How to create your first NetInstall Image

Before you can turn the NetInstall service on you need to create a network disk image to boot from. The easiest image to create is a NetInstall image, which lets you install or update an operating system on any Mac.

Download a fresh copy of El Capitan

Before you can create a NetInstall image you need to make sure you have a fresh copy of the El Capitan installer downloaded to your hard drive.

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How the NetInstall Service works

Before you begin using the NetInstall service it's a good idea to gain a basic understanding of how it works and to learn about the four different types of NetInstall images. During the course of this series we'll create basic versions of every type of NetInstall image and we'll also create images that incorporate some the NetInstall service's more advanced features.

The NetInstall service consists of three components:

  • NetInstall server
  • NetInstall image
  • NetInstall client
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Mastering the NetInstall Service: Network and system requirements

Before you can begin using the NetInstall service you need to make sure you have a few basics in place. Unlike setting up Profile Manager, we don’t need to worry about certificates, or Open Directory, or user accounts. In fact, you really don’t need to do much more than switch this service on and it just works. But there are a few things you need to make sure you have in place before you get started, otherwise you may discover that what should have been a boon turns out to be a boondoggle.

What are the basic requirements?

  • ethernet
  • high-speed network switch
  • DHCP
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How to master the NetInstall service

One of the toughest things you have to tackle in your IT life, beyond the Sisyphean task of keeping everyone you deal with happy, is deploying devices in a way that doesn’t require touching every single computer you’re responsible for. Apple’s NetInstall service, which is one of the features available in Apple’s Server app, offers a simple yet efficient set of tools to help you create and distribute images to every Mac in your environment. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the NetInstall service, so you can get a leg up on imaging and make it easier for you to deploy Macs in your environment.

As was the case with our Profile Manager Primer a few weeks back, you’re going to need a copy of the Apple’s Server app to set up the NetInstall service, so go and get yourself a copy. It will also be best if you attempt the following exercises on a server that isn’t a production server. What we’ll do here is unlikely to cause any trouble, but it’s never a good idea to do test work on a computer that hosts your business information. So, practice on a test server and, once you’ve completed what we cover of the next few weeks, take what you’ve learned and apply it to your production environment.

The beauty of the NetInstall service is that once you’ve created and tested an image you can copy it to the proper location on your production server and it will still work.

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A primer in Profile Manager: Managing many devices

This is the final episode in our series on setting up and managing devices using Server’s Profile Manager service.

If you’re just tuning in now, you’ll want to look at:

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A primer in Profile Manager: Payloads for iOS devices part 2

This is episode 14 in our series on setting up and managing devices using Server’s Profile Manager service.

If you’re just tuning in now, you’ll want to look at:

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