Learn how to create a bootable Windows PE 3.0 USB drive. First you you create the bootable USB stick, then you copy the WinPE 3.0 files to the drive.
Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

Update: There is now an easier way to create Windows PE boot media.

For Windows PE 1.0, the minimalist Windows based on Windows 2003/XP, you needed an SA (Software Assurance), OEM, or ISV license. When Windows Vista was released everyone had access to Windows PE 2.0. This also applies to the Windows 7-based edition, Windows PE 3.0. Windows PE (Preinstallation Environment) was originally designed to deploy Windows. However, it is also useful in creating your own customized rescue boot media. In this article, I will describe how you can create a bootable Windows PE 3.0 (WinPE) USB stick, and, in my next post, I will show how to add your own rescue tools and how to keep your rescue stick up-to-date without much hassle. You will see that the procedure described here is much more convenient than most solutions you'll find on the web.

Create a bootable USB drive ^

Before you get started, you have to make your flash drive bootable. I have already described this procedure in my post about the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. For your convenience here is the command sequence, which you should run on a command prompt with admin rights:

  1. diskpart
  2. list disk
  3. select disk #
  4. clean
  5. create partition primary
  6. select partition 1
  7. active
  8. format quick fs=fat32
  9. assign
  10. exit

Replace '#' with the drive number of your USB drive. Be careful to choose the right disk in 3 because this procedure will erase the whole drive!

Copy the WinPE 3.0 files to the USB drive ^

WinPE 3.0 is part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows 7, which you can download here. Once you have installed the WAIK, you'll find a folder of the Windows AIK on the Windows Start Menu. Launch the Deployment Tools Command Prompt and enter this command:

  1. copype.cmd x86 c:\winpe_x86
  2. Then, copy winpe.wim to the correct folder:
    copy c:\winpe_x86\winpe.wim c:\winpe_x86\ISO\sources\boot.wim
  3. Now, copy WinPE to your USB drive:
    xcopy C:\winpe_x86\iso\*.* /e G:\

In this example, 'G:' is the drive letter of your flash drive.

Subscribe to 4sysops newsletter!

Now you should be able to boot from your WinPE 3.0 USB drive. In my next post, I will outline the interesting part—that is, how to prepare your USB drive so that you can add new tools without starting again from scratch.

66 Comments
  1. Fred 12 years ago

    A quick post to thank you Michael for all your recent articles, I discovered your website a few weeks ago and now it is one of my firefox bookmarked start pages.

    I'm dying to read part2 of this Windows PE 3 related article 🙂

    (yet another sysadmin)

  2. Fred, thanks!. The second part will probably come on Thursday. Have to make a few minor tweaks.

  3. kosmito 12 years ago

    What is minimal size for usb stick?

  4. kosmito, I think Windows PE 3.0 requires not more than 250 MB.

  5. Barbara Herrmann 12 years ago

    Are there special requirements for BIOS or graphics to boot win pe? My problem is, that I'm using a very thin client which is intended to be used for win 7 embedded, and booting stops at 'Starting Windows' where the flying bubbles should appear.

  6. Barbara, there a no such requirements for normal PCs. However, its is possible that Windows PE lacks some device drivers that are required for your thin client.

  7. Dave 12 years ago

    Got up to this section:

    Then, copy winpe.wim to the correct folder:

    copy c:\winpe_x86\winpe.wim c:\winpe_x86\ISO\sources\boot.wim

    Am I overwritting boot.win with winpe.wim? Or am I copying them to the usb drive?

  8. Dave, yes, I think the name of the WIM file in the sources folder has to be boot.wim.

  9. Dave 12 years ago

    Thanks, I did get it to work. I actually realized that I had a mistype in winpe.wi(n) instead of (m).

  10. Chris Rock 11 years ago

    Thx for fast and clean guide on this Michael, but even after following it fully I couldnt get my UFD to boot - message I was getting was : 'Disk Error bla bla bla' , browsed some other forums and found out that it has to do with BIOS settings that do not 'fully' see your UFD thus making unable to boot from it. Some BIOSes have an option to emulate ur stick as a fdd/hdd drive which should fix the issue, however for those who do not have such option [including me] I recommend excellent utility called WinSetupFromUSB from:

    http://www.msfn.org/board/install-USB-WinSetupF-t120444.html

    Finally thanks to formatting option that adds a second, little partition to your USB [which will essentially redirect ntldr/bootldr/etc. boot request to your USB data partition], I was able to boot my WinPE from it. Hail forums, death to microsoft manuals!

