Windows PE Free Download

07.10.2021 2 Comments

Windows PE Free Download

The handy tool will help you create a Windows PE-based bootable environment without the need to install AIK/WAIK. This environment has a more user-friendly. Get organized and productive with the leading note-taking app. Download Evernote for Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android and create your free account. Download and install windows AIK from Microsoft; Prepare WinPE image; Add drivers to your (search term WAIK) and install it to your computer for free.

Windows PE Free Download -

Microsoft has released a million different iterations of Windows for various purposes over the past few decades. While some of them are rather well-known, others remain relatively obscure. Today, we will talk about one such Windows variant, which is called Windows PE. We will explain all you need to know about Windows PE (also known as WinPE), its history, its relevance, and what it is used for today. We will also talk about how it is different from the regular version of Windows.

Windows PE: What Is It and What Is It Used For? (2021)

In this article, we will take a deep dive into Windows PE and learn about how it works. We will also discuss other technical details about the software, including its features, benefits, limitations, hardware requirements, and more. Finally, we will also see how WinPE is similar or dissimilar to the mainstream Windows distributions. So without any further delay, let’s dive right in.

What is Windows PE (WinPE)?

Windows Preinstallation Environment, also known as Windows PE or WinPE, is alightweight version of Windows used to install, deploy, and repair Windows and Windows Server installations on desktops, servers, and workstations. It also comes in handy for troubleshooting Windows operating systems in offline environments. With that said, one can think of Windows PE as a lightweight version of Windows with limited functionality for installation and recovery purposes.

Windows PE 10.0 Based on Windows 10

Originally developed as a replacement for MS-DOS boot disks, you can boot up WinPE via USB flash drives, CD-ROM, and hard disks. The first release of WinPE was for the XP environment, while the latest version supports all consumer editions of Windows 10 (Home, Pro, Enterprise, and Education), as well as Windows Server and other iterations of Windows 10. While Microsoft makes it available free of charge, you cannot use it as a primary operating system. Why, you ask? Well, that’s because it lacks the critical features of a full-fledged desktop OS.

What is WinPE Used For?

Windows PE has traditionally been used by large corporations for deployment and troubleshooting purposes, while OEMs have used it extensively to preinstall Windows client and server operating systems on PCs during manufacturing. One of the main uses of Windows PE is to help set up your hard drive before installing Windows. With WinPE, you can also install Windows by using apps or scripts from a network or a local drive.

Some of the other notable uses of Windows PE (WinPE) include capturing and applying Windows images (ISOs), modifying the OS when it’s not running, setting up automatic recovery tools, and recovering data from unbootable devices. It also lets you add your own custom shell or GUI to automate these kinds of tasks.

What is Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE)?

A successor to the Windows Recovery Console, Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) is a set of tools based on Windows PE. It helps diagnose and recover Windows PCs from critical errors that may prevent the OS from booting successfully. WinRE is built into the newer versions of Windows, starting with Vista, and you may boot it from hard disks, optical media (CDs, etc.), and PXE (Preboot eXecution Environment).

WinRE features include automatic repair of Windows installations, system restore, system image recovery, Windows memory diagnostic tool, and more.

What Is Windows PE (WinPE) and How Does It Work?

How Does Windows PE Work?

WinPE boots into both UEFI and legacy BIOS mode, which means you can choose either based on your setup. You can check out our detailed article on UEFI vs BIOS, where we have discussed the similarities and differences between the two.

As for WinPE, it first loads the boot sector before the Bootmgr takes control of boot configuration. Finally, the Winload.exe process within boot.wim loads the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL). This helps load the registry hive and boot drivers and create a pathway for WinPE installation.

Once WinPE is up and running, the Ntoskrnl.exe kernel file is loaded, and SMSS (Session Manager) takes control of the operation. The first thing it does is create a Winlogon for user access. It can also load any registry file to configure the setup. After that, the user can run a command-line instruction to launch the setup.exe file to install Windows.

Then, Windows will run winpeshl.exe to initiate the default startnet.cmd command that starts Wpeinit.exe. Wpeinit installs Plug and Play devices, processes Unattend.xml settings, and loads network resources, thereby completing the WinPE boot process.

