Friday, November 28, 2008

Doing sysadminy things with Windows PreInstalled Environments

I was, until recently, unfamiliar with the concept of a Windows PreInstalled Environment. For those of us who are primarily Unix based, this is basically like a live CD that boots straight into Windows.

There are a few of these PE CDs available. You can use Microsoft's Preinstallation Environment, or maybe the UBCD4WIN (Ultimate Boot CD for Windows), but the one that seems to get the lion's share of attention is BartPE. There's also REAtoGo, which seems to be a customized BartPE disc. To be completely honest, I haven't used any of these yet, but I'm looking forward to trying it.

Whichever you go with, building the CD seems to be a similar process. You use your own Windows install disc and customize the software through slipstreaming.

Once you've got the disc setup the way you want, it becomes easy to administer your Windows server using it as a known-clean boot. Virus cleansing is risk free, you've got the full gamut of useful Windows recovery tools at your service, and Earnest Oporto used it to update his firmware. What a great idea. How often do you see stuff like that which requires Windows? Sure, there are ways to update that particular firmware without Windows, but for lots of hardware, there isn't. This is a viable solution in that case.

Since I'm woefully unexperienced in this department, I'll appeal to you. Have you ever used a Windows PreInstalled Environment? What types of things do you do with it? Any tips or tricks?

Thanks for sharing!