How-To: Installing Solaris with PXE/DHCP

Next Solaris Express build will probably contain one of the long awaited features: Solaris NewBoot architecture for x86 systems. Among other boot architecture improvements, NewBoot introduces GRUB with ufs support, and a pxegrub for PXE booting. Casper Dik describes it here: The End Of Realmode Boot.

In this entry I’ll try and explain how to set up an install server to allow you do a network install of Solaris with PXE.

Solaris PXE/DHCP server howto

The procedure described below describes steps necessary for PXE booting and installing a client with Grub bootloader, which is the default one in Solaris since Nevada b14. Obviously, the very first requirement is that you absolutely must have a PXE-enabled network card installed in the client machine you’re about to install.

Here is the full list of server-side components you need to have in order to be able to PXE-boot and install a client machine over network:

  1. DHCP server setup and configured
  2. Network install OS image
  3. Jumstart configuration files for a given client

I’ll go through this list first, and then will give a list of actions you have to take to configure and PXE-boot a client:

1. DHCP server configuration

1.1. Setup
Start off by doing this:

solaris# dhcpconfig -D -r SUNWbinfiles -p /var/dhcp

This configures your DHCP server: it creates an empty resources table for its use in /var/dhcp, and creates an /etc/inet/dhcpsvc.conf file with a contents like this:


Your default DHCP daemon (/usr/lib/inet/in.dhcpd) is started at this stage, andthe above shown dhcpsvc.conf file ensures your dhcp server gets started up automatically upon reboot from /etc/init.d/dhcp script.

1.2. Networks

Here you have to look at your topology and decide, which networks are going to be served by your DHCP server. If you have a DHCP server configured by someone else, here’s how you look at the list of networks served:

solaris# pntadm -L

It returns you a list, on our server it looks like this:

To create a table for another network, do this:

solaris# pntadm -C

Make sure you have/etc/netmasks updated, if your network is subnetted. Update your /etc/inet/dhcpsvc.conf file to include a line with all the DHCP active interfaces. On our server it looks like this:


2. Network install OS image setup

Follow the instructions from this page: Creating an install server with CD media

In short: create a directory for your netinstall image, and use setup_install_server and add_instll_server commands to copy necessary files from Solaris_10.1/Tools directory of your install media (CDs or DVD).

Share your netinstall image out.


  • make sure the netinstall directory is shared out to your clients
  • if you have more than one network, make sure all your networks have access to this directory.

Share command should return you something like this for your install directory:

-               /export/install2   ro=@192.1.1:@192.1.2:@192.1.3:@192.1.4:@192.1.9	""

3. JumpStart configuration

Follow the instructions from this page: Creating a profile for networked system.

On our server, the JumpStart directory is /export/install/config. Then each machine has a directory there, like /export/install/config/perf-123.

Okay. Assuming you’ve done everything above, you’ve got a DHCP server configured, netinstall image ready and JumpStart files created for your client machine.

Now we’re ready to reinstall your client. Here’s what to do:

1. Generic add_install_client

Go to your netinstall image directory, and go to Solaris_10.1/Tools dir, where you have add_install_script. On our server, for Nevada b14 it’s this directory:


Now, do this:

solaris# ./add_install_client -d SUNW.i86pc i86pc

It’s a very important commant. It creates, if necessary, /tftpboot directory, or updates it with generic files for the netinstall OS image we’re using. This command will also enable TFTP server on your machine. At last, it will create a /tftboot/pxegrub.I86PC.Solaris_10.1-1 file, which will be used to PXE boot each client you want to install with this build.

2. Client-specific add_install_client

Then, for our client, we have to do this:

solaris# ./add_install_client -d -e $ETHER 
-c $SERVER:/export/install/config/$SYSNAME 
-p $SERVER:/export/install/config/$SYSNAME 
-b "console=$TTY" i86pc 

It’s a line from our script which automates the installation, and it shows clearly what is being passed to the add_install_client command: $ETHER is an MAC-address of the client box. Bear in mind, that for most MAC-addresses you have to add “01” to the beginning of the address. Also, you have to get rid of the colons usually found in MAC address. So, for instance, if your client has this entry in /etc/ethers file on your server:

00:09:3d:00:68:f3 perf-123

The MAC-address you’ll pass to the add_install_client will be this: 0100093D0068F3.

Other parameters are:

  • $SERVER – IP address of your server’s interface on the subnet your client is on
  • $SYSNAME – a hostname of the client
  • $SOLARIS_PATH – is a full path to the netinstall image you’re using
  • $TTY– is an input-output device used during pxegrub boot. You can specify ttya/ttyb here to get an output on a console, connected to your client. You may also not specify this parameter at all for the default device to be used (screen/keyboard).

