Published June 2003



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Published June 2003

Abstract

Microsoft® Windows® Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) makes IT professionals more productive and their jobs less frustrating by providing powerful preparation and installation tools for Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Server 2003. With Windows PE, you can boot a subset of the Windows operating system from a removable disk, which provides the network and other resources necessary to install and troubleshoot Windows on the desktop or server. This document is a technical overview of Windows PE and its capabilities.


The information contained in this document represents the current view of Microsoft Corporation on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. Because Microsoft must respond to changing market conditions, it should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of Microsoft, and Microsoft cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication.

This white paper is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS DOCUMENT.

Complying with all applicable copyright laws is the responsibility of the user. Without limiting the rights under copyright, no part of this document may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), or for any purpose, without the express written permission of Microsoft Corporation.

Microsoft may have patents, patent applications, trademarks, copyrights, or other intellectual property rights covering subject matter in this document. Except as expressly provided in any written license agreement from Microsoft, the furnishing of this document does not give you any license to these patents, trademarks, copyrights, or other intellectual property.

© 2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft, MS-DOS, Active Directory, the Office logo, Windows, the Windows logo, and Windows NT are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners. Microsoft Corporation • One Microsoft Way • Redmond, WA 98052-6399 • USA

Contents

Acknowledgments 5

Windows PE Overview 6

Windows PE Documentation 8

Windows PE Architecture 9

Interactive Components 9

Windows PE Footprint 9

Windows PE Limitations 9



Windows PE Command-Line Tools 12

Windows PE Scenarios 13

Desktop and Server Deployment 13

Maintenance and Troubleshooting 15

Windows PE Deployment 16

Windows PE CDs 16

Remote Installation Service 16

Non-Removable Media 16



Windows PE Customization 18

Languages 18

Device Drivers 19

Mass-Storage Drivers 19

Components 20

Summary 21

For More Information 22

Acknowledgments


Bryan Chee, Microsoft Corporation

Wes Miller, Microsoft Corporation

Elsa Rosenberg, Studio B Productions

David Talbott, Studio B Productions


Windows PE Overview


Microsoft® Windows® Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) is a bootable CD that replaces the MS-DOS®-bootable disk in most deployment and troubleshooting processes. It’s a lightweight, 32-bit environment that supports the same set of networking and mass-storage device drivers that Windows XP supports and provides access to similar features, including NTFS and DFS. Windows PE includes the following features:

  • Hardware independence. Windows PE is a hardware-independent Windows environment for both x86 and Itanium architectures. You can use the same preinstallation and troubleshooting environment on all of the desktop computers and servers in your company, without creating and maintaining different bootable disks for different hardware configurations.

  • APIs and scripting capabilities. Windows PE contains a subset of the Win32 application programming interfaces (APIs); a command interpreter capable of running batch files; and support for adding Windows Script Host (WSH), HTML Applications (HTA), and Microsoft® ActiveX® Data Objects (ADO) to create custom tools or scripts. The scripting capabilities in Windows PE far exceed the capabilities of MS-DOS-bootable disks. For example, the command interpreter in Windows PE supports a more robust batch-programming language than does MS-DOS, allowing you to get more done with much less work.

  • Network access. Windows PE uses TCP/IP to provide network access and support for standard network drivers for running Windows setup and copying images and test suites from the network to the computer. You can easily add or remove network drivers from a customized version of Windows PE. In contrast, customizing MS-DOS-bootable disks to access network shares is a time-consuming and frustrating process. First, you must track down 16-bit device drivers for the network adapter, and then you must customize the networking client and protocols on the bootable disk. The frustration stems from the fact that you must usually maintain multiple disks, one for each network adapter. Windows PE alleviates this frustration because it supports the network drivers that Windows XP Professional supports, and Windows PE is easier to customize with additional network drivers.

  • Mass-storage devices. Windows PE includes support for all mass-storage devices that use Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 drivers. As new devices become available, you can easily add or remove drivers into a customized version of Windows PE. Customizing an MS-DOS-bootable disk to access atypical mass-storage devices requires tracking down and installing the 16-bit device drivers. However, Windows PE supports many of these mass-storage devices out of the box. And customizing Windows PE to support additional mass-storage devices is easier because it uses standard Windows device drivers that are readily available.