  11. RoninV 11 years ago

    For those 'still' using Vista, where is PE 2.0 located, and are the steps mentioned basically the same when creating a bootable Windows PE 2.0 USB drive?

  12. Hidayah 11 years ago

    Hi Micheal...
    i need some advise to reset my HP MINI 1000 window password. My son might change the password without me knowing and now he also did not know the password.
    ive read a lot regarding reseting password but the problem is hp mini dont have dvd drive. can u please advise me.

    Thanks for your time.

  13. WimC 11 years ago

    Thanks Michael,

    For several month I'm trying to get Windows on a stick.
    I've tried several solutions that are presented on the net.
    So far, this is the only one that works for me.
    Quick and clean.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise,

    Wim Cranen

  14. Chris Smith 11 years ago

    Is it possible to add extra fonts to the off-line image using a .inf installation file? I have written an .inf that is designed to copy the fonts to Windows\fonts, and update the registry using the DISM /Add-Drivers command, but although it runs without any errors, it fails to update the image. I have run the .inf when the image has booted and is “on-line”, and it works, so the problem seems to be with the off-line DISM routine.

  15. nick 11 years ago

    mike,
    i am trying to reset a password on windows vista and for the life of me i cannot figure out how. other than paying best buy 37 bucks to do it. can u please break it down for me in terms i can understand

  16. THI 11 years ago

    Dear Michael!
    i need some advice to reset my window vista password! i have fogoten my password and now i can't log in.in order to reset password it require me to have "removable media such as a floppy disk or USB flash drive".i don know where i can get or create these things.
    i try to read all of your recommendation for reset but i dont have any CD/or DVD.I was thinking about reinstall window vista but i dont know how can you please advise me or can you please give me some advice for reset pass without need CD/DVD.thank you so much

  17. Daniel 11 years ago

    i followed step 1 to create a bootable usb drive
    however instead of selecting my usb as a disk i accidently selected my external as a disk. i realiezed until i got to the clean part of the step. now my computer can't read the external hard drive... how do i get my hard drive back to normal? will i be able to obtain all my files again?

  18. Ian 11 years ago

    I tried Windows PE 3.0 bootable USB drive on some brand-new Lenovo W510 laptops. After boot into Windows PE, and run List Disk in Diskpart, it only shows the build-in hard disk, not any USB drives plugged in so I can access images saved on USB drives. Also when List Partition/Volume in Diskpart, C: drive shows RAW and cannot dir it. However C: has working O.S. installed. Something I can do for this special type of laptop? Thanks.

  19. Phil 11 years ago

    The link you posted is a download for a supplment .iso that does not have an installer (StartCD.exe).

    So what do I download to install WAIK?

  20. Dan 11 years ago

    Hey, seriously, thank you! I've used this guide several times and it's been great. Thank you!

  21. michel 11 years ago

    hello my USB key does not work with diskpart...(list disk)
    I use windows XP and Microsoft Windows AIK

    do you Know an issue?

    Thanks
    Michel

  22. ketan 11 years ago

    you are awesome buddy

  23. Jason 11 years ago

    My computer is Windows Vista basic but I forgot the System Password to load anything past the log on screen and I was wondering if you can supply instructions for this type information for my version or does the 7 directions also apply to my case plus how much memory is required on the Flash drive to use this procedure? I tried to do something I found on the internet describing booting into safe mode to a command prompt and enter NET USER to access resetting options but this loading some files that stopped for a moment to only take me back to the Administrator sign in page. A Thumb drive is my only alternative because my only web connection is at a public library to download any of these programs and the machines there have limited permission.

  24. Ed Neil 11 years ago

    (Sorry for all caps but I couldn't express myself any better)
    YOU ARE THE MAN!
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!
    You have saved me so much anger and (potentially money) trying to fix my Windows 7 Slate PC.
    It won't netboot and gPXE doesn't work at all - thanks to the fancy way the LAN card is seen.
    All I can say is THANK YOU!
    I used 64 bit WinPE so I could run 64 bit Setup.exe which would not netboot (thanks to gPXE being 32 bit)

  25. Cristian Gamboa 11 years ago

    Does not work for me

    disk part work
    winpe create the files
    but when I boot from the usb-key

    I get error
    in \boot\bcd 0xc000000e

Leave a reply

Please enclose code in pre tags

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

© 4sysops 2006 - 2021

CONTACT US

Please ask IT administration questions in the forums. Any other messages are welcome.

Sending

Log in with your credentials

or    

Forgot your details?

Create Account