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How To Make and Use a Bootable WinPE Drive

Common uses for WinPE and WinRE

In the sections that follow, I review some of the many reasons why access to WinPE and WinRE can be anything from a nice convenience to an absolute godsend.

When Vista won’t boot, turn to WinRE

First and foremost, WinRE is anything from a convenience to a lifesaver when Windows Vista systems experience boot or start-up problems. Its Startup Repair option seeks to identify and fix common startup problems, including fixing a disk’s Master Boot Record or replacing damaged or missing Vista startup files (bootmgr, boot configuration data, Master File Tables, and so forth). It’s a capable enough tool that manual intervention is seldom required, as long as the program can recognize a boot drive and find the elements it needs for repairs. The System Restore and Complete PC Restore options can also come in very handy from time to time as well–the System Restore lets you recover from unfortunate installations, registry edits, or other recent changes to the runtime environment, while the Complete PC Restore can even allow you to bring a damaged Vista installation from “bare metal” (an NTFS formatted drive with nothing on it).

Given that the Windows install media includes WinRE, why might you want to use a bootable WinRE UFD instead? The primary answer is time: it takes less than two minutes to boot to the WinRE console on a UFD and at least five minutes—sometimes longer—to boot to the WinRE console on the Windows media. Is that worth it to you? Perhaps, but perhaps not. However, it takes very little effort to build such a UFD and it can save precious time on repairs and recovery when time is at a premium.

Ed Tittel is a freelance writer, trainer, and internet consultant. His work has appeared on many sites, including Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, TechTarget, and more. He has also contributed to multiple books, including the "For Dummies" series, where he wrote about HTML, HTML4, XHTML, XML, and CCS. He was also series editor of the Exam Cram books until 2005.