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.

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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. georg 11 years ago

    i have lost my admins password!how am i soposted to do this if i have no acces...?

    • Marvin Tappan 4 years ago

      You smell that? Smells to me like you may be burnt!!!

       

  2. daniel 11 years ago

    I cannot create a password reset disk, nor can I reset my admin user account password. However, I can log in with my original admin password, half of the time. How do I reset my password for a windows 7, 64 bit platform?

  3. Nathan Sann 10 years ago

    I am not sure why so many people think that this is about resetting your password when it is clearly instructions on how to get Windows to boot off a USB. Two totally different things... There are more than enough sites explaining how to remove passwords, but if you aren't very computer literate then you will have to pay Best Buy the $37. There is a reason it's difficult for a non technical person to be able to override the password...

  4. SA-X 10 years ago

    For those that have lost passwords, try using ophcrack (I believe that is how it is spelled) it is a linux distro so you might be new to it. There are two versions one for xp and for vista/7 it finds my windows password when im in a panic. Also it may be able to run from usb stick (try googling linux livecd to usb) for you netbook users.

  5. Ken Overly 10 years ago

    Can the same instructions be used if you are creating a 64-bit Win PE? Just replace the X86 string in the commands at the start of your article with AMD64?

    Thanks for very clear instructions! =)

  6. vinpa 10 years ago

    Every time I attempt to run 'format' command, it returns the list of available commands, and 'format' is not one of them.

    I am running 'DiskPart version 5.1.3565'.

    Thanks,

    vinpa.

  7. Jim 10 years ago

    or you can just use wintobootic tool and do it with one click.

  8. vinpa 10 years ago

    @Jim: I actually ended up using RMPrepUSB and found some great instructions on http://sites.google.com/site/rmprepusb/tutorials/how-to-image-a-system-using-a-bootable-winpe-ufd-and-imagex.

    After following those simple instructions I was able to create a working image (after 3 days of trial and error).

    Cheers,

    vinpa.

  9. James 10 years ago

    Hi,

    I am trying to find your post that you mention in step 1. Is it this one:

    https://4sysops.com/archives/windows-7-usbdvd-download-tool-wudt-is-unable-to-copy-files/

    Thank you,

    James

  10. James, yes this is the right post. I added the link now. Thanks!

  11. Krish 10 years ago

    hi,
    Can you please tell me how to copy files from hard disk to USB in WIN PE pass while imaging?

  12. Wray 10 years ago

    I have a Dell Studio 1558 running windows 7 with a clobbered boot record and am trying to create a bootable recovery disk from my old XP system. Should your procedure procedure work if I use a usb hard drive instead of the stick? I think I've followed everything correctly but I keep getting "operating system not found" when I try to boot from the usb HD.

  13. Jery Levinson 10 years ago

    Although not actually stated, I assume this only works with Win7? I have a netbook with xp (and pe on a hidden partition) that came with no system CDs and would like to make a bootable USB backup for emergencies. Any thoughts on that?

  14. Frank 10 years ago

    I tried to follow your procedure with the fat32 formatting and copying the win_pe files from the installed AIK. Unfortunately I always get only the message that the ntldr is missing when I boot from the USB stick. Which of the steps should copy these files on the stick ?

    Thank in advance

    Frank

  15. Frank 10 years ago

    I tried it one more time, now everything is fine, most probable I was the reason 🙂 .

    Frank

  16. Matthew Mcconaughey 10 years ago

    Thank you Michael for the useful information. I am trying to develop the WinPE 3.0 for testing purposes. I have a quick question that can i use some of my programs similar to portable applications on WinPE?

  17. Joseph Schatz 10 years ago

    Michael

    I have 2 questions

    1. How do you add drivers to the USB

    2. I have the .wim for several tools...but not execuables...How can I add them to the USB drive

  18. Ben 10 years ago

    Hi,

    Is there a reason we don't edit copype.cmd to copy the boot.wim to the correct folder? It seems weird to have to manually do a task that is easy to automate.

  19. Ching 10 years ago

    Hi,

    I followed all instruction and successfully boot into winpe but my winpe stuck on startup command prompt with command wpeinit only. what should i do ?

  20. Sorry, I can't answer all the questions. It appears to me that some of you have problems with creating a bootable USB stick. The corresponding section in this post was messed up because of a CMS update. I corrected this now. If you follow the instructions step-by-step it should work.

    Ching, Windows PE has no graphical user interface. So everything appears to be alright in your case.

  21. Hassan 10 years ago

    dear micheal,

    i have setup a bootable usb using win98 dos system file through hp's partition tool.

    i've also copied the backup.gho file i.e. the image of my pc and ghost32.bat on that usb.

    when i boot using that usb to restore the image on my pc, Dos run ok and 'dir' shows the contents as well but ghost32.bat doesn't run there from which i could possibly load the image to my hard disk.

    please help. thank you

  22. Alan Lau 10 years ago

    The instructions

    - Then, copy winpe.wim to the correct folder:

    Question: Which folder to which folder???

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

    Question: Copy these 2 files to where???

    - Now, copy WinPE to your USB drive:

    Question: The entire folder in Program Files or the C:\winpe_x86 folder???

    I hope that the instructions can be as clear as water and not leaving out something for people to guess

  23. Hasan, the instructions here are not for Windows 98.

    Alan, "copy" is a Windows command. The first parameter is the source folder and the second parameter is the destination folder. I changed the format of the instructions. Maybe it makes easier to understand. Note that the instructions on 4sysops are for IT professionals.

  24. Kevin 10 years ago

    Thank you, I created by first bootable USB pendrive!!!

  25. Brian 10 years ago

    Michael,

    Thanks for doing this. Great information and easy to follow.

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