Back home > Windows PE 2.0


3/2007 - Windows PE 2.0 is essentially mini-Vista. It is a deliberately stripped down version of Windows Vista with 3 primary purposes.  Installing Windows operating systems, troubleshooting problems with Windows operating systems, and recovery from corrupted Windows operating systems.

WinPE (Windows Preinstallation Environment) has been around for some time, but until now was only available to corporate customers and system builders (OEMs).  Now in version 2.0, WinPE is freely available to anyone who wants to download it.  However, don’t think it's as easy as downloading a file and creating a WinPE CD - Oh no.  It could be, but Microsoft has not made the process easy.  The following will show you how to create a bootable WinPE CD/DVD, and/or a bootable WinPE UFD (USB Flash Drive).

Creating a WinPE 2.0 CD / UFD
What can you do with WinPE 2.0
WinPE 2.0 Notes
WinPE 2.0 Links


  Creating a WinPE 2.0 CD and USB Flash Drive

What’s Needed:
Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows Vista
An x86- or x64-based computer running Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista, or Windows Server 2003 SP1 operating system. This computer will be called the “Technician PC”.
A CD or DVD drive that can create (burn) bootable CD or DVD media.
Image-burning software to create bootable CD or DVD media.
A USB Flash Drive (if you want to install it on a UFD)

<enter> means press the Enter key
You know how to open an elevated command prompt in Vista
You have a basic understanding of ImageX and the WAIK
You have a basic understanding of DOS

1. Install the Windows Automated Installation Kit on the Technician PC. A little bit of a pain if you don't have this installed. You have to download an image of the WAIK from MS, create a DVD from the image (the same as creating a DVD from an ISO file), then install it from the DVD. You can download the WAIK for Windows Vista here.

2. Once the WAIK is installed, click Start > Programs > Microsoft Windows AIK and choose the Windows PE Tools command prompt entry. (if you are doing this on a Windows Vista PC, right click the Windows PE Tools command prompt entry and choose Run as administrator).

3. You are now going to run a command that will create the directory structure and files needed to create the WinPE CD. The command will be different depending on the hardware platform you will be using WinPE on.

x86 is for Intel and AMD 32 bit processors
(note: I used an x86 build on an AMD 64 bit dual core X2 processor based PC, and it worked fine. This could be due to x64 and AMD64, which are nearly identical, being a superset of x86 and are backward compatible with x86.)
amd64 is for Intel and AMD 64 bit processors.
ia64 is for Itanium processors.

In the Windows PE Tools command prompt window type:

copype <arch> <destination>
Where <arch> can be x86, amd64, or ia64 and <destination> is a path to a local directory.

For example,

copype x86 c:\winpe  <enter>

(Note: the destination directory can be whatever you want.)

The script creates the following directory structure and copies all the necessary files for you to create your WinPE 2.0 CD.




c:\winpe - contains, the WinPE bootstrap loader, and winpe.wim, a Windows image file that has all the files for a basic WinPE.
c:\winpe\ISO - contains the files needed to create the WinPE ISO file that will be burned to CD.
c:\winpe\mount - this is an empty folder that will be used to modify the winpe.wim image file.

4. You could now create your WinPE CD, but what if you want to add something to WinPE before you make your CD? You can do this by using some tools that come with the WAIK.
Look in the c:\winpe folder, you will see a file called winpe.wim. The winpe.wim file is a new type of file called a Windows Image file. Winpe.wim is WinPE in a compressed image file. In order to make changes to the image file, you need to use a program that comes with the WAIK called ImageX. Imagex is a new Windows command line tool used to manipulate Windows image files (.wim files). Type the following in your Windows PE Tools command prompt window:

imagex /mountrw c:\winpe\winpe.wim 1 c:\winpe\mount  <enter>

This will “mount” the winpe.wim file in the mount folder that was created earlier. You will notice a simple Windows directory structure in the mount folder. Once the image is mounted, you can add, change or remove files in the directory structure like you would any other files in Windows.

imagex /mountrw – mounts a .wim file with read/write permissions so you can edit the image.

c:\winpe\winpe.wim 1 - the number 1 is the index number of the image you want to work with. The index number in required. Wim files can contain more than one image, and the index number indicates what image you want to work with. Winpe.wim has only one image, but if you want to see what images are in a given .wim file use the imagex /info command:

imagex /info c:\winpe\winpe.wim (you must unmount the image file first)

Now that we have our WinPE image file mounted let’s add some functionality to WinPE. You can add Packages that add functionality to WinPE. Adding a package is optional, but if you want to see the packages that are available to load, type the following:

peimg /list /image=c:\winpe\mount

The Packages will be listed, with a minus sign to the left of the package name.

