Windows PE is a lightweight version of Windows intended to be used for installation of Windows Vista and later versions of Windows, as well as for system maintenance. It runs entirely from memory and can be booted from the network. This page describes how customized Windows PE images can be created, and optionally published on the network, using only free software packages on an Arch Linux machine along with Microsoft's Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). The WAIK can be downloaded at no cost and is only needed to extract the
boot.wim file that contains the initial copy of Windows PE, along with a couple boot files.
Normally, an image of Windows PE can only be created using the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) on a Windows machine. However, it is also possible to create and modify images of Windows PE using an (Arch) Linux machine, and optionally publish them on the network for PXE booting. No Windows machine is necessary. You may want to do this if:
- you need to install Windows from the network, or boot Windows PE from the network for system administration, using an Arch Linux-based server. This may be because you do not have a Windows-based server, or you prefer using a Linux server because of its improved security and configurability, or you are already using a Linux server for other purposes.
- you need to run a Windows environment to run Win32 programs, you do not have a Windows machine available, and you do not want to use Wine or the programs will not run correctly with Wine.
Creating a bootable Windows PE image
Install AUR.AUR from the
Configure the Windows PE image
To boot into a command prompt, create a startup script, which will be included into the bootable image in the next step:
mkwinpeimg script supports making further modifications to Windows PE using
--overlay option. See the manual page for
mkwinpeimg for more information. You may want to do this to add additional Windows applications that you want to run in Windows PE, or to add any additional drivers that Windows PE needs (drivers can be loaded using the
drvload command within Windows PE).
Make the bootable Windows PE ISO
mkwinpeimg can create a bootable Windows PE ISO from either Windows installation image / disk for Windows 7 or later or from Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) image. In order to get Windows PE 4.0 and later versions, you have to use installation media of Windows 8 and later versions. Earlier versions of Windows PE can be obtained from standalone WAIK distribution from Microsoft.
Since Windows 8, WAIK has been renamed to WADK and is distributed via
The installation media iso files are avaiable for MSDN subscribers, but you can download otherwhere and compare the hash value with the those published on MSDN. Different versions of Windows installation media contains different versions of Windows PE. For the relationship between Windows versions and Windows PE versions, refer to Wikipedia.
Mount the source ISO, either Windows installation image or WAIK/WADK, named winimg.iso:
# mkdir /media/winimg # mount winimg.iso /media/winimg
mkwinpeimg script provided with AUR to create a bootable Windows PE ISO
winpe.iso, with the startup script created in the previous section:
Option A: source image is Windows installation media
$ mkwinpeimg --iso --windows-dir=/media/winimg --start-script=start.cmd winpe.iso
Option B: source image is WAIK/WADK:
$ mkwinpeimg --iso --waik-dir=/media/winimg --start-script=start.cmd winpe.iso
man mkwinpeimg for more information.
Unmount the source ISO:
# umount /media/winimg
Booting Windows PE
After creating a bootable ISO of Windows PE (
winpe.iso) as described in the previous section, you may want to boot Windows PE in the following ways:
In virtual machine
Run a virtual machine with
winpe.iso attached as a CD-ROM. Be sure to give it adequate memory, definitely more than the size of the ISO, since Windows PE runs from memory. See Category:Hypervisors for a list of available virtualization software.
winpe.iso onto a CD, and you can boot from it.
Copy needed PXELINUX files to the TFTP server root directory.
# rsync -aq /usr/lib/syslinux/bios/ /var/tftpboot/
winpe.iso in the TFTP server root directory.
# mv winpe.iso /var/tftpboot
UI menu.c32 MENU TITLE Network Boot TIMEOUT 50 LABEL winpe MENU LABEL Boot Windows PE from network KERNEL /memdisk INITRD winpe.iso APPEND iso raw LABEL localboot MENU LABEL Boot from local disk LOCALBOOT 0
Start the TFTP server.
Configure your DHCP server (such as Dhcpd or Dnsmasq) to point to
pxelinux.0 as the boot file, with the Linux server's IP address. Beware: if your DHCP server is on a router, it may not be possible to do this without installing custom firmware.
After completing the above steps, you should be able to boot Windows PE from the network.
Installing Windows from Windows PE
Once booted into Windows PE, you can install Windows from an installation media.
The installation media can be a network share (Samba). See Samba for seting up a Samba server on another machine on the LAN. To share the installation image mounted at
/media/winimg, add the following share definition to
[REMINST] browsable = true read only = no guest ok = yes path = /media/winimg
Once booted into Windows PE command prompt, run the following command to initialize the network interface, obtain the IP of the Samba server (assuming Windows PE was booted over PXE from a machine that runs the DHCP, TFTP, and Samba server, the server IP will usually be the Gateway IP), mount the share, and launch the GUI setup:
> wpeinit > ipconfig > net use I: \\IP.ADDRESS.OF.SAMBA.SERVER\REMINST > I:\setup.exe