How To Make and Use a Bootable WinPE Drive

When to use WinPE and WinRE

The biggest differences between WinPE and WinRE as they work in the .wim files just built is that WinPE loads network drivers and offers a more complete Vista-like command-line environment, while WinRE offers more and better boot- and disk-management and recovery tools. I chunked through the whole Windows command lexicon to create the information in Table 1. Note that everything WinPE can do, WinRE can also do—sort of. Unless you set it up to load network drivers and supply it with TCP/IP configuration data, WinRE can’t do what WinPE does automatically with commands such as arp, ipconfig, net, netsh, nbtstat, netstat, ping, pathping, print, route, and tracert.

To me, this means you’ll want to use WinPE with the original boot.wim image when you need network or printer access as part of your runtime repair-and-recovery environment. On the other hand, use WinRE from the winre.wim image when you want to use its recovery options or gain access to its more powerful and capable disk-and-boot recovery utilities at the command line. After Table 1, I’ll discuss a handful of specific scenarios that will help you understand and appreciate these differences.

Create a new thread in the Laptop Tech Support forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
    Your comment
  • What, no mention of BartPE or UBCD4Win (Ultimate Boot CD for Windows)? These are two projects that are vastly superior to Microsoft's method (both are built on WinPE but have expanded capabilities) and are far easier to use.
  • Nice guide. Never knew about it. Thanks.
  • when I saw this I thought it was going to be a review of Bart's PEBuilder... It's saved my a$$ many times. Far superior to WinPE...

    How about a comparison/companion article? or an article on tools gearheads & techies find indespensible?
  • Vista's PE is far more advanced than XP's. The BartPE project is based of XP's PE. Barts is amazingly useful and I can't wait till they move to from PE 1.1 to PE 2.0.

    Some "fairly new" systems will not boot from usb so always carry a cd version as a backup.
  • "I usually grab Imagex.exe and the Package Manager using the commands shown in the next screen capture."

    Hmmm... I don't see a 'next screen capture' showing the commands used to get imagex and Package Manager.
  • Good start to the guide until you get to the WinRE. In section 5, step 2, you describe using imagex and the secret is the number 2 argument however you do not give an example of the command. In the WinPE you use a 240 MB partition, then in WinRE you state you need at least 512 MB.
  • Show us howto "use imagex to grab the Windows RE image from the Vista-installation media." Thanks.
  • Yes please follow up on the last few comments, I am stuck in that spot.
  • Good article, but it makes a few omissions and goofs here and there.
    1. For using imagex to grab the WinRE image, check out this link:
    2. "x64" won't work when you're using copype.cmd - it has to be "AMD64". Just replace all instances of x64 with AMD64 in this procedure, and it'll work.
    3. For the image showing how to grab imagex and the package manager, click on the picture above the text to open up the gallery, then click one pic forward.
  • thanks suigi!
  • There's another option I've found to be a lifesaver for disaster recovery. I can't afford to lose access to my business laptop, but I also am lazy and tend not to back things up, so I do 3 things:

    1. I synchronize two laptops using Microsoft's free Windows Live Sync. This synchronizes specified folders, even through firewalls. I used to use FolderMatch or Syncback SE manually, but Live Sync is completely automated and works over the internet or home network. This makes sure I always have two copies of my data. It also protects against laptop hardware failures to some extent, although since I don't have all the exact applications on both computers, it's not a complete solution.

    2. To protect against outright disk failures and boot problems, I always clone my laptop drive. It's cheap insurance for $50 for a 120GB drive. Use DriveClone (drive must be the same size) or Acronis (can size partitions down or up) and make a clone of your "golden" image. Typically, this is a "virgin" install of all my apps, with updates. I keep the clone in a safe place, and if I ever have a disaster, I just pop the virgin drive in, and recover my data from my backup laptop.

    3. For email, which contains a lot of my critical data, I use our corporate Exchange server which automatically gets backed up. Because we have size limits, I keep my own archive instead of relying on Exchange. At the end of the year on New Years Eve, I take my entire Inbox, Sent Items, Calendar, and Contacts for the year and store them to a shared Live Sync folder. This keeps my .OST file down to a manageable size, and keeps my infrequently accessed archives in a safe place.
  • I may have to try this, just to see how it compares to the product I just purchased... Active@Boot Disk. It's basically the same idea, but a lot easier and it comes with some tools that look very handy, including a password changer, disk-clone, etc. I'm not advertising for them, I only just installed it yesterday. Typical Murphy's-law kind of thing, right after I buy something, I find a free version. I suspect the free version wouldn't eventually have given me what I wanted, but I'm wondering after reading some of your comments, how would I install an application to the PE version? I tried on one app and since there's no registry to change, I get an error. I recall reading somewhere about how to get around that, but don't remember where.

    Great article, can't wait to try it out. Always nice having multiple ways of doing a similar task. Often one tool won't work for some reason, where another one does just what you need it to.
  • Stupid people, Bart's is WinPE