We are going to add 2 Packages to the Windows directory in the WinPE image. Type the following:

peimg /install=*HTA* c:\winpe\mount\windows  <enter>

peimg /install=*XML* c:\winpe\mount\windows  <enter>

Now type: peimg /list /image=c:\winpe\mount

You will see a + sign next to the WinPE HTA and XML packages.

We are going to add two more things to the WinPE Image.

1. ImageX.  ImageX, which is needed if you are going to be capturing or applying images of Windows Vista using WinPE, is not included in the WinPE Image. To add ImageX to your WinPE CD type the following:

copy C:\WAIK\tools\x86\imagex.exe c:\winpe\mount\windows\system32  <enter>

(use the path to wherever you installed the WAIK)

2. The second thing we will add is an .ini file called wimscript.ini. This file is used by ImageX to exclude unneeded files and folders when capturing an image of a Vista PC. ImageX will, by default, exclude certain files, but if it finds a wimscript.ini file in the same folder as ImageX, it will use this file for any additional exclusions. Microsoft recommends the following wimscript.ini file. Click Here for an example.
Copy the wimscript.ini file to c:\winpe\mount\windows\system32.

5. We have so far, created the directory structure to create the WinPE CD, mounted the Winpe.wim image file, and added some files/functionality to the WinPE image. We are now ready to save the changes we have made to the winpe.wim image file. To do this, you need to unmount and commit the changes. Type the following:

imagex.exe /unmount /commit c:\winpe\mount   <enter>

(Note: If you leave off the /commit switch, the changes you have made will not be saved.)

6. If you look in the c:\winpe\ISO\sources directory there is a single file named boot.wim. We have to replace the default boot.wim in the sources directory with the new custom winpe.wim image we created. The image file must be called boot.wim, so we need to copy our winpe.wim to boot.wim. Do this by typing:

copy c:\winpe\winpe.wim c:\winpe\iso\sources\boot.wim /y   <enter>

7. To create the .iso file that you burn your WinPE CD from, you use the Oscdimg command line program that comes with the WAIK. Type the following:

oscdimg -n -h -bc:\winpe\ c:\winpe\iso c:\winpe\winpe.iso  <enter>

Oscdimg tells to look in the c:\winpe\iso folder for a file named boot.wim, and convert the boot.wim to an ISO file named winpe.iso, and put it in the c:\winpe folder. The -n option allows for long file names and the -b option makes it bootable, and -h says to write any hidden files or folders. (Note: there is no space between bc)

If you are creating a bootable ISO for a ia64 architecture, replace with efisys.bin.

Now that you have an .iso file, winpe.iso, all you have to do is burn a CD/DVD from the winpe.iso file and you will have a bootable WinPE 2.0 CD/DVD.

Instead of a creating a bootable CD, you can also create a bootable UFD (USB Flash Drive). To do this, do the following:

Place a USB flash drive in a USB port on a Windows Vista PC.
(a 1GB flash drive is more than big enough).
Delete any files on the USB drive.
Partition and format the USB flash drive using Diskpart (next).

Note: According to the Windows PE documentation, the following Diskpart commands must be done on a Windows Vista PC. This is because Windows Vista Diskpart.exe has the ability to see and use USB flash drives. Earlier version of Diskpart do not. (see Additional Notes below)

This set of commands assumes your USB flash drive is detected as disk 1. You should double check this by listing the disks before cleaning the USB drive. Open a command prompt window and type the following commands, pressing <enter> after each command.

• Diskpart
• List disk
(this command is important. It will show you what disk your USB Flash Drive is. Most likely it will be Disk 1. You don’t want to format your C: drive !)

• select disk 1
• clean
• create partition primary
• select partition 1
• active
• format fs=fat32
• assign
• exit

You will now have a partitioned and formatted USB flash drive. All that is needed to create a bootable USB WinPE 2.0 flash drive is to copy the Winpe\ISO folders and files onto the USB flash drive. Insert the USB flash drive into a USB port on the Technician PC - that you have the c:\winpe directory structure on, open a command prompt window, and run the following command to copy the contents to the USB flash drive:

xcopy c:\winpe\iso\*.*  f:\ /e/h/f  <enter>

change f:\ to reflect your USB flash drive.

That's it. You now have a bootable USB WinPE 2.0 flash drive.

Note: You will have to set your PC BIOS to boot from a USB device in order to boot from the WinPE USB Flash Drive.

What can you do with WinPE?     Top

When you boot up WinPE 2.0, it will look like the image below. Windows PE boots entirely into memory, and runs in memory. You can remove your CD or Flash Drive after it is booted up and WinPE will continue to work just fine.

