Benefits and Limitations of Windows PE

3/21/2011

Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) 3.0 has the following benefits and limitations.

Windows PE is the primary tool from Microsoft that you can use to boot computers with no functional operating system. After booting a computer with Windows PE, you can service an existing Windows installation or initiate Windows Setup from a network or local source.

Unlike an MS-DOS boot disk, Windows PE provides the following capabilities:

  • Native support for the NTFS 5.x file system, including dynamic-volume creation and disk management.
  • Native support for TCP/IP networking and file sharing on a client.
  • Native support for 32-bit or 64-bit device drivers for Windows.
  • Native support for a subset of the Win32 application programming interface (API).
  • Optional support for Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Microsoft Data Access Component (MDAC), and HTML Application (HTA).
  • Ability to start from a number of media types, including CD, DVD, USB flash device (UFD), and a Remote Installation Services (RIS) server.
  • Support for offline sessions.
  • Support for offline servicing of a Windows PE image.

Windows PE is a subset of Windows 7. Windows PE has the following limitations:

  • Includes only a subset of the Win32 API, including disk I/O, network I/O, and core Win32 APIs, which helps reduce the size of Windows PE.
  • Automatically stops running the shell and reboots after 72 hours of continuous use. The reboot timer cannot be configured.
    This constraint helps prevent the use of Windows PE as a general-purpose operating system. Windows PE is not licensed as a general-purpose operating system.
  • Cannot act as a file server or Terminal Server. Remote Desktop is not supported.
  • Supports Distributed File System (DFS) name resolution only for standalone roots. Domain roots are not supported. Standalone DFS roots allow for a DFS root that exists only on the local computer. A standalone DFS root does not use Active Directory.
  • Connects to file servers only by using TCP/IP or NetBIOS over TCP/IP. Other methods, such as the IPX/SPX network protocol, are not supported.
  • When the computer restarts, any changes that you made to the Windows PE registry while running Windows PE are lost.
    To make permanent changes to the registry for Windows PE, you must edit the registry offline before starting Windows PE.
  • Assigns drive letters in consecutive order as you create partitions. Drive letters reset to the default order when you restart Windows PE.
  • Does not support the Microsoft .NET Framework or the Common Language Runtime (CLR).
  • Does not include the Windows on Windows 32 (WOW32), Windows on Windows 64 (WOW64), Virtual DOS Machine (VDM), OS/2, or POSIX subsystems.
  • Can configure and partition disks before starting Windows Setup. However, if Diskpart.exe converts a hard disk to a dynamic disk before you start Windows Setup, the dynamic disk is recognized as foreign when the operating system is installed. Volumes on the dynamic disk cannot be accessed.
  • Does not support applications packaged with Windows Installer (.msi).
  • Does not support 802.1x networking.
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