Although Windows 10 has its own recovery environment that allows us to analyze and solve all kinds of problems that can cause our PC not to boot, this mode is too basic. Although it can help us solve the most basic problems, when things get complicated it does not give us more freedom. The most common way to solve this type of problem is to resort to a Live Linux image that, from RAM, allows us to access our Windows hard drive. Although there is a much more familiar alternative for users of the Microsoft system: Windows PE .
What is Windows PE
Windows PE, or Windows Preinstallation Environment , is an operating system environment from which advanced installation and configuration tasks can be performed outside of session. This environment is characterized by being very light and offering the most advanced users a series of possibilities that, otherwise, could not be done, such as:
- Set up disk and partitions before installing Windows.
- Automate the installation and configuration of the system through scripts.
- Restore previously created Windows images.
- Apply Windows settings without having it started.
- Recover data.
Windows has a tool to create your own Windows PE . However, this tool is very limited and oriented above all to a professional environment. Fortunately, there are much simpler alternatives that allow us to create our own Windows PE and customize it with the programs we want.
Create a custom Windows PE
Before starting the process to create this unit, let’s see what we need. First of all we have to download the latest version of the Win10PE SE program, which will be the one that allows us to carry out this task. And second, we must have an official Windows 10 ISO image on hand.
When we have both on our computer, the first thing we will do is unzip Win10PE SE (in a directory that is not personal, for example, in a folder inside C 🙂 and copy the ISO of Windows 10 to its folder. So we will have everything in one place and we can work more comfortably. We will also mount the ISO image in Windows 10 (by double clicking on it) so that the program can work.
We run the program and the first thing we will see will be a window like the following.
What interests us is the menu on the left, since there are all the steps that we must complete in the program to create our own custom WinPE. The first step will be to choose the source ISO image of our Windows. We click on ” Config Source ” and we will choose here the drive where we have mounted the Windows 10 ISO image.
The next configuration step will be to click in the left menu on ” Main Configuration ” and see the basic configuration of our customized Windows PE.
As we are going to see, we are going to be able to configure if we want it to be loaded in RAM or to be accessed in the normal way (better from RAM), the default resolution of the screen, the bootloader and we can configure the language, region and keyboard parameters of the distro.
The next section will be ” Images Configuration “. Here we are going to be able to configure, broadly speaking, the type of compiler that we want to use and see information about the image. It is best to leave the default parameters, to avoid problems.
At this point we already have everything we need to create our own Windows PE. However, before continuing we will see the customization options offered by this program.
Customize Windows PE
Under the “Images Configuration” directory we will find a series of directories and scripts that will allow us to shape our recovery Windows Live. The first of these directories is “Build”. Within it we will find a series of scripts that will allow us to configure the most basic aspects of personalizing our image. For example, we can configure what is related to drivers, 32-bit support and the theme that we want our custom Windows to have.
Within the “Shell” section we will find a series of scripts that will allow us to customize the appearance of the start menu and the system taskbar, as well as other functions of the operating system.
In the “Components” section we will find a long list of components that we can choose if we want to add them to the project or not. These components are standard Windows applications, such as DirectX, the calculator, PowerShell, or certain operating system libraries. We can mark and unmark those we want.
The next section, “Tweaks”, will allow us to customize and adjust the operation of Windows PE. For example, we can adjust the wallpaper, enable the use of Ramdisk, use the Windows dark theme or add alternative Windows and mouse themes to the project.
Within the next section, “Apps”, we will find a list with all the programs that we can add to the project. The list is very long, and is arranged in different categories according to the type of program. We can mark or unmark those that we want according to the usefulness that we want our image to have. Each program has its own settings, so we must visit each of the program entries that we are going to add to make it as close as possible to our tastes. Also, if we are advanced users and we know how to make scripts, we can create and add our own programs to the project. But with the programs that come standard we will have more than enough.
Similarly, the “Drivers” section allows us to choose the drivers that we want to add or not to our project, in addition to configuring them. For example, in the case of the audio driver we can choose the default volume, or in Nvidia the driver configuration.
In the “Finals” section we will find the last tasks to finish adjusting and configuring this system to our liking. We can configure certain Windows optimizations, the elements that we want to be anchored to the taskbar and other options of the operating system. We will also be able to configure the options for creating the ISO image of this system.
The remaining directories are already a little less important. For example, “VirtualTest” will allow us to make Windows PE compatible with virtual machines, the “WriteMedia” section, configure the program with which we want to record the created ISO image, “Downloads” to download and update the plugins of this program (for example, to have more programs available to add to the image) and “Utils” configure a number of Win10PE utilities.
Create the Windows PE ISO
When we have everything configured, the only thing we will have to do is execute all the tasks that we have configured. We can do this easily by clicking on the “Run” button that appears in the upper right of the program window.
Automatically we can see a wizard that will show us how each of the scripts is executed.
In case something goes wrong (for example, if we have forgotten to choose the source path of Windows 10), the wizard will indicate why it has failed and will allow us to solve the problem to recompile the entire project. When the process ends we will have an ISO image with our custom Windows PE .
Now we only have to save the image to a USB (for example, with Rufus) and we can use it to boot any computer with it.