I’ve got some time on my hands (I’m at home not feeling too well) and decided that I’d spend a bit of time setting up the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) on my laptop. I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, as I want to enable BitLocker (and be able to recover my data if my laptop ever decides to not work’). It’s worth pointing out that, because of my role, I don’t run the Microsoft corporate image of Windows Vista Enterprise (I run Ultimate).
WinRE is just WinPE (Windows Pre-Installation Environment) with a bunch of recovery tools. This is what you’ll end up with:
Very ‘handy’ – just a bit ‘fiddly’ to get installed (especially as an afterthought).
There’s loads of great info available (just use your favorite search engine) but even with this I needed to do more.
You can create a bootable CD/DVD with WinRE on it, but ideally you have it available as a boot option. You actually end up with your PC booting into it automatically if Windows won’t load for any reason.
If you’re building your PC from scratch, you need to create a separate partition on your drive to hold WinRE. The best way to do this, is to follow these instructions.
If you’ve already installed Vista, and you’re running Ultimate, you can use the Windows BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool – it comes as part of the ‘BitLocker and EFS enhancements’ optional extra on Windows Update. Failing that it’s WinPE and DiskPart.exe or a third party tool.
Either way, you now have a 1.5Gb boot/system partition at the beginning of your disk, holding the boot block and enough information for Windows to boot from the second partition.
Now onto WinRE itself. To do this properly, you’ll need the Windows Automated Installation Kit (well you only need imagex.exe and SetAutoFailover.cmd really) – you can get WAIK here.
One last ‘gotcha’ – When you boot into WinRE, it gets you to logon as a Local User from your Windows installation (preferably an admin). My laptop is a member of the Microsoft domain and doesn’t have any local user accounts (well it does have Guest and Administrator, but they’re both disabled). I simply enabled the local Administrator account (after giving it a password that meets the Microsoft password policy – the Group Policies on our network force strong passwords).
Hopefully I’ll never need to boot into WinRE, so I’ve probably wasted the last hour or two – but I ‘might’…