When it does boot up, WinPE first runs x:\windows\system32\startnet.cmd which is just a batch file with one line in it - wpeinit.exe. When Windows PE starts, Winpeshl.exe executes Startnet.cmd, which launches Wpeinit.exe. Wpeinit.exe installs PnP devices, processes Unattend.xml settings, and loads network resources (tries to obtain a DHCP IP address). When it finishes, you will see the command prompt window below. There is no GUI in WinPE, no Start button, no Control Panel and so on. Most of what you will do in WinPE will be done from the command line.

Using Windows PE 2.0 you can do the following:

• Capture an image of a hard drive, using ImageX, and save that image to removable media or a network share.
• Apply an image, using ImageX, from removable media or a network share.
• Start an unattended installation of Windows XP, Vista or Win2003 Server.
• Copy files to and from the local hard drive, which can be useful for troubleshooting/fixing problems. NTFS partitions are recognized by WinPE so that is not an issue.
• Run DOS batch files and VBscript files to automate whatever tasks you need to do.
• Use the included Diskpart utility to partition and format hard drives. You can even extend and shrink existing partitions.
• There are some very basic applications available in WinPE. Regedit, Diskpart, Netcfg, Netsh, Task Manager, Notepad and others. They can be found in the x:\windows\system32 directory. Keep in mind, WinPE is not a full implementation of a Windows OS, so you can't run just any Windows application in the WinPE environment, and .Net applications are currently not supported.


Additional Notes about Windows PE     Top

• WinPE 2.0 uses less than 200MB on a CD/DVD, USB flash drive.
• The computer you will be booting up with the WinPE 2.0 CD/UFD should have a minimum of 256MB of memory, but 512MB of memory would probably be the real world minimum you should have.
• WinPE 2.0 will automatically reboot itself after 72 hours of use.
• The WAIK for Vista documention mentions a Windows Recovery Environment package for WinPE 2.0. This is actually not available. MS removed this before releasing the WAIK (version 1.x).
• WinPE use the X: drive for it's RAM drive, drive letter. Don't let this throw you. You can change drives just like you would in DOS by typing the drive letter at the command prompt
(x:\>c: <enter>). You can access local HDDs, CD/DVD drives, Floppy drives and USB drives.
• WinPE 2.0, although built from Windows Vista, can be used to install previous Windows operating systems and can be used to access files and folders on previous Windows operating Systems.
• When you boot from a WinPE 2.0 USB flash drive, your PC will not prompt you to boot from the flash drive (like it will do when booting from a CD or DVD). It just boots right into WinPE.
• Also, if you don't want to be prompted to boot from the WinPE 2.0 CD or DVD, delete the bootfix.bin file from the \ISO\boot folder before creating your WinPE 2.0 CD/DVD.
• Use wpeutil reboot at the command prompt to reboot the PC running WinPE 2.0
• Use wpeutil shutdown at the command prompt to shutdown the PC running WinPE 2.0
• If your network does not use DHCP, you can use static IP addressing. You can also  use net use to map drives to other networked computers. For example:

netsh int ip set address local static   <enter>

net use * \\appsrv1\apps /user:mydomain\jdoe  <enter>

This will set a static IP address (use ipconfig to see it) and then map a drive to the apps share on the appsrv1 server (you will be prompted for a network password).

• The WAIK for Vista documentation says you have to run Diskpart on a Vista PC if you are going to be making a WinPE bootable UFD.  In typical Windows documentation fashion, it doesn't say why.  This demand seemed a little odd.  Why do you Have to do it on a Vista PC?

I put my USB flash drive in a USB port on a Win2003 SP1 32bit server.  Opened a command prompt and ran Diskpart.  I then ran the Diskpart command "list disk".  It only showed my local HDD, not the USB drive.  My USB drive was visible/accessible in Windows Explorer.  I then copied Diskpart.exe from a Vista Ultimate 32bit PC to the Win2003 server and ran it.  I received an error message: "This is not a valid Win32 application", then "access is denied".  I checked the permissions, and the logged on user had full permissions to the Vista Diskpart.exe.
I then put the same USB flash drive on the Vista Ultimate 32bit PC and ran Diskpart.exe.  Sure enough, the USB drive was now listed when the "list disk" command was run in Diskpart.

I can only conclude that Windows Vista Diskpart.exe has the ability to see and use/configure USB flash drives. Earlier version of Diskpart do not.


Below are links to more information about Windows PE 2.0   Top

Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK)

Windows Preinstallation Environment Technical Reference

Introduction and overview of Windows PE 2.0

Getting Ready for Windows PE 2.0 - TechNet Magazine