If Windows no longer boots, a system boot repair is the order of the day – it doesn’t always work. This is how you create a UEFI-compatible Windows PE stick for emergencies.
W.hen you think that nothing works on the PC, a rescue team will come after booting an emergency Windows: The environment is based on Windows PE and is therefore familiar to use. Among other things, you can use the emergency measure to make data backups, reset forgotten Windows passwords, partition, defragment and surf the web. You do not have the advantage of the familiar operator guidance with rescue disks based on Linux, such as the Kaspersky Rescue Disk (Gentoo Linux) or the COMPUTER BILD Emergency DVD Free.
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The advantage of Linux solutions, on the other hand, is that they are available turnkey. Burning the ISO file to DVD or transferring the image to a USB stick is sufficient. However, such an emergency Windows needs to be created first: This is the case for licensing reasons – download portals would get into trouble if they offered such ISO images for download. This article tells you the advantages of such a mini-Windows for PC hardship cases and describes how to assemble it. It does involve a lot of effort, but if you are in a tinkering mood, you may even find something to do with it.
Among other things, you can continue to use your PC even if you have problems with basic applications – as if it were still intact. In addition, backup is probably the most important field of application: If Windows is no longer bootable, you save important files on your emergency stick (which also contains the bootloader of the mini-Windows). It is impressive that defrags (!) Are possible from a live system. Again, these are only useful for hard disks.
Advantages of a mini-window
You should not only create an emergency mini-window when there is literally a fire, but rather beforehand. Then bunker the USB stick with it in a drawer and hope that you will never need it. Such a mini-system based on Windows PE ( P reinstallation Environment) has operating advantages: Anyone who is used to Windows would prefer to straighten out a battered system in a Windows rather than a Linux boot environment.
Technically, there may be slight advantages: Repairs to the operating system with its (booted) on-board resources may be more successful than those with tools from a Linux live system. We researched the following workshop with Windows 10 20H2 (October 2020 Update) 64 bit. The system was installed and corresponds to the version status of the edited Windows 10 ISO data. The more modern the PC, the faster the emergency ISO file will be built.
It is best to use an SSD, the data transferred in gigabytes whiz faster to the destination than with a hard drive. A fast CPU is also helpful.Rufus bootable on a sufficiently large USB stick. Booting from it worked in the test with both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 notebooks (both installed in UEFI mode).
Looks like a normal Windows 10 – but boots (in emergencies) from the stick.
Windows PE (WinPE) vs. Windows RE (WinRE)
Windows PE is not to be confused with Windows RE (Recovery Environment): PE refers to P reinstallation E nvironment, so pre-installation environment. This is of interest to PC manufacturers (OEMs) and administrators who want to automatically install Windows on devices. Windows RE, however, is available for Windows R ecovery E nvironment and is an emergency environment:
Boots the system stops, it repaired it. On-board tools such as the command prompt are available, and there is also a system start repair. It inherits the Windows XP repair installation. Technically , WinRE is based on WinPE :“Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) is a recovery environment for solving common problems with operating systems that do not start. WinRE is based on the Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) and can be used with additional drivers, languages, optional Windows PE -Components and other troubleshooting and diagnostic tools. By default, WinRE is preloaded in Windows 10 desktop editions (Home, Pro, Enterprise, and Education) and Windows Server 2016 installations “ .
WinRE has not only existed since Windows 10, the predecessor systems also accommodate it: both in the ISO / DVD setup medium and installed on the hard drive / SSD. Microsoft has been delivering WinRE with the operating system since Windows 7: If you press the F8 key when the PC is started, you will find “Repair your computer” in a menu next to the safe mode. In Windows Vista this point is missing in the F8 menu.
If you wanted to repair Windows Vista, you had to boot from a Vista DVD and select the “Next> Computer Repair Options” button. The functions in Windows Vista / 7 are identical (apart from some different names) and include Startup Repair, System Restore, System Image Restore, Windows Memory Diagnostics and Command Prompt. With Windows 8, Microsoft has the operating systemMade inaccessible for the F8 key , but the menu has been visually revised. The buttons are now larger and more touchscreen-friendly.