  • NTFS management. Windows PE includes native support for creating, deleting, formatting, and managing NTFS file system partitions. Also, Windows PE provides full, unrestricted access to NTFS file systems, allowing you to easily recover data on failed systems.

  • Hardware diagnostics. Windows PE supports hardware diagnostics that can load and test specific hardware drivers.

  • Support for Preboot eXecution Environment (PXE) protocol. If the computer supports PXE-booting, you can start it automatically from a Windows PE image located on a Remote Installation Server (RIS)—and the Windows PE image isn’t installed on the computer’s hard disk. Starting Windows PE from the network makes it a convenient tool to use in deployment and recovery scenarios (no more fumbling around with disks).

Windows PE Documentation


The Windows PE CD you receive from Microsoft contains complete documentation for using and customizing Windows PE. You can find the following compiled Help files in the CD’s DOCS folder:

  • Microsoft Windows Preinstallation Reference (Ref.chm). This file describes how to customize the files that configure Windows PE, including Winbom.ini and Winpeoem.sif.

  • Windows Preinstallation Environment User’s Guide (Winpe.chm). This file describes how to use Windows PE, and it includes documentation for many of the useful command-line tools available.

Windows PE Architecture


Windows PE leverages the code base of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, delivering a 32-bit deployment and troubleshooting environment. It delivers a subset of the Windows functionality, even though it leverages the code from the full operating system, which minimizes the space and resource requirements that Windows PE requires.

To better understand Windows PE, the following sections describe how it works:



  • Interactive Components. Describes the commands that run when Windows PE boots.

  • Windows PE Footprint. Describes the size of Windows PE on disk and in memory.

  • Windows PE Limitations. Describes Windows PE’s limitations.

Interactive Components


CMD.EXE executes the STARTNET.CMD batch file at startup. This file loads the networking processes and runs any custom commands that you want to implement. The default STARTNET.CMD file looks like this:

factory -winpe


The –winpe command-line option processes the WINBOM.INI file, creates a unique computer name for the Windows PE session, installs the network card, and then processes the remainder of the Winbom.ini file.

Windows PE Footprint


The size of Windows PE on disk ranges from 120 (for the 32-bit version of Windows PE) to 220 MB (for the Itanium version of Windows PE), as Table 1 shows (sizes include networking services), without customizations. You have the option to reduce the size of Windows PE on disk to approximately 81 MB by removing non-essential files.

If you customize Windows PE, which you learn about later in this document, its size varies. For example, localized versions of Windows can vary in size between 300 to 370 MB, depending on the language. Other factors that affect the size of Windows PE can be the set of device drivers that you include and additional components in your Windows PE image.



Table 1. Windows PE Footprint

Platform

On-disk Size

In-memory Size

32-bit versions of Windows PE

About 120 MB

About 40 MB

64-bit versions of Windows PE

About 220 MB

About 42 MB


Windows PE Limitations


Windows PE has the following limitations:

  • Windows PE doesn’t fit on floppy disks, but you can write a Windows PE image to a bootable CD.

  • Windows PE supports DFS name resolution to standalone DFS roots.

  • To prevent its use as a pirated operating system, Windows PE automatically reboots after 24 hours.

  • You can’t access files or folders on a computer running Windows PE from another computer.

  • Windows PE supports TCP/IP and NetBIOS over TCP/IP for network connectivity, but it doesn’t support other methods, such as IPX/SPX.

  • Drive letter assignments aren’t persistent between sessions. After you restart Windows PE, the drive letter assignments will be in the default order.

  • Windows PE requires a VESA-compatible display device and will use the highest screen resolution it can determine is supported. If the operating system can’t detect video settings, it uses a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels.

  • You can build custom versions of Windows PE from Windows XP Professional Edition and Windows Server 2003 products but not Windows XP Home Edition.

  • Windows PE doesn’t support the Microsoft .NET framework.