Supported Windows Features

WinPE is a definitive step up from the DOS-based recovery options, which lacked support for many of the critical features in modern operating systems. That includes support for TCP/ IP, modern device drivers, 64-bit environments, latest file systems, and a lot more. Windows PE runs the command line environment and supports the following Windows features:

  • Dynamic volume creation, NTFS file systems, DiskPart and BCDBoot
  • Native networking, including file sharing via TCP/IP and NetBIOS over TCP/IP via LAN
  • Batch files and scripts, including support for Windows Script Host (WSH) and ActiveX Data Objects (ADO)
  • Optional support for Windows PowerShell
  • Win32 APIs and optional support for HTML Applications (HTA)
  • 64-bit device drivers
  • Image capturing and servicing, including Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM)
  • Optional support for BitLocker and the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), Secure Boot, and other security tools
  • Hyper-V virtualization environment

Hardware Requirements for Windows PE

How to Create a Windows PE (WinPE) Bootable USB or ISO For Windows 10

Windows PE has the same requirements as the corresponding version of desktop Windows, but with a few exceptions. Here are a few things you should remember while using WinPE:

  • You don’t need a hard drive to run WinPE. You can run it entirely from RAM.
  • The base version of WinPE requires only 512MB of memory. If you add drivers, packages, or apps, you will need more memory.
  • While the 32-bit version of WinPE can boot 64-bit BIOS PCs in addition to 32-bit UEFI and BIOS computers, the 64-bit version can only boot 64-bit UEFI and BIOS devices.

WinPE Limitations

As mentioned already, Windows PE is not a general-purpose operating system, either on PCs, as a thin client, or an embedded OS. Then again, WinPE is not intended to be a replacement for Windows (client or server) in the first place. It is only suitable for large-scale Windows deployment and recovery of Windows installations on desktops, laptops, servers, and workstations.

To prevent its use as a production operating system, “Windows PE automatically stops running the shell and restarts after 72 hours of continuous use. This period is not configurable,” says Microsoft in its WinPE documentation.

Another limitation is that, by default, all changes are lost when WinPE reboots. That includes changes to drivers, drive letters, and the Windows PE registry. You can, however, make lasting changes by customizing the software. Check out the official Microsoft website for more details on the subject. Also, note that the default WinPE installation uses the FAT32 file format, which only supports up to 4GB file size and up to 32GB disk drives.

Microsoft further notes that Windows PE does not support the following features and functions:

  • File server or Terminal Server use
  • Joining a network domain
  • Connecting to an IPv4 network from Windows PE on an IPv6 network
  • Remote Desktop
  • .MSI installation files
  • Booting from a path that contains non-English characters
  • Running 64-bit apps on the 32-bit version of Windows PE
  • Adding bundled app packages through DISM (.appxbundle packages)

How Can You Download WinPE and Create Rescue Disks?

Starting with Windows 10 version 1809, Microsoft is offering WinPE as a free add-on to the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK). Users can install the ADK and the WinPE add-ons to start working with the software.

To get Windows PE, install the ADK and choose the Deployment Tools and Windows Preinstallation Environment options. It is worth pointing out that prior to Windows 10 version 1809, WinPE was included as part of the ADK, which means you did not have to download it separately to get started. That is no longer the case.

You can check out our in-depth guide to learn how to create a bootable WinPE USB drive or rescue disk to troubleshoot your Windows computer.

Windows PE: The Windows Distribution You Didn’t Know Existed!

That’s all you need to know about Windows PE. This installation of Windows is not designed to be a standalone operating system, not even as a thin client. However, WinPE is great at what it does, making it a helpful tool to troubleshoot and recover Windows computers faced with critical errors. So have you ever needed to use Windows PE on your computer at home or work? Let us know in the comments down below.


Password Safe

Package Getting KeePass - Downloads

Here you can download KeePass:

KeePass 2.49
Installer for Windows (2.49):InstallerDownload Now

Download the EXE file above, run it and follow the steps of the installation program. You need local installation rights (use the Portable version on the right, if you don't have local installation rights).

Portable (2.49):PackageDownload Now

Download the ZIP package above and unpack it to your favorite location (USB stick, ...). KeePass runs without any additional installation and won't store any settings outside the application directory.

Supported operating systems: Windows 7 / 8 / 10 / 11 (each 32-bit and 64-bit), Mono (Linux, Mac OS X, BSD, ...).
Windows SmartScreen Warning. The warning can be ignored. For details, see the FAQ. KeePass does not contain any malware; here are reports by more than 50 anti-virus programs: VirusTotal Scan (for 2.49), Jotti Scan (for 2.49).

