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WinPE 2.0 (Vista) running the shell (command prompt) with several of the built in programs, Notepad, Registry Editor, and the Windows Task Manager.

Windows Preinstallation Environment (aka Windows PE, WinPE) is a lightweight version of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2 that is used for the deployment of workstations and servers. It is intended as a 32-bit or 64-bit replacement for MS-DOS during the installation phase of Windows, and can be booted via PXE, CD-ROM, USB flash drive or hard disk. Traditionally used by large corporations and OEMs (to preinstall Windows client operating systems to PCs during manufacturing), it is now widely available free of charge via the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK).



WinPE 2005, immediately after boot, running the Factory.exe application, which can be used to install drivers on the system.

WinPE was originally intended to be used only as a pre-installation platform for deploying Microsoft Windows operating systems, specifically to replace DOS in this respect. WinPE has the following uses:

  • Deployment of workstations and servers in large corporations as well as pre-installation by system builders of workstations and servers to be sold to end users.
  • Recovery platform to run 32-bit or 64-bit recovery tools such as Winternals ERD Commander or the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE).
  • Platform for running 3rd party 32-bit or 64-bit disk cloning utilities.

The package can be used for developer testing or as a recovery CD/DVD for system administrators. Many customized WinPE boot CDs packaged with third-party applications for different uses are now available from volunteers via Internet.

The package can also be used as the base of a forensics investigation to either capture a disk image or run analysis tools without mounting any available disks and thus changing state.[1]

Version 2.0 introduced a number of improvements[2] and extended the availability of WinPE to all customers, not just corporate enterprise customers by downloading and installing Microsoft's Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK).

The newest version is 3.0, based on the Windows 7 build 7100 kernel.

It was originally designed and built by a small team of engineers in Microsoft's Windows Deployment team, including Vijay Jayaseelan, Ryan Burkhardt, and Richard Bond.[3]


The following versions are known to exist:

Windows PE 1.0
The first release of Windows Preinstallation Environment. Built from Microsoft Windows 5.2.
Windows PE 1.1
Built from Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 (SP1).
Windows PE 1.2
Built from Windows Server 2003 family.
Windows PE 2004 (1.5)
Built from Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 (SP2).
Windows PE 2005 (1.6)
Built from Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (SP1).
Windows PE 2.0
Built from the first edition of Windows Vista. This version differs from the other versions since it doesn't need the disc to load all the files.[citation needed] This means that the download is now 900MB in size instead of 60MB from the previous versions. It's possible to modify the default startup disc to have access to a few plug-ins like WMI, Windows Scripting Host, additional drivers and other 32-bit applications (or 64-bit applications for 64-bit versions). Other new features include the capability for a rewritable RAM disk since WinPE version 1.x only has a recordable RAM disk.
Windows PE 2.1
Built from Windows Server 2008, this version uses the same codebase as Windows Vista SP1.
Windows PE 2.2
Built from Windows Server 2008 SP1, this version has the same codebase as Windows Vista SP2.
Windows PE 3.0
Built from Windows 7 code base. It is included in WAIK 2.0.

See also

  • Live CD
  • WinBuilder, a tool for creating Windows PE-based live CD/DVD or USB boot disks in a modular way
  • LiveXP, a free Windows XP LiveCD alternative to Windows PE 1.x
  • VistaPE, free tool for creating Vista live CDs (Windows PE 2.x)
  • BartPE, a free third-party alternative to WinPE based on Windows XP


  1. "WinPE 3.0 & Forensics". WinPE 3.0 & Forensics. 2010-4-12. Retrieved 2010-04-16. 
  2. "Adding XML Parser support into WinPE". Adding XML Parser support into WinPE. 1900-1-0. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  3. "WinPE Patent Filing". USPTO. 2001-07-24. Retrieved 2008-05-14. 

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cs:Windows Preinstallation Environment da:Windows PE ko:윈도 사전 설치 환경 ja:Windows プレインストール環境 pt:Windows Preinstallation Environment