Create Emergency Windows: Win10PE-SE Instructions
Two ingredients are required to create an emergency Windows for the USB stick: Win10PE SE , a Windows 10 installation file and Rufus . Download this content first; Download links can also be found at the beginning of this article. For the Windows 10 file, we refer to the Windows ISO downloader, which acts as a downloader and loads an ISO image onto the disk.
The download could be done with the Media Creation Tool for Windows 10(MCT), but that is only the second choice. If you already have a Windows ISO (loaded with the MCT), use this file as well – for a further step (more on this later). In short: It doesn’t really matter how you load a Windows 10 ISO, but in this specific case ISO downloader ISOs are technically better. Since the handling of Win10PE SE is not immediately apparent, strictly adhere to the following instructions.
Win10PE SE on the basis of WinBuilder assembles your Mini-Windows for you.
- Download everything you need and deactivate your virus scanner. He must not interfere with the construction of the emergency system. He doesn’t necessarily do that, but it is possible. And then you’d have to start over. If you don’t want to turn off your virus scanner, try building like this. However, if it fails, you should repeat the process without protection. As part of our research, Microsoft Defender Antivirus prevented the download of Win10PE SE in Microsoft Edge Chromium under Windows 10 20H2. When we switched off the Defender, the process went through. To remedy this, Defender users enter “security” in the start menu, open the hit “Windows security”, click in the new window on “Virus & threat protection”, then under “Settings for virus & threat protection” on “
- Win10PE SE is located in a ZIP archive. Open it with Windows Explorer. At the same time, start another Explorer instance with Win-E, open drive C and unzip the zipped folder: To do this, drag the “Win10XPE” directory into the Explorer window with “Local disk (C :)” or similar.
- Open the “Win10XPE.exe” file from the C: \ Win10XPE folder with a double-click. Confirm a query from the user account control with “Yes”.
- Unzip the ISO: First, double-click on your Windows 10 ISO file, which you have ideally obtained with the Windows ISO Downloader. Windows mounts the image as a virtual drive with its own drive letter in Explorer; This type of hooking has been possible with on-board tools since Windows 8. Create a new folder on the desktop using Ctrl-Shift-N; this key combination has been around since Windows 7. Rename the directory with something like “ISOdownloaderISOentpackt” and drag the Windows 10 setup files from the Explorer window with the virtual drive to the desktop directory. A dialog shows you the copying progress. Be patient for the transfer to finish.
- The user interface of Win10PE SE is complex; you do not need to visit most areas. Click on “Select the Windows 10 Source Folder”, mark the desktop folder “ISOdownloaderISOentpackt” and confirm with “OK”.
- The range of third-party programs that do not belong to Windows is already decent in Win10PE SE. If you want to add additional software, such as Mozilla Firefox ESR, double-click “Apps” in the tree area on the left of the window. As a test, double-click the individual folders to display their sub-entries. Put a check mark in front of applications that you want to add. This is useful for “Components”, for example, where professionals add the missing PowerShell to the factory-built command line: Put a tick at “PowerShell Core”, that’s it. If you highlight a program entry, you will see a description and a screenshot on the right. We also recommend the tools “File Tasks> Everything” (fast file search engine), “File Tasks>
- Click the blue “Play” button at the top right to assemble the ISO file. The program now compiles the data, which happens in about 34 or 43 steps and takes a few minutes. Note that the ISO will be larger if you have added more programs. With USB sticks with today’s proportions, this is negligible.
- The finished ISO file ends up in the Win10PE-SE project folder, ie under C: \ Win10PXE. Transfer them to a USB stick with Rufus. In the tool, select whether the stick should be suitable for BIOS (MBR) or UEFI PC systems (GPT). A stick created using the GPT option will not boot on an older device with classic BIOS firmware. An introduction to Rufus can be found in the article ” Install Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 from a USB stick”. There you will also find further tips on USB installation.
- Before using Rufus, test your ISO file in a virtual machine if desired. How to check if it is basically bootable. You will also familiarize yourself with the operation. VirtualBox is recommended for the test procedure, we have published a comprehensive guide in the following article: ” Virtual machines: The best tips for VirtualBox, XP mode, VMware & Co”.
- Connect your emergency USB stick to a problem PC and boot from it. For a UEFI device, right-click the start button under Windows 8.1 / 10, move the mouse pointer to “Shut down or log out”, hold down the shift key and click “Restart”. In the next screen select “Use a device” and then the GPT stick. If you intend to boot from an MBR stick on a BIOS PC, restart it – if the stick is plugged in, it ideally boots the computer without any problems.
