• Mac to Work: Using Network Boot to build a Windows VM

    Disclaimer: Let me make it clear up front that you should by no means attempt this without the consent and/or assistance of your in house IT Department. Neither myself nor MacTalk will be held responsible for you going it alone and getting yourself into trouble with IT

    If you're like me, you love your MacBook Air/Pro dearly, you use it every single day at home and you wish desperately that you could use it at work as well...but there are a bunch of Windows only applications and a Standard Operating Environment (SOE) or Managed Operating Environment (MOE) that your employer requires you to use.

    Sure you could manually build a Windows Virtual Machine with all the software you need, but there's a much much easier way provided your IT Department has the right infrastructure and approves.

    SOEs and MOEs have greatly simplified the management and deployment of corporate PCs. The most common way to deploy a SOE or MOE is to use the BOOTP protocol to Network Boot a light weight OS that runs a scripted installation of the main OS. The intricacies of how BOOTP and Network Booting actually work are outside the scope of this article, but if you want to know more this is a good place to start.

    Most people don't realise that both Parallel's and VMWare Fusion are capable of Network Booting. In fact, they use exactly the same process that physical PCs use.

    For my example, I'll be using Parallels 7 but the steps are almost identical with VMWare Fusion. While I haven't tested this with VirtualBox, I assume the process is similar.

    Second, you'll need to be in the office of course and connected to an ethernet cable for Network Boot to work. It's extremely rare to find an IT Department that will support Network Boot over WiFi for the simple reason that you can't configure Wireless Network settings on most laptops before they have an OS installed.

    Once you're connected to the network, you can start provisioning your new VM.

    Launch the Parallels Wizard and select Install Windows or Other OS from DVD or image file:

    On the next screen, select Continue without disc from the drop down:

    Select the appropriate OS, in most cases it'll be either Windows 7 or Windows XP:

    This is a personal preference thing, but I like to run my VM as if it's a separate machine. Either option will work fine:

    Give it a name, and select where you want to store it:

    The new VM will then be created and will try to boot. You should end up with a screen that looks something like this:

    The default network mode is Shared, which uses Network Address Translation to hide the VM behind the host machines IP address. In this mode Parallels or VMWare Fusion give the VM it's IP address, which of course contains none of the information necessary to Network Boot on the corporate network.

    Bridged Mode, on the other hand, forces the VM to act as a host on the physical network that a network interface is connected to. This allows the VM to get an IP Address on the network, making it possible for it to send and receive BOOTP traffic. To change to Bridged Mode go to Devices -> Network -> Bridged Network and select Ethernet:

    Restart the VM and wait until you see the Press F12 for network service boot prompt and then hit F12:

    You should then see a screen similar to the one below. It'll vary from company to company and possibly from site to site if the company is big enough:

    After that, it's a case of following the bouncing ball to get Windows and the standard applications installed. If you're not comfortable with or don't have the rights to deploy the SOE or MOE, get your IT Department to assist you.

    In his day job Alec is a Cisco certified network engineer at a Brisbane based IT integrator deploying IP Telephony infrastructure for a wide range of customers all from his trusty 2010 unibody MacBook Pro. He also has dubious honour of being dubbed this years resident office Apple fanboy.

    You can normally find him lurking in the forums (formerly thatfilthyspringbok, currently alfrsr) or follow him on The Twitter where he's sure to crap on endlessly about gaming, random tech news and what he had for lunch.

    His opinions, both on Twitter and here on MacTalk, are all his own and do not reflect those of MacTalk or his employer.
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