Windows PE stands for “Windows Preinstallation Environment.” It’s a minimal running subset of the regular Windows operating system that’s designed to support Windows installation, deployment and repair. It’s been around since the Windows Vista days, and an iteration for every subsequent version of Windows is readily available. The Windows 10 version is described nicely in a Hardware Dev Center article entitled “Windows PE (WinPE)” and is included in the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK aka WinADK). Using MS-supplied tools, Windows admins can build their own completely customized Windows PE tools, as described in those documents (and in other items that are linked to there).
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Windows PE Tools Tend to Focus on System Repairs
A full-blown WinPE environment can incorporate all kinds of third-party tools and utilities, as well as whatever set of drivers might be needed for the machines on which that environment will run. While some Windows PE tool sets stick to the command line as an interface, others have well-built GUIs that can sometimes be hard to distinguish from a complete Windows OS installation. Most WinPE environments tend to be heavy on repair and recovery tools, though. That’s because WinPE as a runtime environment is primarily aimed at repair efforts (installation and deployment work just fine fully automated, so GUI grandeur is not needed).
Building one’s own Windows PE tools environment may not be necessary, except for those with very special needs. There are numerous WindowsPE toolkits readily available, some free and some for a fee. Admins may want to look over and ponder this list before deciding to roll up their sleeves and take the DIY route:
- Paragon Software Rescue Kit 14 Free Edition
- Lazesoft Recovery Suite 4.1 ($27.95 and up, various editions)
- AOMEI PE Builder (free)
- LSoft Technologies Active@ Boot Disk ($99.95 and up, based on Windows 8.1 PE)
- Kyhi’s Windows 10 Recovery Tools — Bootable PE Rescue Disk (free, TenForums.com)
- Gandalf’s Windows 10 x64 PE with all x64 apps (free)
This screen cap of the Start menu from Gandalf’s Win10 PE tools shows off a full-blown GUI.
[Click image above to see full-size version.]
No doubt there are other pre-fab Windows PE tools programs out there for Windows 10. So far the preceding items are the best that I’ve been able to find. If you know of others, please post a comment here. I’ll check them out, and those that I also like I’ll add to subsequent updates to this post with shout-outs to the first person to provide a pointer. Thanks!