driver for the network card of your computer in which you want to install Windows, for the Windows version you’re about to install. Also, check if you have copied it to the correct folder. Then, restart Serva to make sure it detects the driver before the network installation procedure starts.
- If, on the computer in which you want to install Windows, Serva is unable to load, consider enabling the ‘Bind DHCP to this address’ and ‘Bind TFTP to this address’ settings in the DHCP and TFTP tabs respectively.
- If you have connected two computers directly, using a crossover cable, you need to set Serva as DHCP server. This means setting the ‘1st address’ available in the IP pool, the pool size, and the subnet mask to be used when Serva assigns IP addresses.
Points to be noted
- Keep track of the Serva logs. The messages that you see there can help you solve many problems.
- Restart Serva every time you change any of its settings and every time you add something to its root folder.
- Always run Serva with administrator rights.