KeePass 1.39
Installer for Windows (1.39):InstallerDownload Now

Download the EXE file above, run it and follow the steps of the installation program. You need local installation rights (use the Portable version on the right, if you don't have local installation rights).

Portable (1.39):PackageDownload Now

Download the ZIP package above and unpack it to your favorite location (USB stick, ...). KeePass runs without any additional installation and won't store any settings outside the application directory.

Supported operating systems: Windows 7 / 8 / 10 / 11 (each 32-bit and 64-bit), Wine.
Windows SmartScreen Warning. The warning can be ignored. For details, see the FAQ. KeePass does not contain any malware; here are reports by more than 10 anti-virus programs: Jotti Scan (for 1.39).
Unsure which edition (1.x or 2.x) to choose? See the Edition Comparison Table. See also the Development Status FAQ. If in doubt, use KeePass 2.x.

Other downloads and links:


5 System Rescue Boot Discs based on Windows PE

A boot disc is very useful because it can be used to perform troubleshooting tasks on an unbootable computer. Most of the time software that belongs in the category of data recovery, antivirus and hard drive backup/restore provides the option to create a boot disc which is sometimes known as rescue disc. Although these software can run from Windows, they are actually most efficient when run offline from a bootable disc.

An example scenario is you’ve accidentally deleted an important file. You can of course install a free data recovery software such as Recuva and attempt to recover the deleted file. However installing it on the computer will face a potential risk of the installed program overwriting the deleted file. To increase the chance of recovering the file, immediately shut down the computer, boot it up with a bootable WinPE disc and run Recuva from the Windows PE environment.

A boot disc is normally based on either Linux or Windows PE. Linux is commonly being used because the operating system and most third party tools are free, the generated boot disc is more compact in size and can run on slower computers. As for Windows PE, it has the best hardware support and most users would be familiar with it such as the hard drive naming convention (C:\) in Windows compared to Linux (/dev/sda). However, Windows PE may have a higher system requirement because the latest Windows PE 5.1 already need at least 512MB just for the base and adding more drivers, packages, or apps will obviously require more memory.

Here we have a list of free boot discs based on Windows PE that come with a collection of useful tools which we think that every computer technician or even a normal user should have to hand.

1. Paragon Rescue Kit 14 Free Edition

Paragon Software is well known for their hard drive management software. Other than shareware, one of the freeware applications they offer is the Paragon Rescue Kit 14. It comes with a bunch of useful tools such as backup/restore to virtual disk, postmortem backup/restore, boot corrector to fix MBR/boot.ini/BCD/EFI boot parameters, undelete partition to restore partition that has been accidentally deleted, and file transfer. Unfortunately the registry editor and password cleaner to reset the local Windows user account is only available in Linux but not in Windows PE.

paragon rescue kit features

Paragon Rescue Kit 14 does not require Windows Automated Installation Kit nor Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit to build the recovery media if you’re creating from a Windows 7 or newer operating system. The builder will simply use the WIM image of the current operating system. However do take note that you will need to install WAIK or ADK if you want the builder to create the ISO image file.

paragon rescue kit

During the building process, you have the option to enable the advanced mode that allows to add storage and network device drivers, network configuration such as detecting the network interface automatically, and mounting a network share automatically after boot. You will also need to provide the product key and serial number which can be obtained for free at their official website.

Download Paragon Rescue Kit 14 Free Edition

2. Lazesoft Recovery Suite Home Edition

Lazesoft Recovery Suite Home Edition is free for non-commercial use only. It is able to create a Windows PE boot disc containing a few modules to help in recovering a crashed Windows by repairing boot errors, recover files after accidental deletion, cloning and creating disk image, recovering Windows serial number and resetting user account password.

lazesoft recovery suite

Building a Windows PE with Lazesoft is as easy as clicking on the “Burn CD/USB Disk” button. You can choose to build a specific WinPE version ranging from Windows 7 to 8.1 for both 32-bit and 64-bit by clicking the Options button. The builder will automatically download the necessary components to build the WinPE if your computer does not have the files.

