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Documenting the PXE boot process wrt the iPXE environment

Freely accessible, detailed technical information about the PXE environment is not readily available on the internet. The goal of this (bachelor's/master's) thesis is to document the boot process to give a good understanding of the different stages of a boot process from BIOS/UEFI handover to the PXE stack, loading the NBP, chaining to other PXE binaries, and finally booting an OS (Linux). Emphasis should be put on the memory management at different stages, and how it affects available memory of the OS.

This thesis should aim to document the technical details of a boot process via network. An incomplete list of interesting aspects to research would be:

  • Which mode does the CPU run in at different points during the process
  • Where in memory are things located, what can and cannot be freed
  • iPXE: How does chaining affect memory usage, what is leaking, what can be reclaimed
  • How safe is it to chain from iPXE to e.g. pxelinux and back, what's happening under the hood
  • How to debug broken BIOS/UEFI implementations regarding memory corruption, hangs etc.


A good understanding of the x86 architecture is highly recommended for taking on this task. Since existing documentation is scarce, research will probably mostly rely on reading existing source code (iPXE, PXELINUX), so some C skills will also be helpful.


Simon Rettberg