An important note: Even if the installed antivirus is switched off, it can happen that Win10PE SE cannot build the ISO. You will then see an error log, which is usually of little help. You could ask a search engine about the error. It is easier if you delete all files involved in the Win10PE-SE project and start over. In the test, an ISO could be created on several notebooks, both under Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. On two Windows 10 PCs that have been in operation for a long time, this failed despite deactivated virus protection (Avira Antivirus Pro). If you are completely unsuccessful with Win10PE SE, use a second PC for experiments, if available. A virtual machine is also worth considering, but it slows down the construction process.
Win10PE SE: Use Media Creation Tool ISO
Actually, Windows 10 ISO files are equivalent, regardless of whether you downloaded them using MCT (Media Creation Tool) or the Windows ISO Downloader. There is one technical difference, however: MCT ISOs contain the install.esd file in the internal sources folder. However, a file install.wim is required for handicraft tools such as Win10PE SE.
The latter is less compressed and is given with Windows 10 ISOs that come from the Windows ISO downloader. Win10PE SE refuses to work with ISOs that work internally with the ESD format. At first glance, you cannot see which of the files an ISO file contains: However, you can check this by mounting it with a double-click and looking in Explorer.
If your ISO has the wrong data format, Simply use the Windows ISO Downloader to download an ISO file with WIM processing that is suitable for the project. Is that out of the question, perhaps because your internet connection is slow? Then convert the install.esd file to install.wim. On-board resources are sufficient for this:
Start a command line with administrator rights with Win-R, the command cmd and Ctrl-Shift-Enter. Enter cd <folder path> , replacing <folder path> with the location where the Windows 10 files extracted from the ISO are located. Since the CMD has increased powers, no drag & drop of the folder into the command line works for relocating the path; Instead, right-click the directory while holding down the shift key, select “Copy as path” and paste the information cached in RAM into the cmd.exe with Ctrl-V. Now run a DISM command:
dism / Get-WimInfo /WimFile:sources\install.esd
A list of available Windows editions appears, each with an index number. We want to use Windows 10 Home, where Windows shows the index “1”. The following command therefore follows:
dism / export-image /SourceImageFile:sources\install.esd / SourceIndex: 1 /DestinationImageFile:sources\install.wim / Compress: max / CheckIntegrity
Windows will now convert, at the end a copy of the file in WIM format is available in the install.esd folder. Delete the install.esd file, leaving only install.wim. Now Win10PE SE should be able to do something with the ISO unzipped folder.
Four powerful utilities: Recuva saves deleted files, Defraggler defragments, Speccy reads hardware data and CPU-Z general PC information. The first three applications come from Piriform. The applications mentioned in the article are usually also recommended for regular operation under Windows. You can find them for free in the download area.
Basic tips for mini windows
After booting your emergency Windows, you will see a Windows 10 desktop. There is a start button, a task bar and a start menu, but no Win-X menu (context menu of the start button). Use Windows-E to open Windows Explorer, for example to navigate through the existing partitions and to save files to the boot stick with Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V. The programs integrated in Windows PE can be called up by double-clicking on desktop icons; it also works via the start menu (enter what you are looking for and open the find you want). These tools are included in a blank PE, even if you haven’t enriched the OS by adding ticks in Win10PE SE:
- The command line: You call it up with Win-R and cmd , alternatively by clicking on its taskbar icon or by double-clicking on a desktop link. The more powerful PowerShell is not on board at the factory.
- Assuming you have the necessary knowledge, you can use the command line to carry out repairs. In order for commands to affect partition C, first switch to it in the program (with “cd / d <drive letter>:” without the quotation marks).
- Explorercan also be found on the desktop . You can call it up faster than double-clicking with Windows-E. Or you can click on the associated icon in the system tray.
- In addition to the Explorer, Q-Diris also suitable for data backups : the tool has a four-window view.
- Even Internet Explorer(IE) 11 is present: it can be accessed via the desktop (double-click the icon); Win-R and the execute dialog iexplore does not work.
- IE is only the second choice for surfing, Google Chromeis better (see the taskbar icon, alternatively called up via the start menu).
