Advanced troubleshooting for PXE boot issues in Configuration Manager

Applies to: System Center Configuration Manager (current branch - version 1810)System Center Configuration Manager (current branch - version 1806)System Center Configuration Manager (current branch - version 1802)


The solutions that are provided in the following Knowledge Base article can resolve most issues that affect PXE boot:

4468612 Troubleshooting PXE boot issues in Configuration Manager section

If you cannot resolve your PXE boot issue by using IP Helpers or reinstalling PXE, try the following additional troubleshooting steps:

More Information


Special consideration when co-hosting DHCP and WDS on the same server

When DHCP and WDS are co-hosted on the same computer, WDS requires a special configuration so that it can listen on a specific port. This configuration is outlined in Windows Deployment Service and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). Notice that, according to this article, you must complete the following actions if WDS and DHCP are co-hosted on the same server:

  1. Set the UseDHCPPorts value to 0 in the following registry location:
  2. Run the following WDS command:
    WDSUTIL /Set-Server /UseDHCPPorts:No /DHCPOption60:Yes

This recommendation requires that you configure WDS in order to run the WDSUTIL command. This recommendation conflicts with the best practice not to configure WDS when you install a ConfigMgr PXE-enabled DP. However, you can configure the two settings that are specified in the WDSUTIL command (UseDHCPPorts and DHCPOption60) by using alternative methods that don't require the WDSUTIL command. Therefore, you don't have to configure WDS.

To configure these settings without having WDS enabled, follow these guidelines:

  • The UseDHCPPorts switch for WDSUTIL is actually the equivalent of setting the UseDHCPPorts registry key to a value of 0 in the following location:

    Therefore, using the UseDHCPPorts switch isn't necessary if the registry key is manually set. Notice that if WDS wasn't installed, this registry key may not exist.
  • The DHCPOption60 switch configures an option for the DHCP service, not for the WDS service. Therefore, instead of using WDSUTIL to set this DHCP option, you can use an equivalent DHCP command to set the same option. To do this, use the netsh command, as described in Configuring DHCP for Remote Boot Services

    To configure the WDS options according to these guidelines, close any DHCP consoles that are open, and then run the following commands at an elevated command prompt:
    netsh dhcp server \\<DHCP_server_machine_name> add optiondef 60 PXEClient String 0 comment=PXE supportnetsh dhcp server \\<DHCP_server_machine_name> set optionvalue 60 STRING PXEClient 
    These commands set up and enable DHCP Option 60 on a DHCP server. After you run these commands, if an option that is named Unknown is displayed instead of 060 PXE Client in the DHCP console, restart the server so that these settings can take effect. After the restart, the option should be displayed correctly. This issue usually occurs only if a DHCP console was left open when the two commands were run.

NOTE If DHCP is ever moved to another server and removed from the server that is hosting WDS, these steps should be reversed. To do this, follow these steps on the WDS server:

  1. Run the following command at an elevated command prompt:
    REG ADD "HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\WDSServer\Providers\WDSPXE" /v UseDHCPPorts /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f
  2. Run the following commands at an elevated command prompt:
    netsh dhcp server \\<DHCP_server_machine_name> delete optionvalue 60netsh dhcp server \\<DHCP_server_machine_name> delete optiondef 60 PXEClient

    Note The first of these commands disables DHCP option 60. The second command removes DHCP option 60 completely.

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Troubleshooting DHCP Discovery 

Before you start to troubleshoot the initial DHCP discovery stage of the PXE booting process, consider the following points:

  • In SMSPXE.log, you shoud see the MAC address or the DHCPREQUEST of the device that you are trying to start. If you don’t see that, a router configuration issue might exist between the client and the DP. 
  • Do not use DHCP options 60, 66, or 67. This is not supported
  • Test whether the device can start when it is plugged into a switch on the same subnet as the PXE-enabled DP. If it can, the issue likely involves the router configuration.
  • Make sure that the DHCP (67 and 68), TFTP (69), and BINL (4011) ports are open between the client computer, the DHCP server, and the PXE DP.

At this stage, there are no logs to refer to. However, a PXE error code is usually displayed if the PXE boot process fails before WinPE starts. The following are examples of the error messages that you might see:

  • PXE-E51: No DHCP or proxyDHCP offers were received.
  • PXE-E52: proxyDHCP offers were received. No DHCP offers were received.
  • PXE-E53: No boot filename received.
  • PXE-E55: proxyDHCP service did not reply to request on port 4011.
  • PXE-E77 bad or missing discovery server list.
  • PXE-E78: Could not locate boot server.

Several websites document these error codes. For example, see Symantec’s list of PXE error codes and their meaning.