  • The Windows on Windows 32 (WOW32) subsystem allows 16-bit applications to run on the 32-bit Windows platform. Similarly, a new 32-bit subsystem called Windows on Windows 64 (WOW64) is in Windows XP 64-bit versions. It provides all the 32-bit Windows services needed for 32-bit applications to run properly. The WOW32 and WOW64 subsystems aren’t available in Windows PE, however, so 16-bit applications won’t run in 32-bit versions of Windows PE, and 32-bit applications won’t run in 64-bit versions of Windows PE.

  • To reduce its size, Windows PE includes only a subset of the available Win32 APIs. Included are I/O (disk and network) and core Win32 APIs.

  • The following categories of Win32 APIs aren’t available in Windows PE (applications that require these APIs will not run in Windows PE):

  • Access Control

  • NetShow Theater Administration

  • OpenGL

  • Power Options

  • Printing and Print Spooler

  • Still Image

  • Tape Backup

  • Terminal Services

  • User Profile

  • Window Station and Desktop

  • Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)

  • Windows Multimedia

  • Windows Shell

Windows PE Command-Line Tools


The following command-line tools are available when preinstalling an operating system or using Windows PE:

  • DiskPart. DiskPart is a text-mode command interpreter that enables you to manage objects (disks, partitions, or volumes) by using scripts or direct input from a command prompt. With DiskPart, you can create and remove volumes; assign drive letters, and so on.

  • Factory. Use the Factory tool to update drivers, run Plug and Play enumeration, install applications, test, configure the computer with customer data, or make other configuration changes in your factory environment. For companies that use disk imaging (or cloning) software, efficient use of Factory.exe can reduce the number of images you require.

  • Mkimg. This command builds the file set for Windows PE from any Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 product CD except Windows XP Home Edition, and Windows .NET Datacenter Server. It optionally creates an ISO image of the files. You can then burn that ISO file to a CD by using any CD-burning software that supports ISO-9660. The CD image creation process takes several minutes, and then the files are placed in the same location as where you run the Mkimg command.

  • Netcfg. The network configuration tool configures network access. When you preinstall Windows, it is most commonly used in a script that runs during when Windows PE boots.

  • Oscdimg. This is a command-line tool that creates an ISO image file of a customized 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows PE. You can then burn that ISO image file to a CD.

  • Sys. You can use Windows PE to preinstall Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, and Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition. In these cases, the hard disk needs the boot sector common to these operating systems. Use the Sys utility to write the boot sectors for these operating systems.

See the Windows Preinstallation Environment User’s Guide (Winpe.chm on the Windows PE CD) for more information about these tools. Winpe.chm includes detailed documentation for each command-line option that these tools support.

Windows PE Scenarios


You can think of Windows PE as a turbo-powered replacement for MS-DOS in your deployment and troubleshooting processes. Windows PE is a minimal Windows system that provides limited services based on the Windows XP Professional kernel. It also provides the minimal set of features required to run Windows Setup, install operating systems from networks, script basic repetitive tasks, and validate hardware. You can use Windows PE with both desktops and servers to work faster and smarter.

For example, you can use Windows PE instead of an MS-DOS-bootable disk for the following tasks, and complete them in much less time and with far less frustration:



  • Create and format disk partitions, including NTFS file-system partitions. Formatting disks with NTFS by using an MS-DOS-bootable disk required third-party utilities. Windows PE replaces the MS-DOS-bootable disk in this scenario, allowing you to format disks with NTFS without using third-party utilities. Also, the file-system utilities that Windows PE provides are scriptable, so you can completely automate the setup-preparation process.

  • Access network shares to run troubleshooting tools, install operating systems, and so on. Windows PE provides network access comparable to Windows XP. In fact, Windows PE provides the same network drivers that come with Windows XP, allowing you to access the network quickly and easily. Customizing MS-DOS-bootable disks to access network shares was usually a time consuming and tedious process that drew you away from more important jobs.

