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I have seen this reported before but I haven't duplicated it.
There are a lot of factors involved:
1. Is it Win PE's network stack?
2. Is it a bug in Sdclient.exe
3. Is it a bug in the web server?
One thing you could try is to add wget for windows to your WinPE image. Then replace the sdclient.exe download lines with new commands that use wget for windows.
If you don't see any problems than we have to assume that WinPE and the web server is fine and it is our sdclient.exe or a library it uses.
If the same thing occurs with wget.exe, then it is not sdclient.exe adn it is either WinPE or the web server. Hard to narrow down between the two, but I would be on it being WinPE as web servers are much more tested.
At the point of the error the PC hasn't booted into the WinPE environment yet, so the problem isn't the PE stack. I don't think the problem is with the web server. I've been able to locate the errored request in the IIS logs and according to the server, the request resulted in a successful HTTP 200. I'll look into replacing the sdclient download lines with wget and let you know how it goes.
Replacing the SDCLIENT with wget in our imaging scripts seems to have corrected the issue. It would appear that there is a bug in the sdclient. Our sdclient is version 9.00.0.473 running on windows 7, 32bit. The only pain now is that the sdclient isn't even reliable enough to download wget for the rest of the script. That fails randomly too. We are having to make sure WGET is deployed to the machiens prior to imaging them, and relying on wget exclusivy for the HTTP downloads of the WinPE environment.
I talked to the developer and they have some download fixes that went in a few MCPs ago though he doesn't remember exactly attacking this particular issue.
Are you on Service Pack 2?
If not, we may need to get you there first.
Do you have a support contract?
If you do, get with support and see if we have a later SDClient.exe file for you, as I am certain we do in one of our later MCPs.
If you don't, go through the MCPs, specifically the Software Distribution (SD) or Operating System Deployment (OSD) ones and see if you think they may benefit you:
Thanks for your patience as we work through this with you.
We've downloaded the latest MCP. I'll let you know how that goes.
EDIT: Yes, we're on SP2.