Create a Bootable WinPE USB Drive

WinPE (Windows Preinstallation Environment) is essentially like the Windows Version of a Linux Live CD, where everything is completely self Contained and you can boot directly from the CD/USB into the Build, which provides a familiar Desktop Interface and can run a wide number of Portable or Stand-alone Tools & Commands.

This WinPE is built from the files in your Windows Vista, 7, 8, or 10 Operating System. For this Build, you’ll need to have one of these Operating System’s .ISO Images which you used to Install your OS. If your OS came preinstalled, you’ll just need to download one of these OS’s .ISO files from Microsoft etc.

Step 1: Mount your ISO File:

  • Download WinCDEmu
  • Run the Program & Click ‘Mount’
  • Browse to your ISO File and click ‘OK’
  • Wait for it to mount, but don’t open it or run anything if any windows pop up.

Step 2: Install MistyPE:

  • Download MistyPE
  • MistyPE (mistype) is an awesome project from the UK. They have 3 Main Project Goals:
    • A successful build every time!
    • Clean and simple user interface
    • Good quality instructions
  • And they do an excellent job on all three. Their instructions are refreshingly clear, something sorely missing from most tech articles. I think most are made purposefully vague and ambiguous (which even Microsoft is renowned for) to try and appear more intelligent than everyone else, or to call everyone else “noobs”, a word often found in the actual text of many tech articles. There are even some WinPE builds where people have actually removed key files from the build and made it basically unusable by anyone but the people who broke it, smh. Silly, really, and the very antithesis to the original purpose of the Internet, and undoubtedly a contributing factor to the general decline of computer usage in favor of very simple mobile apps.
  • Click the “Download” Link on that page, and on the next page click on “Download (Required Software)”
  • Extract Misty PE to the Top Level of one of your Drives, such as D:\MistyPE
  • Open the Folder and Click on “Launcher.exe” to Open PEBakery

Step 3: Create your WinPE ISO File:

  • Click on the “Settings” Icon in PEBakery
  • Change “Source Directory” to the Drive Letter of the Windows Image ISO File you Mounted earlier
  • Click “Save”
  • In the Left Panel, be sure to select everything under “Core”, everything under “Essential”, and Everything under “Programs”
  • Open the Programs Tree and Deselect Ammyy Admin, defraggler, Ghost, Partition Guru, PTEdit, and WoFDK, unless you have those programs yourself on your own computer and would like to add them, in which case click on each item, browse to the *.exe of the program and click “Add to Cache”
  • Under “WinFE”, select only WinFE and F.A.U., and deselect FTK Imager Lite & X-Ways Forensics unless you own them yourself, in which case you can point to the *.exe files again.
  • Be sure the “Shell.Then.End” is selected
  • Under the “Boot.Media” Folder, be sure ONLY “Create ISO” is selected and the others are not.
  • If you want to add more of your own programs, or if you want to make more of a WinFE Forensic Build, you can Add your own Programs or Forensic Applications under the “Tools” Folder, under “Add Program”
  • Click on the “Create ISO” item in the “Boot.Media” folder, and set as follows:
    • Under “Select Boot Type”, select BOTH
    • Under “Press Any Key to Boot from CD”, select YES
    • Under “Firmware Type”, select BOTH
    • Under “MIKISOFS or OSCDIMG”, select MIKISOFS
    • Under “Optimise”, select NO, unless Storage space is a serious problem for your USB drive.
    • Under “WinPE.iso”, select YES
  • On the Top Menu Bar, Click the Build/Play Icon
  • Click Yes or OK to any prompts or warnings which pop up
  • Wait for it to Complete
  • You can Find your new ISO file in your MistyPE folder, in a new folder entitled “MistyPE.Project.Output”

Step 4: Create a Bootable USB Drive:

  • Download Rufus
  • Plug in your USB Dongle which you want to use as your WinPE Boot Device
  • Open the Rufus Program
  • Under “Device”, Carefully select the Drive Letter of your USB Device
  • Under “Boot Selection” hit the “SELECT” Button, and browse to your newly created ISO in your MistyPE Output Folder.
  • Under “Partition Scheme”, select “MBR”
  • Under “Target System”, select “BIOS (or UEFI-CSM)”
  • Set File System to NTFS
  • Set Cluster Size to 4096 bytes (Default)
  • Click Start and let it complete writing everything to your USB Drive
  • Browse the new Contents of your Bootable USB Drive
  • Create a Top-Level Folder called “A.Drive” or something starting with an A so it’s always on top.
  • Use this folder as your storage folder only, and for any other programs or other things you may need to carry on your drive, and be careful not to accidentally move or delete anything in your root directory or put anything in else in the top level of the boot drive which may cause any problems, conflicts, or confusion.
  • You can Also make a Folder named “A-Program Files” for your stand alone or portable apps
  • You can put your entire PortableApps set up in this folder

Usage:

  • Turn off the Target Computer
  • Plug your USB into a Motherboard USB Port
  • Power On the Computer
  • Enter BIOS or UEFI during Start up
  • Take note of the current Boot Priority
  • Set First Boot Device to your USB Drive, usually USB-HDD (don’t set any other USB devices as 2nd or 3rd Boot Priority)
  • Save & Exit to Restart
  • Allow it to Boot into your WinPE
  • Select Ram Boot or Flat Boot
  • When Disk Mgr pops up, you can turn system disks on or off or set to read write, ore read only etc, or just close it if you don’t want to make changes
  • Right Click desktop and select “Set Resolution”, then type 3 for 1280×1024 and hit enter
  • You can right click desktop > File Manager to launch Q-dir to browse to the Portable Apps folder you made earlier, or right-click > Run > Browse.
  • Right click desktop > Launch at for a lite launcher that can be set on different sides of the screen
  • When Done, Power off computer
  • Remove USB
  • Power On Computer
  • Enter BIOS or UEFI during start up
  • Return Boot Priority to the Original State
  • Save & Exit to Restart
  • Power Off Computer, as it shuts down for Restart

 

Precautions:

  • WinPE is very powerful, as if you just took your computer and hooked it up directly to a Linux Machine, so be careful how you use it, or who you let use it, or you could lose your entire computer
  • Unplug the USB if not booting into the WinPE OS. Never Boot your Windows OS with a USB dongle attached.

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