So, for our client perf-123 the final line looks like this:

solaris# ./add_install_client -d -e 0100093D0068F3
-b "console=ttya" i86pc

This line creates three files in your /tftpboot directory:

  • menu.lst.0100093D0068F3 – grub menu for your client’s PXE boot
  • rm.0100093D0068F3 – a standard shell script for cleaning up /tftpboot files for your client
  • 0100093D0068F3 – a symbolic link to a build’s pxegrub file in /tftpboot

For perf-123, this link looks like this:

solaris# ls -al /tftpboot/0100093D0068F3
lrwxrwxrwx   1 root     other         28 May 23 17:27 
/tftpboot/0100093D0068F3 -> pxegrub.I86PC.Solaris_10.1-1

If you check now, the grub menu file will look like this:

solaris# more /tftpboot/menu.lst.0100093D0068F3 
title Solaris_10.1 Jumpstart
        kernel /I86PC.Solaris_10.1-1/multiboot kernel/unix -B  
        module /I86PC.Solaris_10.1-1/x86.miniroot

Unfortunatelly, at this early stage, we have to manually update this file so that the machine not only boots off the network, but starts JumpStart install automatically. To do this, you have to pass a “- install dhcp” as a boot argument to Solaris kernel. So we update one of the menu file lines to look like this:

kernel /I86PC.Solaris_10.1-1/multiboot kernel/unix - install dhcp  -B  

I’m sure later there will be a command line option, so I’ll update this how-to accordingly.

As you can see, most of the add_install_clients parameters end up in this file. A menu file is also a good way to do basic sanity checks, cause it shows you where your client will try to mount a netinstall image from, and where JumpStart will expect to have your client’s configuration files to be found.

4. DHCP – IP address and a macro for your client system

First, add a fixed IP for your client, which will be issued to it by your server upon DHCP request:

solaris# pntadm -f 01 -e 12/31/2010 -A $IPADDR -i $ETHER -m $SYSNAME -s $SERVER $NETWORK.0

Most of the parameters are self-explanatory, and you know most of them from add_install_client command. So I’ll mention only the new ones:

  • $IPADDR is the IP address you want DHCP server to assign to your client
  • $NETWORK is the network your client belongs to. Obviously, $IPADDR should be in this network as well.
  • -f 01 means that this IP lease is permanent
  • -e 12/31/2010sets the expiration date for this lease (we sure have got some time before 2010)

Now, what this line does apart from assigning an IP address to our client, is that it also assigns the client a DHCP macro. By following the macro specified, your DHCP server will give the client all the additional info the client needs to PXE boot.

Here’s the line:

solaris# dhtadm -A -m $SYSNAME -d ":BootSrvA=$SERVER:BootFile=$ETHER:"

This line tells the client to try and PXE boot off a specified server with IP $SERVER, and suggests that the bootfile will be $ETHER. This file, as you remember, essentially points to a pxegrub file for the netinstall build.

That’s it! Make sure your BIOS points to a PXE-enabled network card on your client, reboot the box, and you should see it downloading the Solaris miniroot onto the client and then booting Solaris. As always, snoop is your friend with network troubleshooting.


  1. Glen Gunselman says:

    I found these instructions very useful but I hit a problem with the add_install_client in section 3.2.

    I’m getting the error:

    add_install_client: /export/jumpstart/OSx86/Solaris_10_2009_05/Solaris_10/Tools/Boot/platform//boot_archive does not exist, invalid boot image

    I’m using the following commands:

    cd /export/jumpstart/OSx86/Solaris_10_2009_05/Solaris_10/Tools
    ./add_install_client \
    -d \
    -e “00:14:4F:A6:F0:88” \
    -c \
    -p \

    Note: add_install_client would not except the MAC address using the format in your example.

    Am I using the wrong add_install_client?


  2. Does my mac adresse change if I upgrade my computer with some other hardware? For example change the graphic card?


  1. […] Installing Solaris with DHCP and PXE […]

  2. […] platform_group would be i86pc. Beware that the instructions you are following are incomplete and applying to SPARC hardware, not x86 which uses PXE for network booting: Have a look there for a more detailed and suitable procedure: How-To: Installing Solaris with PXE/DHCP | Solaris Blog […]

  3. […] on the internet. A quick Google search turned up the following: Solaris unattended installation Installing Solaris with PXE. Both links are a bit of age but the principles stay the same. Kind regards, […]

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