- If necessary, Mozilla Firefox ison board, at least if you have added the client in Win10PE SE.
- You can use the browsers to get more information when problems are raging. In order for this to work, use the network symbol in the notification area(next to the Windows clock) to bring up the WLAN dialog and log in to a WLAN with a WPA2 password.
- The “System Recovery”application , which leads to Windows troubleshooting, is located on the desktop .
- To intervene in the partitioning, press Win-R and open the system’s disk managementwith msc .
- A command similar to diskmgmt.msc also works: With Win-R and msc youcan access the device manager with hardware information .
- The external tool ” Aomei Partition Assistant Standard Edition” is used as a partitioner .
- There is also an editor with Notepad(not exactly the Windows 10 counterpart notepad.exe, but software from developer Florian Balmer), the editor “WordPad” (even with the ribbon interface introduced by Windows 7), a program called PhotoViewer (which is what IrfanView is), the (un) packer 7-Zip and the screenshotter “Snipping Tool” as well as step recording . You may still find the backup solutions Acronis True Image 2021 and Aomei Backupper in the start menu if you added them with Win10PE SE.
- When it comesto troubleshooting, ChkDskGUI is relevant , which is a graphical user interface for checking hard disk errors . Use a drop-down menu to select the drive to be checked and repaired. Defraggler , which you can use to defragment hard disk partitions and gain speed , falls into the context of hard disk tools. This is rather unnecessary since you boot an emergency stick to fix the problem; Tuning can also be operated more comfortably under a full-fledged Windows.
- Tools like CPU-Zand Speccy inform you about your hardware: CPU-Z especially with regard to the processor, Speccy serves as a universal hardware analysis program for components of all kinds.
- Sumatra PDFis a slim PDF viewer.
- With Recuva, probably the best freeware data saver is also available in Windows 10 PE: The Piriform or the anti-virus provider Avast program restores deleted files.
- You can openthe Windows registry editor with Win-R and regedit , among others .
- The GUI tool NTPWEdithas it all : It replaces a forgotten Windows password with one of your choice.
- When itcomes to the Autostart Manager, the most powerful software solution is built in: Autoruns from the Sysinternals Suite. The program taps into the registry autostart of any user account or dual-boot system when it is called normally under Windows. It works similarly as part of the Win10PE-SE-OS: You call up Autoruns and select “File> Analyze Offline System”. Now enter D: \ Windows and D: \ users \ default in the two fields to edit the associated registry. If you remove the check mark in front of an autostart, it is paralyzed.
McAfee Labs Stinger is one of the best malware scanners that scans the selected partitions for threats. The on-demand scanner creates HTML logs for scans.
Multiple drives in RAM windows
The booted Win10PE-SE system is integrated into Explorer twice: in the form of a RAM disk drive and as a regular USB stick entry. Transfer files that you want to back up from a battered Windows to the USB stick. It doesn’t matter whether you use Windows Explorer or Q-Dir.
Delete or change Windows password
A tip for resetting the Windows password: Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 10 Pro were installed in a multi-boot environment on our test system. The Windows 10 installation password must be removed. For this we call – in the case of our reaction research – “Start> All Programs> Security> NTPWEdit”.
The program would like to be informed of the path to a SAM file for the Windows account concerned. It has already been entered, but did not belong to the SAM file on the Windows 10 partition. We recognize this after clicking on “Open”. Because afterwards NTPWEdit lists the existing user accounts; in addition to the teddy account (which exists in Windows 7/8/10), the account of a second user that we only created in Windows 10 is missing.
We therefore replace the C in the existing path C: \ Windows \ System32 \ config \ SAM with a D – and voilà: After clicking “Open”, the correct collection of users appears. The explanation is that in Windows systems booted from externally, the C partition is sometimes given a different drive letter; but this only applies to the runtime of the live system. The accounts listed include “teddy” (whose password should disappear), among others, Administrator, DefaultAccount,
Guest and _ashbackup_ (the latter belongs to Ashampoo Backup 2020, which was used under Windows 10 a long time ago). After clicking on the “teddy” account, you can continue with the “Change password” button. A new dialog opens: The desired password must be entered twice, one below the other. To confirm, select “OK> Save changes> Exit”. Now, after a restart, the system account can be used with the new password or even without it (if you have left the two password fields empty in NTPWEdit).
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