I got a little second-hand Dell D430 laptop to use for my upcoming polargraph show. I’m actually really impressed, it’s a dinky little thing. No optical drive however, and installing an OS from a USB memory stick didn’t seem to work. So I’ve done it over the network, and it even seems to work.
PXE (Pre execution environment) is the method, and this is a way of booting over LAN. Hit F12 on the POST screen and then boot from NIC. There needs to be a server on the network with TFTP running on it, to dish up the necessary files. This is hard, but there is a nice little app called SERVA that handles the TFTP/DHCP stuff, because I don’t know how to. Anyway, I followed the instructions on this site and windows 8 is winging it’s way onto my new old machine.
I initially tried putting the windows 8 disk in and symlinking to it instead of copying the files into the TFTP source folder. That worked up to a point, but the installation failed. I think it is because SERVA needs to add some files to the windows installation to customise it for this method, and obviously that can’t work if it’s read-only (on a CD). So actually copy them over, or at least make sure they are somewhere that is writable.