Start Windows and Linux in local network with iVentoy

Ventoy is a popular open source utility that allows you to create a bootable USB stick with multiple ISO files. You can place images of Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, Unix-like operating systems and other platforms in the same boot support. By leaving the USB drive inserted, you can choose which system to use when starting up your PC. The author himself presented iVentoynew application that allows you to start Windows and Linux in local network.

Thanks to iVentoy, you can perform theinstalling an operating system without attaching any bootable media on individual PCs. Or you can start both live distributions of Linux and Windows boot images.

How to boot Windows, Linux and other operating systems in local network

To boot and install an operating system over the network, the mechanism is usually used PXE (Preboot Execution Environment). We have already talked about it in many of our articles in the past.

It is a procedure that first of all provides for the preparation of a installation server. Such a system uses network services such as TFTP (Trivial File Transfer Protocol), DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and boot services such as PXE.

The DHCP protocol is used to ensure that the server is able to offer, on the local network, the necessary information to clients wishing to boot via the LAN. The data made available to clients includes theprivate IP address of the installation server, the name of the boot file (operating system image to boot) and other network parameters.

For this to work, clients need to be configured at the BIOS/UEFI level to support the boot via PXEthrough the local network. During the boot phase, the client searches for the DHCP server and automatically receives the information necessary to start the boot process through the network.

iVentoy: what it is and how it works

iVentoy it can be considered to all intents and purposes as a “derived version” of the well-known Ventoy utility. In fact, the same developer presented in June 2023 a tool that uses PXE to start Windows and Linux on the local network, making the operation simple and intuitive.

Who has tried tool to carry out the boot via LAN, knows very well that these utilities are anything but easy to use. iVentoy sweeps away the complexity by proposing itself as a versatile tool capable of supporting a long list of operating systems. Operation is, in the same way, really intuitive: just copy the ISO files into the folder iso of iVentoy then choose, via a convenient Web interface, which operating system you want to make executable at thestartup of client PCs.

Set up the PXE server with iVentoy

From the official site of iVentoy it is possible to download the server component for Windows and Linux. You can choose one or the other depending on the system, connected to the local network, which must play the role of server PXE. The files that make up iVentoy must be extracted in a folder of your choice, on the main unit.

Double clicking on the iVentoy executable opens a page similar to the one shown in the figure. As you can see, in the section Boot Information simply select thePrivate IP of the server: if you use multiple network cards or virtual interfaces, you can choose the correct one.

Windows Linux boot configuration through local network with PXE

The boxes IP Pool allow you to specify therange of IP addresses in LAN that can eventually boot Windows and Linux, on request, I use PXE and iVentoy.

At the bottom of the screen, the network clients that are communicating with the iVentoy PXE server are indicated. The corresponding IP address and MAC address are indicated for each of them. With one click MAC filterin the left column, it is possibly possible to prevent or, conversely, explicitly allow the various connections starting from the identifier assigned to the network cards of each client.

Choose the ISO file to start via LAN with iVentoy

Before proceeding with starting the server module by clicking on the green triangular button, you must click on Image Management left then select one or more file ISO to start. For the ISO files to appear in the list, it is sufficient to have copied them into the folder iso by iVentoy. You can do it at any time: then just update the list by clicking on Refresh.

ISO file selection to start in the local network with iVentoy

In the section Image Management tools to set the ISO file to render are collected bootable through the local network. iVentoy allows you to indicate the ISO file to be configured as default, allows you to introduce a boot password and possibly configure a Injection File.

Lā€™Injection File is an optional item that allows you to add drivers and scripts to the Windows or Linux boot environment after booting. In the case of Windows it is Windows PEfor Linux systems it is initramfs.

iVentoy does not care what is contained in theInjection File: in the case of Windows you will find it unzipped in the drive X: after booting via PXE; on Linux it will appear in the root\di folder initramfs.

Start the iVentoy PXE server

To run the PXE server and let it listen for connection requests advanced from local network clients, just go back to the section Boot Information then press the green triangular button.

The first time you proceed, on Windows you get the message Windows Defender blocked some features of this app. In order for local devices to connect to the iVentoy server, the box must be left unchecked Private networks and click Allow access. Obviously the network interface in use in Windows must be set as connected to one private network. In another article we have seen the difference between public network and private network in Windows.

Windows firewall configuration with iVentoy

At this point, once this step has also been completed, iVentoy waits to manage the incoming connection requests from client devices connected to the local network.

The moment you decide to stop the PXE serverjust click on the red square in the section Boot Information.

Boot Windows, Linux via local network with iVentoy

In the following image an example of boot menu by iVentoy. It appears on client devices as soon as they request PXE boot. As we have seen above, the administrator can freely decide which ISO files to make available and bootable.

iVentoy boot menu: boot via PXE

Always acting on the content of the section Boot Informationyou can decide which ISO files to expose through the local network to clients and which ones must remain hidden.

Finally, it is important to highlight that some virus scan engines indicate iVentoy component files as potentially harmful. It is obviously about “false positivesā€œ: iVentoy is an absolutely safe and reliable application. This type of reports are quite common for all those products that integrate PXE boot capabilities.

Currently, iVentoy does not support the Secure Boot feature. To launch the ISO images from clients, therefore, it is necessary to deactivate Secure Boot at least temporarily.

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