Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) is a recovery platform based (running on) WinPE. It can be very useful in the field for your help desk teams. If a customer has problems booting their Windows machine, they can boot into WinRE and perform some basic recovery options.
MDT supports WinRE in one of two scenarios:
1. You can integrate the WinRE toolset into your LiteTouchPE_???.WIM images. This allows a PC user to connect to the same sources as your MDT deployments to perform recovery options. Say you have a PXE server hosting LiteTouch files. Just add WinRE to your update process, and the WinRE option will appear at the start of LiteTouch.
2. Additionally, you can add the LiteTouchPE_???.wim images onto each PC during deployment of new computers, into the WINRE partition on the local hard disk. That means if a PC ever has problems booting up, a user can go into the WinRE environment and attempt to recover their main OS without any extra tools. Simply add PREPAREWINRE = YES to your customsettings.ini file
This makes winre By adding in the property
WinRE should not be placed on the C:\ Drive partition. The whole purpose of WinRE is to provide an tool that can recover the primary operating system if something goes wrong. If we somehow corrupt the C:\ Drive, we want something available elsewhere that can assist us in repairing it.
Additionally, if we implement BitLocker (which I highly recommend), we can’t place recovery files on the encrypted share, it should go on an unencrypted share instead.
This is why Microsoft recommends creating several partitions for new computers:
Good news, is that MDT already follows the Microsoft recommended configuration for New Computers.
Note that this becomes harder when refreshing/upgrading PC’s from previous versions of Windows, since the WinRE Partition may not already exist. There are techniques we can apply, like shrinking the main partition to add another, but I’ll leave that for another day.
How to enable WinRE in MDT
WinRE is an optional component of WinPE, however Microsoft does *NOT* include the WinRE optional component in the ADK. So we have to load it from somewhere else, like the boot.wim file from a Windows 8.1 install disk.
MDT will automatically use the correct boot.wim file if you have loaded the *full* sources of Windows into the MDT console, just ensure that element of the control\settings.xml file is set to True.
There is one potential gotcha when importing the boot.wim files, you must ensure that the Boot.wim file matches *Exactly* the version number of the WInPE.wim file in the ADK. If you have the latest Windows 8.1 ADK, and the latest Windows 8.1 *UPDATE* OS installed in your MDT environment, that won’t work, because they are different versions. Note how the ADK is ServicePack 16384 and Windows 8.1 Update is verison 17031?
We can fix this by adding the full sources for Windows 8.1 RTM (not update) to the MDT console. You don’t need to create a task sequence for it, it will just be used when generating the WInPE images.
You can see this in action when you update your deployment share (full update). Look to see what Windows PE WIM file source it’s using:
WinRE in action
What does WinRE look like in action?
Well I updated my deployment share and verified that WinRE was getting installed. I also enabled PrepareWinRE = YES in my deployment share.
When the OS was finished installing, I went to diskmgmt.msc and added a drive letter to the System partition to ensure that MDT copied down the WinRE.wim file.
Then I attempted to force a recovery scenario. How do you do this?
While the machine is booting up, and before you login, force a “Reset”. The next time Windows boots up, it should fall back into recovery mode.
Next up, how to add a recovery image to your deployments.