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Creating a recovery CD ^
A while back, I described how you can create your recovery CD with the WAIK (WAIK was renamed to Windows ADK). The procedure is not complicated, but it involves a lot of type-type because you have to do most of the installation work at a command prompt.
Windows PE with Explorer
With AMOEI’s PE Builder, the process will go much faster. Also, you don’t need to download the Windows ADK, and quite a few useful troubleshooting tools are already included. In addition, you can start Microsoft’s Windows Recovery Environment from AMOEI’s Windows PE installation.
Adding files and drivers
The freeware tool comes with an easy-to-use wizard. After five clicks, your recovery CD is ready to be created. You will need a few more clicks only if you want to add your own tools and drivers, which the wizard supports. At the end of the procedure, you can burn your CD/DVD, create a USB recovery stick, or just store your installation as an ISO file which you can use in virtual environments.
Creating bootable media
Note that you can’t create the recovery CD on Windows 8.1. At the moment, the PE Builder wizard only runs on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2012. However, you can use the boot media that the tool creates to recover a Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 machine.
Included recovery tools ^
PE Builder’s wizard allows you to choose which of the integrated tools you want to include in your recovery CD. Since they are all quite lightweight, I see no reason not to copy them all to your Windows PE installation. The integrated tools are as follows:
AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard: A partition manager can certainly be useful if you have to troubleshoot a Windows installation that is unable to boot up.
AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard
AOMEI Backupper Standard: Before you start troubleshooting a Windows installation in offline mode, you might want to create a system image so you can restore the original installation if you totally messed it up.
AOMEI Backupper Standard
Everything: For some reason, this tool is not selected by default in the PE Builder’s boot media creation wizard, but I find the tool quite useful for troubleshooting. It is a search utility that displays all files of the Windows installation that you want to recover. The very fast search filter allows you to locate every file within seconds.
Recuva: This nice undelete tool fits very well on every recovery CD. Whenever you have to undelete important files, it makes sense to unplug the machine immediately to ensure that Windows doesn’t have the chance to overwrite the accidentally deleted files. You can then undelete the files when the Windows installation is offline.
QtWeb: This lightweight and portable web browser allows you to download more troubleshooting tools from your Windows PE environment. Be aware that, for some reason, the browser has problems with HTTPS.
Other tools included are 7-Zip (file archiver), IrfanView (image viewer/converter), Notepad++ (my favorite text editor), SumatraPDF (helpful if you have to read documentation during your troubleshooting session), Q-Dir (nice file explorer), PENetwork (useful network configuration tool), FileZilla (FTP, FTPS, and SFTP client), OSFMount (mounts images as virtual drives), BOOTICE (restores the MBR and the Partition Boot Record), and CPU-Z (gathers information about the CPU, RAM, mainboard, etc.).
The AMOEI web page also lists NTPWEdit, a freeware tool that allows you to reset Windows passwords, but I couldn’t find it on the recovery CD. However, it shouldn’t be a big problem to add the tool with PE Builder’s wizard.
AMOEI PE Builder allows you to quickly create a bootable troubleshooting media and comes with quite a few useful tools. Windows PE is lightweight and boots up quickly from optical discs, which is perhaps the biggest advantage over a Window To Go recovery environment for which you also need a Software Assurance license. A downside of Windows PE certainly is that you can only use portable recovery tools.