OS X NetInstall

Fire up the NetInstall Service

How to configure the NetInstall Service and start it up.

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OS X NetInstall

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Once you’ve created your first NetInstall image, which we did last week, you’ve got what you need to begin using the NetInstall service. But, in order to start the service up, you’ll need to configure some settings.

To test the NetInstall service, in addition to your Mac running Server, you’ll need to have another Mac connected to your Ethernet network to connect as a client. Remember, every Mac using this service needs to have an Ethernet connection.

Configuring the NetInstall Service

Before you set the service up, let’s take a look at what NetInstall looks like before you configure it.

Open the Server app and click NetInstall in the Advanced section of the app’s sidebar and take note of the current settings:

  • The service is off.
  • The Storage Locations setting should say “No volumes selected.”
  • The “Enable NetInstall on” setting should say “No interfaces selected.”
  • The Global Access Filter setting should not be checked.
  • The Images setting should say “No images available.”

For giggles, try to turn the service on.

You should see an error message telling you that the service can’t be started until you enable one network interface.

Actually, you can’t start the service because nothing has been configured, but it’s important to note that the service can’t be started until everything is configured.

While the error you got was about network interfaces, you’ll configure NetInstall from the top down:


The NetInstall service needs a location to store images and, if you’re hosting NetBoot images, cache files for computers that have no hard drives. (Yup, you can NetBoot computers even if they have no internal hard drives.)

To set up storage locations:

  1. Click the Edit Storage Locations button. You’ll see a Volume for every hard drive you have connected to your server.
  2. Click the menu next to the word None under the Stored Data column and choose Images & Client Data.
  3. Click OK.

This creates two new folders on the volume you selected:

  • /Library/NetBoot/NetBootSP0
  • /Library/NetBoot/NetBootClients0

Make sure these folders have been created:

  1. Open the Finder.
  2. Click the Go menu.
  3. Select Go to Folder.
  4. Type /Library/NetBoot. Note: If you chose a volume other than your boot volume to store images and client data you’ll need to type: /<name of the volume>/Library/NetBoot.
  5. Verify that both folders are here. Don’t close the Finder window when you’re done.

Network interfaces

You may recall that in our second episode, we talked about the basic network requirements for using the NetInstall service. By default there are no network interfaces enabled. You may also recall that you cannot use WiFi for the NetInstall service. So if you’ve been playing around with this on a Mac sans Ethernet, it’s time to grab your USB or Thunderbolt adapter and get wired.

  1. Click Choose Ports under “Enable NetInstall on.” Note: The resulting window will show you all network interfaces with a physical network connection. You’ll notice that I have three network interfaces available in the Network preference on my Mac, but only two are appear in the Network Interfaces window. That’s because the Internal for Class interface is not an actual physical network interface.
  2. Put a check in the box next to the network interface you want to use.
  3. Click OK.


We’ll skip the Global Access Filter option, but what this allows you to do is restrict access to your NetInstall server to specific MAC addresses. No need to do that here. Just make sure there’s no check in the “Restrict access to images” checkbox.

What you should notice is that there are no images available under the Images setting. That’s because we haven’t moved the image we created last week to the NetBootSP0 folder.

  1. Click your server’s Desktop.
  2. Click the Finder menu.
  3. Click Hide Others. You should see the open NetBoot Finder window and the NetInstall image folder you created last week. If you don’t see either, you’ll need to retrace the last few steps and you may need to go back to last week’s lesson.
  4. Drag the NetInstall folder into the NetBootSP0 folder.
  5. Authenticate as an administrative user if you’re asked to.
  6. After the move is complete, open the Server app.
  7. Click NetInstall in the app’s sidebar if it’s not already selected. Note: Sometimes the Images setting won’t update automatically. If you don’t see your image in the Images window, select another service in the Server sidebar and re-select NetInstall.
  8. Double-click your image in the Images setting.
  9. Make sure “Make available over” is selected under the availability section.
  10. Click the protocol menu and choose NFS. (It defaults to HTTP.)
  11. Select “all Mac models” under the Access setting.
  12. Make sure there is no check in the box next to “Restrict access to this image.”
  13. Click OK. What you see should look something like this:

Verify the service is running and startup using NetInstall

Opens System Preferences on the computer you’re using as a client, click Startup Disk and make sure you can see your NetInstall image.


If you see your server:

  1. Restart your Mac while holding down the Option key.
  2. You should see your NetInstall image in the list of available bootable drives.
  3. Select the NetInstall image and press return.

You Mac will now start up to the El Capitan installer hosted on your server.

Feel free to run the installation, which should reinstall the OS without overwriting any user data, or you can quit the installer and restart normally.

You’ve now booted from your first NetInstall image. Next week we’ll create a NetBoot image and start your Mac using an operating system that’s hosted on your NetInstall server.

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