  • Access for all mass-storage devices that use Microsoft Windows 2000 or Windows XP drivers. Windows PE includes the same mass-storage device drivers that Windows 2000 and Windows XP provide, so you no longer have to customize MS-DOS-bootable disks for use with specialized mass-storage devices, particularly on servers. Once again, Windows PE allows you to focus on important jobs rather than on maintaining MS-DOS-bootable disks.

  • Customize Windows PE by using techniques and technologies that are already familiar. As Windows PE is based on Windows XP Professional, you are already familiar with the techniques and tools used to customize Windows PE. You can customize it for a variety of scenarios, including the most common—deployment and recovery.

Replacing MS-DOS-bootable disks with Windows PE in the deployment and recovery processes allows you to take advantage of a standard environment with which you are already familiar. Instead of spending countless hours away from important jobs, struggling to customize MS-DOS for use with your company’s environment, or requesting 16-bit device drivers from independent hardware vendors (IHVs), you can quickly and easily start Windows PE and just get the job done. Most of the MS-DOS-based scripts that you use to prepare computers for deployment or recover data from failed installations can be used in Windows PE; otherwise, you can easily port your existing MS-DOS-based scripts to Windows PE.

Desktop and Server Deployment


You’ve undoubtedly used MS-DOS-bootable disks to handle system configuration, prepare computers for installation, and then install the operating system on the computer. MS-DOS-bootable disks are difficult to configure and maintain for this purpose because you must first track down the 16-bit device drivers required and then customize the disks to connect to the network. Each type of network adapter requires a unique disk, too, escalating the amount of work involved in maintain these MS-DOS-bootable disks. Add to that the computer systems with atypical mass-storage devices that require you to customize disks with mass-storage device drivers, and the number of combinations that you maintain grows quickly.

Even after all of the time you spend building and maintaining MS-DOS-bootable disks, they are barely adequate to get the job done because MS-DOS provides minimal scripting capabilities—and the utilities it provides are the bare essentials. For example, after you start computers with an MS-DOS-bootable disk, you must usually perform many tasks manually before starting the Windows installation instead of moving on to the next computer to install Windows.

Microsoft developed Windows PE specifically to address desktop and server deployment scenarios. Windows PE gives you a lightweight 32-bit environment that leverages the same device drivers as Windows XP Professional. You have access to a similar set of basic features that Windows XP Professional provides, including the NTFS file system and DFS shares. And deployment can be fully automated, so that you can move on to the next computer quicker.

In deployment scenarios, there are a variety of ways you can use Windows PE, including the following examples:



  • You can use the Windows PE CD as is with no customizations to start computers. Then, you can connect to the network and install an operating system from a customized network share.

  • You can customize Windows PE in a variety of ways, such as adding device drivers, components, and other utilities, and then create a new Windows PE CD. You use the Windows PE CD to connect to the network and install an operating system from a customized network share. This scenario might look like the following:

  1. The user boots the computer by using the CD or DVD.

  2. Windows PE starts and processes STARTNET.CMD to load the network services and then passes control to a custom batch file, which you learn about later in this document.

  3. The custom batch file maps a drive letter to the network share containing the operating system that you’re installing.

  4. The custom batch file inspects the computer’s configuration to make sure that it matches the requirements for the operating system that you’re installing.

  5. The custom batch file backs up the user’s data to the network, which is possible because Windows PE has full access to NTFS-formatted partitions.

  6. The custom batch file runs DISKPART to partition the disk and format the partitions.

  7. The custom batch file runs the setup program from the network share to install the operating system fully unattended. Alternatively, the batch file can run a third-party disk-imaging utility to restore an operating system image from the network share to the hard disk.

  • You can create a Windows PE CD that contains both Windows PE and the operating system you’re installing and then customize the CD so that it automatically installs the operating system when the CD starts. Because more powerful scripting capabilities are available with Windows PE than with MS-DOS, you’re more able to completely automate the process. You can then distribute the CD to users so that they can automatically install the operating system. Temporary labor is also able to install the operating system, freeing full-time associates to focus on other tasks. This scenario might look like the following:

  1. The user boots the computer by using the CD or DVD.

  2. Windows PE starts and processes STARTNET.CMD to load the network services and then passes control to a custom batch file, which you learn about later in this document.

