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I've been working the past few days to create a server computer that will allow me to boot a Windows computer on its network into Ubuntu, but without damaging any of the files on the Windows client computer and without actually installing Ubuntu on the that computer's hard drive.

That brought me to creating a PXE boot server using a DHCP server (isc-dhcp-server package in Ubuntu) and a TFTP server (tftpd-hpa package) together. With this, everything is working well and I can boot a Windows computer on the network to the "Install" screen for Ubuntu.

However, I used the "netboot" image of Ubuntu that was available online, which uses PXELinux. In this image, the Desktop Ubuntu installer's "Try Ubuntu from this device..." option is not available, which means that from my PXE boot server I can't safely boot a computer into Ubuntu without first installing Ubuntu on the computer.

Is there a version of the "netboot" image that includes a "Try Ubuntu from this" that would copy Ubuntu into the client's RAM without actually changing anything on their hard drive? Or, alternatively, is there a way to reconfigure my DHCP/TFTP server setup so that it will serve the basic Ubuntu LiveCD ISO file that has the "Try Ubuntu" option?

(I am new to Linux as of this week, but eager to learn. The only time I had used it prior to now was for having an OS to use on a computer with a corrupted copy of Windows when I was in a pinch. So, I apologize for how much I do not know about all of this!)

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There is no official "netboot" installer image that comes with a "Try Ubuntu" selection. It is a minimal install image on purpose. It downloads & installs only the latest (updated) packages that you select. (A blessing for those who pay dearly for bandwidth or have data caps.)

If you boot with a netboot disk/USB stick, you should be able to press Alt+F1 - Alt+F7 or so to open up a terminal running a minimal BusyBox. For a first time user, that's a horrible first impression.

Here's an alternative to trying out Ubuntu without downloading a single file or installing. Go to . Canonical is providing free, 1 hour instances of Ubuntu to try out.

If you still like it, then it may be worthwhile to download the current or LTS Desktop version. You can always run it as LiveCD. If you have more than 3 or 4 gigs of RAM, consider downloading the AMD64 version (works with Intel too) instead of i386.

If you want to install it along-side Windows, but you:

  • don't want to resize partitions
  • don't want to deal with the GRUB bootloader
  • want to remove it via Windows Add/Remove Programs

Please check out WUBI -

The WUBI installer may be better choice. WUBI will download the correct image to install for you based on your selections. WUBI itself is just a couple of megabytes to download.

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