Although this helps narrow the focus of your troubleshooting, you might still have to capture a network trace of the issue by using a network monitoring tool such as Netmon or WireShark. The network monitoring tool must be installed on both the PXE-enabled DP and a computer that is connected to a mirrored port on the switch. For more information about how to configure mirrored ports, refer to the manual that's provided by the manufacturer of the specific switch or routing device.

The typical procedure is to start the network traces on both the DP and the computer that is connected to the mirrored port, and try to start the device through PXE. Then, stop the trace, and save it for further analysis.

The following is a sample trace of a DHCP conversation that was captured from the PXE-enabled DP:


You can see that the initial DHCPDISCOVER by the PXE client is followed by a DHCPOFFER from the DHCP server and the PXE DP. The request from the client ( is made and then acknowledged by the DHCP server ( After the PXE client has an IP address (, it sends a request to the PXE DP ( That DP then acknowledges the request by returning the network boot program details.

Capture a simultaneous network trace on the client and the DP to determine whether the conversation is occurring as expected. Follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure that the DHCP services are running and available.
  • Verify that the WDS service is running on the DP.
  • Make sure that no firewalls are blocking the DHCP ports between the server and the client.
  • Verify that the client computer can start when it is on the same subnet as the DP.
  • Make sure that IP Helpers are configured correctly if the client computer is starting from a different subnet than the one that the DP is in.

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Troubleshooting TFTP Transfer

If the error on PXE boot refers to TFTP, you may be unable to transfer the boot files. The following are examples of the error messages that you may receive:

  • PXE-E32: TFTP open timeout
  • PXE-E35: TFTP read timeout
  • PXE-E36: Error received from TFTP server
  • PXE-E3F: TFTP packet size is invalid
  • PXE-E3B: TFTP Error - File not Found
  • PXE-T04: Access Violation

A good way to troubleshoot these errors is to monitor the network by using Netmon or Wireshark. The following is an example of the data that is captured from a PXE client when a TFTP Open time-out occurs.


Here, the client is sending read requests for the file, but it isn't receiving a response. This indicates that something is preventing the acknowledgment from being received by the client. Here is what the data should look like.


In this situation, you can try the following troubleshooting methods:

  • Reduce the block size on the PXE-enabled DP, see KB 975710.
  • Verify that the WDS service is started on the DP.
  • Make sure that the TFTP port is open between the client computer and the DP.
  • Verify that the permissions on the REMINST share and folder are correct.
  • Check the WDS logs for additional TFTP errors.
  • Verify that the RemoteInstall\SMSBoot\x86 and RemoteInstall\SMSBoot\x64 folders contain the following files:

  • Make sure that the fonts exist in SMSBoot\Fonts folder:

  • Make sure that the Boot.sdi file exists in the RemoteInstall\SMSBoot folder:


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Windows PE startup issues - drivers

The most common issues that occur during this phase are driver-related. Overall, the latest version of Windows PE (WinPE) contains the vast majority of network and mass storage drivers. However, sometimes, a required driver isn't included. Therefore, it must be imported into the boot WIM. The following guidelines apply to this process:

  • Import only the drivers that you need for the boot image.
  • Consider adding only NIC or mass storage drivers. Other drivers are not required.

The SMSTS.log file (located in <SystemDrive>:\Windows\temp\SMSTS) is the most useful resource to troubleshoot these issues. (Remember to enable the command prompt during startup so that you can examine this file.) If you do not see a log entry that has a valid IP address and resembles the following entry, you are probably experiencing a driver issue:

To verify this situation, press F8, and then run IPCONFIG at the command prompt to determine whether the NIC is recognized and has a valid IP address.

WIM Files

Also make sure that both x86 and x64 boot images exist on the DP. You can see the WIMs in the following directory (they will also be in the content library):


Make sure that Deploy this boot image from the PXE-enabled distribution point is set in the properties of the boot images.

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Configuration Manager Policy issues

Another common issue that affects PXE boot involves Task Sequence deployments. In the following example, the Task Sequence is deployed to an unknown computer, but it is already in the database. The first symptom is that the PXE boot is aborted.


Upon further investigation, you notice the following entry in the SMSPXE log:

You can see in this entry that when the NBS stored procedures ran, they found no available policy. Therefore, the boot action was aborted. The reverse can also be true. (That is, when a computer is unknown but the Task Sequence is deployed to a collection of known computers).

You can try the following troubleshooting steps:

  • Verify that the computer that you try to restart exists in a collection that is targeted for a Task Sequence deployment.
  • Make sure that you have checked the Enable unknown computer support PXE setting on the DP.
  • If you are deploying the Task Sequence to unknown computers, verify that the computers do not already exist in the database.

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