  3. The custom batch file inspects the computer’s configuration to make sure that it matches the requirements for the operating system that you’re installing.

  4. The custom batch file backs up the user’s data to the network, which is possible because Windows PE has full access to NTFS-formatted partitions.

  5. The custom batch file runs DISKPART to partition the disk and format the partitions.

  6. The custom batch file runs the setup program to install the operating system fully unattended. Alternatively, the batch file can run a third-party disk-imaging utility to restore an operating system image to the hard disk.

If you have a Windows Active Directory® environment with RIS installed, you can become even more productive by loading the Windows PE CDs mentioned in the previous bullets in to RIS. Then, rather than starting computers with physical CDs, you start Windows PE remotely by using RIS. Contrast starting a Windows installation in a few seconds to the several minutes required when using an MS-DOS bootable disk.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting


The second scenario in which Windows PE can make your job easier is maintenance and troubleshooting. Specifically, Windows PE is an invaluable tool for recovering data from failed computers as well as diagnosing and repairing them. Examples include the following:

  • Replace system files. You can replace corrupted files from the original installation media. For example, if a corrupted system file is preventing a server from starting, you can start the computer by using Windows PE and then replace the file from a Windows product CD or from the network.

  • Run 32-bit diagnostic tools. The tools that Windows PE provides are far more powerful than the tools that MS-DOS provides. In fact, as the disks on most computers that are running Windows XP Professional are formatted using NTFS, MS-DOS tools can’t even access them. Windows PE can.

  • Recover data before reinstalling Windows. Windows PE provides full access to NTFS file systems. When you’ve decided to reinstall the operating system on the computer, you can start it with Windows PE first and then copy important data files off of it.

Windows PE allows you to access the NTFS file system without regard to the access control lists placed on the file system. As a result, if you can physically access a Windows PC with Windows PE, you can circumvent the NTFS permissions on the file system. If your system contains sensitive data, it is recommended that you investigate Encrypting File System (EFS) to help protect the data from unauthorized access. See the Distributed Systems Guide in the Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit for more information about implementing EFS.

Windows PE Deployment


You can deploy Windows PE on removable media, non-removable media, and RIS. Table 2 compares the different deployment methods, and the sections following this one describe them in more detail.

Table 2. Windows PE Deployment Methods






Removable Media

RIS

Non-Removable Media

Disconnected PCs

Yes

No

Yes

Networked PCs

Not recommended

Yes

Not recommended

Active Directory

Not required

Required (by RIS)

Not required

64-Bit Windows

Yes

No

Yes

Third-Party Tools

Not required

Not required

Useful


Windows PE CDs


When you build a customized Windows PE image, a process you learn more about later in this document, the result is an ISO image that you can write to a CD by using most popular CD-burning programs that support burning ISO-9660 images. Customizing, building, and burning the ISO image to a CD is a cycle that you can repeat.

Remote Installation Service


To speed the deployment process, you can start the target computer with Windows PE by using RIS, an optional component of Microsoft Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003. The benefit of starting Windows PE from the network is that you don’t need to start the computer manually by using a bootable CD. This method is available for the 32-bit versions of Windows PE but not the 64-bit version. For more information about the requirements for using RIS, see the Technical Guide to Remote Installation Services. Also, running Windows PE from Windows 2000 RIS servers requires you to install an update for Risetup.exe. The Knowledge Base article 304314 describes how to install this update.

The following prerequisites are required for starting Windows PE from RIS:



  • A Windows product CD and Windows PE CD with the same build number

  • A properly configured Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 or Windows Server 2003 RIS server

  • A client computer that includes a PXE-enabled NIC or a NIC that supports the RIS boot disk

Non-Removable Media


You can install a customized version of Windows PE on a hard disk, which is useful for preinstalling an operating system or creating a hard disk-based recovery solution, particularly for laptop computers. For example, you can install Windows PE on a small partition and the operating system on another partition. This configuration supports disaster recovery scenarios by preventing the need for boot media to start the PC and source files for reinstalling the operating system, recovering data from the computer, or repairing the configuration. This scenario requires you manipulate the boot entries in the Master Boot Record to activate each volume and hide the volume containing Windows PE. This scenario usually requires a third-party utility.

