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.