lazesoft burn cd usb disk

The Windows File Manager button found on the Lazesoft Recovery Suite Home Edition disc is not really a fully featured file manager like Windows Explorer where you have two tree view panes to easily manage files. You can however launch a third party file manager from the Windows Recovery button, go to the RepairTools tab and click on Lazesoft File Manager.

lazesoft file manager

Download Lazesoft Recovery Suite Home Edition

3. AOMEI PE Builder

AOMEI Technology, the company that is well known for their PC backup software called Backupper, released a freeware program called PE Builder late last year to help users easily build a WinPE-based bootable media with just a few clicks. AOMEI PE Builder is able to build a Windows PE by using the Windows Recovery Environment that is found on newer version of the Windows operating system such as 7 and 8, so there is no need to download and install WAIK or ADK.

aomei pe builder

The Windows PE built by AOMEI PE Builder looks more like a normal Windows desktop because it comes with Windows desktop and Explorer which is not found in the Windows PE built by Paragon Rescue Kit or Lazesoft Recovery Suite. Other than that, AOMEI Backupper, AOMEI Partition Assistant and Windows Recovery Environment is included by default. You can also embed 3rd party portable tools such as 7-Zip, Everything, IrfanView, Notepad++, Q-Dir, Recuva, SumatraPDF, FileZilla, PENetwork, QTWeb, BOOTICE, NTPWEdit and OSFMount to the Windows PE by ticking the checkboxes. Custom drivers and files can also be added.

aomei windows pe

Do take note that the current version 1.4 and all older versions might not build a working Windows PE and this is caused by some compatibility issues with the recent Windows updates released by Microsoft. If you urgently need to build a working Windows PE using AOMEI PE Builder, you can do it from a Windows 7 computer with the 2 Windows updates KB3022345 and KB3045999 uninstalled. This workaround only works in Windows 7 but not in Windows 8.1. AOMEI is aware of this issue and is currently working on a newer version to fix this problem.

Download AOMEI PE Builder

4. Gandalf’s Windows 8.1 PE

If you’re looking for a pre-built Windows 8.1 PE, look no further and just use Gandalf’s Windows 8.1 PE because it is packed with useful programs. It has a desktop, explorer, start menu replacement with StartIsBack, compression tools, image viewer, hard drive tools, video player, OpenOffice, remote access tools (Ammyy Admin, Remote Desktop, TeamViewer), anti malware such as ClamWin and MalwareBytes, and many more!

gandalf windows 8.1 pe

Gandalf’s Windows 8.1 PE is 1.8GB in size and in an ISO image format. You can burn it to a DVD or install it to a USB flash drive using Rufus. Both X86 and X64 versions of the 8.1 PE are available to download. All the tools embedded to Gandalf’s Windows 8.1 PE are either free or trial versions which means it’s free from pirated programs.

Download Gandalf’s Windows 8.1 PE

5. WinBuilder 2015

WinBuilder 2015 is the new and completely rewritten tool of WinBuilder 082 which has not been updated since 2011. The old WinBuilder 082 comes in a nice graphical user interface with buttons and graphs while the latest WinBuilder 2015 runs in a simple window that accepts commands, similar to a command prompt. This new version of WinBuilder runs on Java which means it can also run on operating system other than Windows such as Linux and Mac OSX.

winbuilder 2015

The old WinBuilder 082 is supposedly easy enough to use involving only two steps but may be difficult to troubleshoot the problem if there are errors during the Windows PE building process. The new WinBuilder is even easier by typing a single command “AUTO” into the window, and the whole process of building a Windows PE bootable disc is fully automated including the downloading of the Windows ISO image file.

Currently there are 18 portable software tools that can be added to the Windows PE automatically through WinBuilder 2015 by typing the command “install appname” in the program. The plugins available to install can be listed by typing “install list” in the program window. For example, to install Recuva, simply type “install recuva” in the window. Do note that there is no need to type the complete plugin name because the program accepts partial filenames.

windowspe winbuilder

Download WinBuilder 2015

Additional Notes: You can build a WinPE 5.1 which is based on Windows 8.1 using the old WinBuilder 082 through Win8.1SE. You will need to download the Windows 8.1 enterprise evaluation ISO, extract it to your hard drive or mount the ISO to a drive letter, point the source directory to the extracted/mounted Windows 8.1 files, and click the Play button. Optionally, you can also change the configuration settings by enabling/disabling the scripts found at left hand navigation tree.


Windows Central

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