Windows PE Customization


The Windows PE CD that you receive from Microsoft contains a bootable image of the 32-bit version of Windows PE. It’s likely that you’ll want to customize Windows PE for different purposes, such as building a CD for 64-bit computers or including additional device drivers. To support customizing Windows PE, the CD you received from Microsoft includes a collection of scripts and utilities. The process of building a customized version of Windows PE works similar to the following example (for detailed instructions, see the Windows Preinstallation Environment User’s Guide—Winpe.chm on the Windows PE CD):

  1. Copy the Winpe folder from the Windows PE CD to a folder on your hard disk and customize it as described in the sections following this one.

  2. Do one of the following:

  • Place the 32-bit Windows product CD in the drive.

  • Place the 64-bit Windows product CD in the drive and insert a floppy disk in drive A, which the build process uses for temporary storage.

  1. Run the command mkimg.cmd source destination [image] in the folder to which you copied the Windows PE CD. Source is the location of the Windows product CD without a trailing slash (use D: and not D:\). Destination is the folder in which temporary files will be stored. Mkimg.cmd creates this folder if it doesn’t already exist. Image is the path and file name of the ISO image you want to create.

The entire process takes several minutes, and it leaves behind a directory structure of the Windows PE files and optionally creates an ISO image file that you can burn to a CD or DVD.

You can build a custom version of Windows PE by using any version of Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 except for Windows XP Home Edition, or Windows Datacenter Server 2003. Windows XP 64-Bit Edition and the 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 are available only in the English, French, German, and Japanese localized editions.


Languages


Windows PE doesn’t support multi-language builds—only individual-language localized builds. Still, you can build Windows PE images in various languages without needing localized Windows PE tools for each language. In other words, you can use a single set of tools to build multiple localized Windows PE images.

You use the RegionalSettings section in the Config.inf file to add support for multiple languages. You must always match the Language value to the language of the Windows product CD that you’re using to build the Windows PE image. Then, you use the LanguageGroup value to specify the languages of both the Windows PE tools and the Windows product CD. For a list of the specific languages that correspond to particular language groups, see the Microsoft Global Software Development Web site.

For example, to create a Japanese Windows PE image by using a Japanese Windows product CD, set LanguageGroup=1,7 and Language=0x0411 in the RegionalSettings section of Config.inf. The language group ID for Western Europe and United States is 1, and 7 is the language group ID for Japanese. The local ID (LCID) for Japanese is 0x0411, which matches the local of the Windows product CD. Adding 1 to the LanguageGroup value ensures that you can use the English preinstallation tools.

Device Drivers


Windows PE supports network and mass-storage drivers. However, other types of device drivers don’t function in Windows PE. Even if they appear to function, they’re likely missing key dependencies that prevent them from working properly.

Windows PE supports all the network drivers included on the Windows product CD. When customizing a Windows PE image, you can add, remove, or replace network drivers as necessary. For example, you can remove unnecessary network drivers to reduce the size of the image and the time required to boot. After completing the following two steps, the factory command in STARTNET.MCD automatically identifies the network drivers that you add:



  1. Copy the driver’s .inf files to %SYSTEMROOT%\Inf (the matching catalog file isn’t necessary).

  2. Copy the driver’s .sys and related files to %SYSTEMROOT%\System32\drivers.

In addition to adding, removing, and replacing network drivers, you can limit the number of network adapters that the factory command scans by using the netcards section of the Winbom.ini file. When this command runs from the STARTNET.CMD batch file, it will only scan for the network adapters in this section, resulting in a faster boot time. In order to add network adapters to this section, you must know the adapter’s Plug and Play ID and the path of its .inf file. The following example shows the values necessary to specify the adapter’s specific Plug and Play ID as well as its more generic ID, which ensures that it matches any network adapter supported by the driver:

[NetCards]

