How to boot several machines to become a working network without a single hard drive.The first time I showed someone this, they thought it was impossible. In any case this can be a real tool for disaster situations for getting a network up quick. You certainly could use a usb stick to save data.

Going Diskless with Linux

Suppose you want a super safe web browsing environment.  Suppose you want a Linux “on demand” – that is, you want to boot Linux without using a CD or having Linux installed on your PC’s hard drive.  Is that possible?  Maybe you have a PC lying around with no hard drive and no CD-ROM drive.  Can you really run Linux on a PC with no drive of any kind?  Sure you can. (see my  https://www.instructables.com/id/PC-personal-computer-into-a-sort-of-thin-client/)

It’s an idea as old as the hills – at least for hills that have been around since the 1970′s.  The concept is that of a Diskless Workstation.  That is, a workstation running an operating system with no drives of any kind.  This idea was very popular in University and research environments as much as 40 years ago.

Yes, you can do it with KNOPPIX

If you are interested in seeing for yourself how this works “hands on” – then read our previous posting first - Learning about Linux – the KNOPPIX Live-CD.  That posting will get you started with the KNOPPIX Live-CD.  If you can boot a couple of computers with that Linux CD you are on your way.

Note: Special thanx to http://frrl.wordpress.com for help with this. Actually I have done this many times before I ever knew about the article.

Step 1: What You Need.

A working network of computers without hard drives that are what is known as pxe bootable. Most relatively new machines are. You need to have one machine that has a working cd-rom. drive (dvd-rom drive).

You need a cdrom of Knoppix. You can download it from www.distrowatch.com .   You need a working system long enough to burn the cd-rom. I carry mine with my cd all the time, so I do not have to look for a machine to prepare one.

The basic prerequisites for this wonder of technology and network protocols are these:

  1. A ubiquitous networked environment of at least 100 Mb/sec
  2. A set of network protocols that allowed workstations to broadcast for network services and servers to answer for those services.
  3. A server that could deliver an executable image over the network to another computer.
  4. A workstation that has network capability to retrieve an executable image over the network and execute it.

and for extra credit we could add

  1. A network based file system (NFS) – so you could store file in a persistent way,
  2. A network based authentication and authorization system.  Popular was YP (yellow Pages) and NIS (Network Information Systems).  You need this to prove that you are who you say you are.

Of course none of this would happen without a bunch of really smart people who had the vision for this concept and a bunch of technical folks who could make it happen.  In many cases those two groups of people were the same.  In many cases, those folks were at Stanford University, MIT, and other major universtiy and research institutions.  Have you heard of SUN Microsystems?  Stanford University Networking – that is the roots of that corporation.

<p>Remember Sherlock Boxes in the librarie?? F*** I'm Getting Old</p>
<p>Nope never heard of them. though I see a reference or two on MAC after doing some research. Ran linux on G3's and used ltsp via netboot t0 connect on diskless macs.</p>
This is still using a hard drive; the server's hard drive. But nice twist ;)
No there is NO HARD DRIVE, it is running off a cdrom drive. If you disconnected the client pc, yes therre would be an intertuption of service. The system is a bit fault tolerant though. You will at least have some kind of interuption on any client server based network iincluding fat desktpos. The instructable is not suggesting you give up all fat systems only that you have an alternative that can save money and power. For example. computers in say a libary, do not need to be fat desktops.
Is this OS running in memory on the local machine, or just a terminal server and it running on the remote machine.<br><br>ie: if you disconnected the network cable , would your PC session continue or end?
Sort of a hybrid, yet you can use local devices. Yes if you disconnect the nic cable the session would terminate. The following url can explain it better than I can: <a href="http://www.knoppix.net/forum/threads/28381-Knoppix-Terminal-Server-Works.....How">http://www.knoppix.net/forum/threads/28381-Knoppix-Terminal-Server-Works...</a>..How.&nbsp; I also have several instrucatbles about ltsp and xrdp (<a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Using-Thin-Clients-a-quick-way-with-Debian-linux/">https://www.instructables.com/id/Using-Thin-Clients-a-quick-way-with-Debian-linux</a>/) that you might be interested in. Aoe (ata over ethernet) and Iscsi (<b>Internet Small Computer System Interface</b>) do in fact load the os into ram. Might do an instructable on them also at some later time.<br>

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