The process of booting a computer using a network as opposed to reading information off the local disk. On TCP/IP networks this is traditionally achieved by the computer initially sending out a bootp or dhcp query. This query is received by the server, which looks at the MAC address of the packet, looks this up in its configuration file and then sends back a reply containing the IP address that the machine should use along with some extra information. One of these pieces of information is a filename (and possibly the IP address of a different server) which is then TFTPed by the client. This code is then executed - it's usually a kernel image of some description. Once the kernel has started, a second bootp or dhcp request is made. This time the OS configures the network card and looks at the reply to see if it's given the location of an NFS filesystem. If so, this is mounted as the root filesystem and the OS is read off it.

Netbooting is common for diskless network workstations and X terminals. It's rarely used for larger workstations, simply because local disk is almost always much faster than the network.


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