PCI\VEN_10B7&DEV_9200&SUBSYS_100010B7&REV_78\3&61AAA01&0&78=%systemroot%\nic\netel90b.inf

PCI\VEN_10B7&DEV_9200&SUBSYS_100010B7=%systemroot%\nic\netel90b.inf



Mass-Storage Drivers


Configuring a limited set of mass-storage drivers can reduce the boot time of Windows PE. Instead of loading the entire set of mass-storage drivers that the Windows product CD natively supports, Windows PE just loads the drivers that you specify in the Winpeoem.sif file, which is in %SYSTEMROOT%\System32. You can also configure this file to support additional mass-storage drivers that the Windows product CD doesn’t natively support. The Winpeoem.sif file has the following three sections for controlling mass-storage drivers:

  • MassStorageDrivers.Append. Specifies one or more third-party mass-storage drivers that a custom version of Windows PE loads in addition to the entire set of drivers that the Windows product CD supports. You copy the driver files to the %SYSTEMROOT%\System32\Drivers folder and copy supporting files to the appropriate locations as specified in the driver’s .inf file.

  • MassStorageDrivers.Replace. Specifies one or more third-party mass-storage drivers that a custom version of Windows PE loads instead of the entire set of drivers that the Windows product CD supports. You copy the driver files to the %SYSTEMROOT%\System32\Drivers folder and copy supporting files to the appropriate locations as specified in the driver’s .inf file.

  • OEMDriverParams. Specifies non-Plug and Play drivers for Windows PE to load in addition to the drivers that Windows XP natively supports. See the Windows Preinstallation Environment User’s Guide (Winpe.chm on the Windows PE CD) for detailed instructions about using this section.

The F6 option to add mass-storage drivers will still work when starting Windows PE.

Components


You can add the following components to a customized Windows PE image:

  • ActiveX Data Objects. ADO enables your client applications to access and manipulate data from a database server through an OLE DB provider. Its primary benefits are ease of use, high speed, low memory overhead, and a small disk footprint. ADO supports key features for building client/server and Web-based applications. Windows PE doesn’t support ADO access to Active Directory and ADSI.

  • HTML Applications. HTML Applications (HTAs) are full-fledged applications. These applications are trusted and display only the menus, icons, toolbars, and title information that the Web developer creates. In short, HTAs pack all the power of Microsoft® Internet Explorer—its object model, performance, rendering power, protocol support, and channel-download technology—without enforcing the strict security model and user interface of the browser. You can use the HTML and Dynamic HTML (DHTML) that you already know to create HTAs.

  • Windows Script Technologies. WSH is a language-independent host that allows you to run any script engine on the Windows operating system.

  • Other applications and components. To install other applications and components, you will need to experiment with registering the various companion DLLs and using several tools to understand the dependencies of the application. Microsoft doesn’t make any guarantees or maintain a list of applications that will or will not function in Windows PE. The vendor must supply support for an application in this environment. You will find it useful to have the following tools available to help you with the process:

  • Windiff.exe from the Windows Support Tools

  • Depends.exe from the Windows Support Tools

  • File Monitor (FileMon from Sysinternals)

  • Registry Monitor (RegMon from Sysinternals)

Summary


All Enterprise Agreement, Software Assurance Membership, School Agreement, and Campus Agreement customers will receive Windows PE. By taking advantage of it, you’re better able to deploy and support Windows desktops and servers. First, the deployment process becomes more streamlined because you’re better able to automate it by using Windows PE. Second, the maintenance and troubleshooting tools are far more powerful in Windows PE than in MS-DOS. Last, rather than wasting countless hours building and maintaining MS-DOS-bootable disks for deployment preparation, you can focus on more important tasks. The bottom line is that using Windows PE will make you more productive than continuing with the legacy methods we all have relied on in the past.

For More Information


  • Software Assurance Membership

  • Technical Guide to Remote Installation Services

  • Windows Preinstallation Environment

  • Microsoft Windows Preinstallation Reference (Ref.chm on the Windows PE CD)

  • Windows Preinstallation Environment User’s Guide (Winpe.chm on the Windows PE CD)


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