Windows PE (or Windows Preinstallation Environment) is a smaller version of Windows. This custom environment is useful in emergencies, allowing you to run Windows commands or custom third-party tools to troubleshoot Windows installation problems or, in the worst case, recover files.
There are several third-party Windows PE rescue disks that you can download and use, such as Hiren’s BootCD PE. If you are wary of trusting a third-party solution, especially in case of potential piracy issues, you can create your own using Win10XPE Let’s take a look at how to create your own Windows PE Rescue Disk.
Create a Windows PE rescue disk
To create a Windows PE rescue disc, you will need the latest copy of the Windows 10 installation media. Microsoft provides Windows 10 ISO images for download, but you need to change your browser user agent to Chrome OS or Android first to be able to download the file from Microsoft’s website.
- If you have a downloaded Windows 10 ISO image, you will need to download the latest Win10XPE Unpack the Windows 10 ISO and Win10XPE 7Z compressed file using 7-Zip, then run Win10XPEexe.
- The first time you start Win10XPE, you will need to point it to the location of the extracted Windows 10 installation files. Click Select Windows 10 Source Folder from the Win10XPE main menu.
- After the Windows 10 setup files are loaded into Win10XPE, you can start configuring the tools you want to include in your WinPE drive. On the left menu, click the + arrow next to the Applications field to expand that section.
- From here, go through each subcategory to choose which tools you want to add. Win10XPE will use the default configuration, choosing the tools it thinks will be useful to you. You can leave them as they are, but to add them to your environment, check the box next to each option.
- You will also need to change your Build Core configuration. This sets up various settings like keyboard layout and locale for your WinPE build. Click on Build Core in the left menu.
- The default Build Core menu configuration should work for most users. However, if you want to use a wireless network connection in WinPE, be sure to check the boxes for “Network Drivers”, “Network Add-Ons” and Microsoft .NETFx4 in the “Main Interface” tab.
- You can also add your own files to the WinPE environment. These can be portable tools, such as those available for download on PortableApps, or additional configuration files. To configure Win10XPE to add them, select the Add Custom Folder check box, then click the Open Custom Folder button to copy the files to that location.
- The last Utilities menu does not require configuration for most users. If you really need to customize this section, for example to enable .NET Framework 2.0-3.5, click the + arrow next to Utilities in the left menu.
- Once your Win10XPE configuration is ready and your files are located, you can create it. Click the Play button in the upper right corner to start the build process.
Burn Windows PE to a USB flash drive
- First select your flash drive from the Device drop-down menu, then select the ISO image by clicking the Select button next to Boot selection menu.
- After you select an ISO file, Rufus will automatically configure itself to match the most appropriate settings for it. When you’re ready to start flashing, press START at the bottom.
After the Rufus flashing process is complete, restart your computer with the USB flash drive connected. You should then boot into your custom Windows PE, allowing you to begin repairing your Windows installation.
Using Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE)
If you want a built-in solution, Windows 10 users can use Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) instead. Although WinPE is customizable, WinRE is a comprehensive solution that includes tools to restore your file system, restore Windows to a previous backup, restore Windows to factory settings, and more
The advantage of Windows Recovery Environment over Windows PE is that all Windows 10 users already have WinRE installed.
- If you were able to boot into Windows 10, you can download WinRE by going to the Advanced Startup Settings menu. Right-click the Windows Start Menu button and select Settings.
- From here, click Update & Security> Recovery> Restart Now. This will boot your computer into Windows 10 Advanced Boot Menu.
You can also boot into Windows Recovery Environment by interrupting the Windows 10 startup process at least twice. Once WinRE has loaded, you may need to click Advanced Options> Troubleshoot to access the various included recovery tools.
If your Windows installation is unrecoverable, you may need to erase and reinstall Windows 10.