Custom PE for rescue media


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Mintmag
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I heard that you can create custom pre install environments for the rescue media. Has anyone ever done this. I'd be very interested in learning how to do it. I've delved into modifying Windows with the DISM tool so I know a little bit about changing the Windows PE but the macrium rescue, never crossed my mnd. 
Froggie
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I believe in the Rescue Media creation area, you are allowed to select a custom WIM (Windows Image) instead of the standard downloaded one and Reflect will integrate itself into that WIM.

Basically, go off and create a (or use an alternate pre-created) WIM then come back and use Reflect to integrate itself into that WIM image.

Edited 28 June 2020 1:09 PM by Froggie
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Froggie - 28 June 2020 1:08 PM
I believe in the Rescue Media creation area, you are allowed to select a custom WIM (Windows Image) instead of the standard downloaded one and Reflect will integrate itself into that WIM.

Basically, go off and create a (or use an alternate pre-created) WIM then come back and use Reflect to integrate itself into that WIM image.

What can you do with pre created wim?
Froggie
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Using DISM, WIMs (ESDs) may be customized to include almost any piece of software that may run with the general WinPE restrictions (since it's not a full blown version of Windows).  There are many privately customized WIMs available on the net with tons of software already configured within them.

One of the more popular sites for customizing WinPEs is Win10XPR.

Edited 28 June 2020 2:40 PM by Froggie
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If you have an existing WinPE environment that you already like to use, you can extract the WIM from that ISO file, offer it up to the Rescue Media creation tool as a custom WIM, and it should add REFLECT to that WIM configuration.  When done, re-integrate the WIM back into the ISO then create a mew medium with your new WinPE environment on it (that now includes REFLECT).

If WIMming and ISOing and DISMing are not in your wheelhouse yet, you should probably read up on each for familiarity.

Edited 28 June 2020 2:32 PM by Froggie
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@Mintmag In your first post you say you're interested in learning how to give Reflect a custom WIM to use for Rescue Media creation, but then in your second post you ask what you could even do with a custom WIM.  So do you not even have any particular goal in mind here?  Typically you wouldn't just use DISM to create a custom WIM.  Yes, you can use DISM to modify WIMs in ways such as adding/deleting files, injecting drivers, toggling features, etc., but the more advanced custom PE environments are generated by applications.  Similarly, Rescue Media itself isn't built purely via DISM; Macrium has an entire application that packages that WIM.

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jphughan - 28 June 2020 2:53 PM
@Mintmag In your first post you say you're interested in learning how to give Reflect a custom WIM to use for Rescue Media creation, but then in your second post you ask what you could even do with a custom WIM.  So do you not even have any particular goal in mind here?  Typically you wouldn't just use DISM to create a custom WIM.  Yes, you can use DISM to modify WIMs in ways such as adding/deleting files, injecting drivers, toggling features, etc., but the more advanced custom PE environments are generated by applications.  Similarly, Rescue Media itself isn't built purely via DISM; Macrium has an entire application that packages that WIM.

My second post was "what can you do with a pre created wim" as in what features and extra functions can you get. That was the question. My goal is to better understand custom PE's.
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A WIM file is essentially an image file of a Windows partition, in this case Windows PE.  If you mounted it, you'd see familiar folders like Program Files and Windows.  Windows PE is technically an entire operating system.  It doesn't have all of the capabilities of full Windows since it's designed primarily to allow installing Windows (PE stands for "preinstallation environment") and has also been used for running recovery tools when your system isn't bootable.  But it's an entire OS.  So a custom WIM in this case would be any way you wanted to customize the contents of the Windows partition image inside that WIM file.  So listing all of the possible customizations isn't really practical since there are simply too many possibilities.  But I'll give some examples:
  • Microsoft offers tools for customizing WIM files in terms of injecting drivers, adding/removing optional PE components, and enabling/disabling features.  This would be handled by the DISM command-line utility built into Windows.
  • Some people might just want to incorporate a set of files or applications so they're available within the PE environment right on the X drive, which is a virtual RAM disk that WinPE creates from the contents it extracts from the WIM file.  More often people just store those things on a flash drive outside of a WIM file, but technically you could have them baked into the WIM file if you want.
  • Enterprises often use custom WIMs (or custom WIMs created by other applications, like Microsoft SCCM) to create bootable environments meant to be used to deploy system images to their laptops, desktops, servers, etc.  Those custom WIMs might have company-specific tools, scripts, etc. for that purpose.
  • As Froggie described above, some people have performed rather extensive customization of WinPE WIM files by bundling a large number of applications into them and even building entire user interfaces to navigate everything.  Feeding this type of WIM to Reflect might be tricky though since Reflect's priority would be to create a Rescue Media experience, so it would likely break the pre-existing interface experience.  For somebody building a customization experience that extensive, they'd probably have Reflect build a standard WIM and incorporate the Rescue Media files into their custom WIM manually.
But like I said, there are all sorts of possibilities for all sorts of use cases.  If you start thinking of a WIM file as a disk image and Windows PE as an OS, that should give you an idea of just how much customization can be performed.  The stumbling block is that unlike full Windows, you can't boot into Windows PE, make changes, and have them stored in the WIM.  You have to customize the WIM while it's "offline".  So that makes customization and maintenance a bit more involved.

