How to Host User Start-Up Disks on Lion Server

By John Rizzo

Do the Macs on your Lion Server network have multiple users like in a school library or lab? If so, you may want the same system configuration on multiple machines and an easy way to reinstall systems that get out of whack by an anonymous user.

The answer is to host not just the user’s home folder but also the entire start-up drive on the server, using the NetBoot service in Lion Server. The Mac clients actually boot from the same disk image of a start-up drive on the server. Every time a Mac starts up, it boots from the pristine image, which includes applications.

To host the entire start-up drive on the server, you first must enable NetBoot in Server Admin:

  1. Select your server, click the Settings icon in the toolbar, and then click the Services tab.

  2. Select a disk to store the images and client data by clicking NetBoot in the left column, clicking the Settings icon in the toolbar, and then clicking the General tab.

  3. While you’re in this screen, select one or more of the server’s Ethernet ports to use and click Save.

    NetBoot creates the required folders on the server.

  4. Create a NetBoot image with System Image Utility.

    A folder with a name ending in .nbi appears.

  5. Upload this folder to the server’s NetBootSP0 folder, a share point that NetBoot created.

  6. Back in Server Admin, click the Images tab, select your image, click Save, and then start NetBoot.

  7. On the client Macs, go to the Startup Disk pane in System Preferences and select the NetBoot volume as the start-up disk, or start up while holding the N key.