PXE is an open industry standard developed by a number of software and hardware vendors. It was initially designed by Intel, with input from several other vendors including 3Com, HP, Dell, Compaq, and Phoenix Technologies. PXE works with a network interface card (NIC) in the PC, and makes the NIC a boot device. The PXE vision is to "Make the network interface a standard, industry-accepted PC boot device." This means adding the NIC to the traditional list of standard boot devices, such as floppy drives, hard disks, and CD-ROMs, that load the operating system or set up programs on the PC. It allows the client PC to "network boot." Booting from the network opens up a vast array of management and support features.
PXE boots the client PC from the network by transferring a "boot image file" from a server. This file can be the operating system for the client PC or a pre-OS agent (see the section, "Pre-OS," later in this paper) that performs client management tasks. Since PXE is not operating system-specific, the image file can load any OS. It provides support for network booting , of embedded and other operating systems.
Because PXE works with the NIC, it requires a PXE-enabled NIC. Most currently available NICs do support PXE, including those from 3Com, Intel, Digital, RealTek, and SMC. PXE is available either as a boot ROM chip that you add to the NIC, or as part of the system BIOS if the network interface is on the motherboard. PXE is specific to a type of NIC; a boot ROM for one type (for example, a 3C905C) will not work on another type of NIC.
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