Edited 1 July 2020 3:42 PM by jphughan
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jphughan - 1 July 2020 3:35 PM
A WIM file is essentially an image file of a Windows partition, in this case Windows PE.  If you mounted it, you'd see familiar folders like Program Files and Windows.  Windows PE is technically an entire operating system.  It doesn't have all of the capabilities of full Windows since it's designed primarily to allow installing Windows (PE stands for "preinstallation environment") and has also been used for running recovery tools when your system isn't bootable.  But it's an entire OS.  So a custom WIM in this case would be any way you wanted to customize the contents of the Windows partition image inside that WIM file.  So listing all of the possible customizations isn't really practical since there are simply too many possibilities.  But I'll give some examples:
  • Microsoft offers tools for customizing WIM files in terms of injecting drivers, adding/removing optional PE components, and enabling/disabling features.  This would be handled by the DISM command-line utility built into Windows.
  • Some people might just want to incorporate a set of files or applications so they're available within the PE environment right on the X drive, which is a virtual RAM disk that WinPE creates from the contents it extracts from the WIM file.  More often people just store those things on a flash drive outside of a WIM file, but technically you could have them baked into the WIM file if you want.
  • Enterprises often use custom WIMs (or custom WIMs created by other applications, like Microsoft SCCM) to create bootable environments meant to be used to deploy system images to their laptops, desktops, servers, etc.  Those custom WIMs might have company-specific tools, scripts, etc. for that purpose.
  • As Froggie described above, some people have performed rather extensive customization of WinPE WIM files by bundling a large number of applications into them and even building entire user interfaces to navigate everything.  Feeding this type of WIM to Reflect might be tricky though since Reflect's priority would be to create a Rescue Media experience, so it would likely break the pre-existing interface experience.  For somebody building a customization experience that extensive, they'd probably have Reflect build a standard WIM and incorporate the Rescue Media files into their custom WIM manually.
But like I said, there are all sorts of possibilities for all sorts of use cases.  If you start thinking of a WIM file as a disk image and Windows PE as an OS, that should give you an idea of just how much customization can be performed.  The stumbling block is that unlike full Windows, you can't boot into Windows PE, make changes, and have them stored in the WIM.  You have to customize the WIM while it's "offline".  So that makes customization and maintenance a bit more involved.

Well I have edited Enterprise WIM files so I am aware that the pre install environment is a micro OS that is used to install the main OS that is inside the WIM file. One of the best things about macrium is the rescue media. Not only does it come with a basic file explore that can copy and paste files but you can also access Diskpart the command like disk partitioning tool built into Windows and in my opinion actually one of the best ones out there. 

That being said when I read that you can have custom PE's I thought maybe other things could be added. So is there a program or utility that you use to edit the PE? Or do you just do it though the command line and use tell Macrium to use it when creating the rescue iso?
jphughan
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Diskpart and various other tools are there because they're present as part of the base Windows PE WIM, not because Reflect adds them.  You can access Command Prompt in Windows Setup by pressing Shift+F10, from which you can use Diskpart, manage-bde, mbr2gpt, and all sorts of other tools.

But yes, if you want to use a custom WIM with Rescue Media Builder, the expectation is that you would feed a previously customized WIM to Reflect, and it would add its components and customizations to it.  The way you customize that WIM beforehand is entirely up to you.  I've only ever customized WIM files using some capabilities built into DISM as well as by using DISM to mount them so that I can customize the files in the image directly.  Other than that, I've used tools like SCCM and Windows Server Essentials that can build customized WIM files for their own purposes, but that likely wouldn't be relevant here.  But again, keep in mind that Rescue Media Builder might clobber some of your customizations.  If you have a WIM that's been customized to start some sort of application browser interface to navigate all of the apps you've built into a WIM, I wouldn't expect that to survive Rescue Media Builder, which would configure the WinPE environment to start Macrium's own Rescue interface instead.

GO

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