How To Reinstall a Server From the Comfort of your Desk.

I've successfully managed to reinstall three RH9 servers (PE 650) as FC3 from the comfort of my desk without having to wander down to the server room. So in case this is of use to you, here's what I did. If you find it works with other models, please add them to this page.

Also worked for PE 2650 using onboard NIC.


  • Machine needs to be on a serial console server, and already have its BIOS redirected to the serial port! See the original RH9 information on the procedure.
  • Needs to support installation via PXE, ie not via CDROM
  • It's a Dell PowerEdge

The process:

  • Login to the serial console of the machine and reboot it.
  • During the initial screens, hit F2 (or whatever it is) to enter the BIOS.
  • While you are at this stage, republish your new FC3 version of the machines profile, remembering to include the serial console header file #include <dice/options/serialconsole.h>
  • Make sure the profile publishes without errors.
  • Goto the the Console Redirection settings and change the Redirect after boot from the normal recommended setting of No to Yes
  • Exit the BIOS, saving your changes.
  • The machine should reboot again, pay attention to the key sequence that you need to do F12 (or whatever it is for PXE a Boot). For me it has been ESC-@
  • Press F12 (or the escape sequence) when prompted to start a PXE boot.
  • The machine should then get to the grub: install prompt, at this point enter fc3 console=ttyS0,9600
  • Proceed with the install as normal. Note you can't wander too far at this point, as you need to be ready to get back into the BIOS after the first batch of RPMs have been installed.
  • When the first batch of RPMs have installed and the machine reboots, get back into the BIOS and set the Redirect after boot back to the normal No. Exit and save the changes.
  • You can now leave the machine to continue its reboot and install the remaining RPMs. When you next come back to it, you'll be at the "Enter admin principle" part, and you should be able to do that over the serial console.
  • That's it.

One note, make sure when you last shutdown the machine in its RH9 config, that you do a reboot and not a halt otherwise you are likely to need a trip to the machine room to power cycle the box.

-- NeilBrown - 23 Nov 2005

This procedure doesn't quite work on a PowerEdge 750 - the option to press F2 to enter the BIOS isn't available over the sshconsole connection (and just pressing it anyway doesn't do anything)

-- TobyBlake - 09 Dec 2005

Topic revision: r4 - 12 Dec 2005 - 15:17:15 - NeilBrown
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