Windows Preinstallation Environment

Windows Preinstallation Environment
Component of Microsoft Windows
Windows Preinstallation Environment based on Windows 11 build 22000.1
Introduced inWindows XP build 2296

Windows Preinstallation Environment, often shortened to WinPE or Windows PE, is a minimal version of Windows typically used for system deployment or recovery. It is configured in such a way that changes made to the environment do not persist across reboots, which makes it possible to boot it from read-only media such as CD-ROM discs or across the network. It was first introduced in Windows XP as a replacement for MS-DOS-based boot disks and has since been adopted for the setup and the recovery environment starting with Windows Vista.

In Windows XP, the environment is loaded by setupldr.bin in a similar manner to the text mode setup. However, it does not load the operating system into a RAM disk by default and therefore it is required to keep the system disk in the drive, as ejecting it would cause the system to misbehave. In Windows Vista, the system is stored inside a WIM file called boot.wim, which is loaded by the boot manager into a RAM disk and then executed. Unlike regular versions of Windows, Windows PE uses the /MININT switch to instruct the kernel to load registry hives as volatile to ensure that the operating system does not attempt to save any registry changes to the boot disk.

Windows Preinstallation Environment images based on Windows 10 and later use an italic Segoe UI font by default as a result of missing resources.

Creation[edit | edit source]

A custom Windows PE image can be created with the following instructions, provided that a set of tools from Microsoft are installed.

Windows XP or Server 2003[edit | edit source]

Windows PE creation based on Windows XP or Server 2003 requires the Windows OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK). To create a WinPE image, the following steps have to be performed:

  1. Open a command prompt window (under elevated privileges if running under Windows Vista or later)
  2. Mount the ISO file under a drive letter or insert the installation disc.
  3. Change the directory to a folder that contains mkimg.cmd.
  4. Run the following command:
mkimg.cmd (The drive letter of the installation disc) (Target folder) (Target ISO)

Windows Vista or later[edit | edit source]

Windows PE image creation based on Windows Vista or 7 requires the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). For later versions of Windows, the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (and the Windows PE addons for ADK versions 1809+) are required.

To create a WinPE image, the following steps have to be performed:

  1. Start the Windows PE/Deployment and Imaging Tools command prompt under administrative privileges.
  2. Run the following set of commands:
copype (x86/amd64/ia64/arm/arm64) (Target folder)
makewinpemedia /iso (source folder) (target ISO)

Gallery[edit | edit source]