Jun 4, 2012

It only looks complicated. I've spent more time publishing the links and resources than working on the friggin thing

For Windows PE 1.0, the minimalist Windows based on Windows 2003/XP, you needed an SA (Software Assurance), OEM, or ISV license. When Windows Vista was released everyone had access to Windows PE 2.0. This also applies to the Windows 7-based edition, Windows PE 3.0. Windows PE (Preinstallation Environment) was originally designed to deploy Windows. However, it is also useful in creating your own customized rescue boot media. In this article, I will describe how you can create a bootable Windows PE 3.0 (WinPE) USB stick, and, in my next post, I will show how to add your own rescue tools and how to keep your rescue stick up-to-date without much hassle. You will see that the procedure described here is much more convenient than most solutions you’ll find on the web.

1. Create a bootable USB drive

Before you get started, you have to make your flash drive bootable. I have already described this procedure in my post about the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. For your convenience here is the command sequence, which you should run on a command prompt with admin rights:
  1. diskpart
  2. list disk
  3. select disk #
  4. clean
  5. create partition primary
  6. select partition 1
  7. active
  8. format quick fs=fat32
  9. assign
  10. exit
Replace ‘#’ with the drive number of your USB drive. Be careful to choose the right disk in 3 because this procedure will erase the whole drive!

2. Copy the WinPE 3.0 files to the USB drive

WinPE 3.0 is part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows 7, which you can download here. Once you have installed the WAIK, you’ll find a folder of the Windows AIK on the Windows Start Menu. Launch the Deployment Tools Command Prompt and enter this command:
  1. copype.cmd x86 c:\winpe_x86
  2. Then, copy winpe.wim to the correct folder:
    copy c:\winpe_x86\winpe.wim c:\winpe_x86\ISO\sources\boot.wim
  3. Now, copy WinPE to your USB drive:
    xcopy C:\winpe_x86\iso\*.* /e G:\
In this example, ‘G:’ is the drive letter of your flash drive.
Now you should be able to boot from your WinPE 3.0 USB drive. In my next post, I will outline the interesting part—that is, how to prepare your USB drive so that you can add new tools without starting again from scratch.