WinRE – Windows Recovery Environment – Your Life Preserver and Safety Net – Part 2

So let’s start off with something simple with WinRE.


I had to prepare for a Demo at Techdays-CA and really got DEEP DEEP DEEP into WinRE.   I truly learned and appreciated the finer differences between the Windows 7 and Windows Vista Versions for deployment.

Let’s touch on some basic questions I got asked first.

“Do you have to have a different version of Window Recovery Environment for X64 vs X32 ?”

Yes.  The Recovery Environment (As far as I can see) tuned for it’s own O/S .  So for example you CANNOT fix a Vista 32 with a Windows 7 WinRE.  That’s on the “automatic Repair” side of things.  Now I DO NOT think (and I will play with this) you are unable to control System Restore.  But I would think since there seems to be an issue out of the box with the different Winre’s wanting to TRY to fix a different O/S I personally wouldn’t recommend trying that option.

“Can you use the Windows Recovery Environment to Fix a Windows XP Machine”

Well let’s look at this.  YES and NO.  (Yes we ALL hate that answer)

From an “Automatic Fix” … Nope.  But I would suggest this.  (And this is where customization comes into play) .  Since it’s based on Windows PE, if you were to remove WINPESHL.INI or better yet, give it a DIFFERENT thing to launch on auto startup, you would be able to launch into a PE system and at least have a SOLID ability to manipulate issues with the files system. 

You’d have Regedit to fix issues with Malware in Winlogon.   And if you NEEDED to fix your source O/S (whether it was Window 7 or Windows Vista, you could STILL manually run RECENV.EXE and use the features).  This would also I BELIEVE not be a “supported solution” if you called Microsoft support, but if you’re a Tech, it’s a tool you could have handy.   And sometimes, especially when you’re in the trenches, you need every tool you can get.

“Can I legally make a custom Winre environment and pass it out to my friends?”

Ahem.  I hate licensing questions.  So do you.  *NARF!* “’’Allo Brain! If I used Jello to start my Car would the tree sing in the key of F#?”

“Shut up Pinky.”

I’ll stay away from legality but I would surmise it SHOULD be reasonable to say you could provide instructions to modify the environment to meet their needs.  That is reasonable.  You might even be able to help them.  But “Rogue” copies of Windows RE floating free will probably have a team of vicious angry (but probably very nice at home, and excellent Xbox360 players) Lawyers chasing you down.

“Will WinRE solve world peace?”

No but it will solve your inner peace.  And I think the more people that have inner peace resolved on some level, well that could lend to World Peace.  Or perhaps slightly higher quality hamburgers at McDonalds.   Maybe even vending machines with Good Kosher (sp?) Hot Dogs at Major Conventions that don’t Vanish Magically When Really Cool Nerds Try To Taste Test Them.

Things like that

All fun aside, We’ll look into a little more of the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) next time.

The Energized Tech

“Powershell and Winre, my Wife doesn’t know.  I’m torn between Geekiness and a Frying Pan”

WinRE – Windows Recovery Environment – Your Life Preserver and Safety Net – Part 1

Well we’re going to be going into what the Windows Recovery Environment is.  I learned a lot about this ONE feature, and I’m going to spend my days and postings sharing this information with you.  If you’re a tech or not, it won’t matter.  This ONE feature within Windows 7 ALONE makes it worth the purchase.  It does something that presently no operating system today does.

It can fix itself.

Or more correctly it can perform many automated features that can lend to recovering from many situations independent to the operating systems.  Bad drives, Power issues, flaky ram, software or drivers not up to the specs of the operating system or just simply our old friend, “Murphy”.

The Nemesis of MANY an IT Professional, Developer, Manager, Mom, Dad or even little Joey or Adam; Murphy S Law.  

The Windows Recovery Environment can be added to Vista but is not presently enabled by default.  It *IS* built into both Windows 7 and Server 2008R2 by default.   The automatic repair is more powerful with Windows 7 and Vista because of it’s ability to leverage System Restore but in Server 2008R2 you CAN leverage the “Repair Booting” issue if you’re stuck dead in the water.   But because when you’re planning a Server infrastructure you’ really don’t want to plan on having the ability to let somebody boot up and access your console, I consider it “nice to have” as an option on a Server, but something I personally for security reasons might disable.  And that is VERY easy to do in Windows 7 and Server 2008R2.

But it is a small and incredibly powerful Environment.   And being a technician I FULLY understand about alternate options such as “Windows Ultimate Boot CD” and various other outside repair environments.   WinRE does not quash or negate those.

What it DOES do is be a built in, useful, repair / recovery environment that is READILY there no matter what.

So *IF* you don’t have other methods to repair it’s there in Windows 7, always ready to help.

It can automatically repair boot issues, It can run a System Restore OUTSIDE of Windows (negating a Dead O/S problem where a System Restore would be able to bring you back).  You can check memory for issues.  Combined with the backup features WITHIN the operating system, you can restore a full image of the operating system into a NEW machine if the old one falls off DEAD!

With the Power of Windows PE tied in, you can use REGEDIT, Manipulate disk partitions and EVEN add drivers and connect to the NETWORK!  Yes!  You’ll even have the ability to access a RAID5 controller to move data from a crippled environment as a result!


Now to avoid confusion, in Windows 7 you’ll notice a partition split on the hard drive.  The first “hidden” partition is NOT the O/S . 

No, you’re now looking at the Operating system INSTALLING and USING Best Practices OUT of the box!  That little 100meg space, is your “SYSTEM” partition (which is the actual drive BOOTING up).   Your stock Windows Recovery Environment DOES share space with the O/S drive.  But again, you can change and extend that easily.

You can add drivers to it, you can add custom applications to it, you disable it or enable it, you can place it elsewhere.

You can even setup a way to access it via PXE over the lan (using WDS in Server 2008)

Why you can EVEN put it on a 256 mb USB flash drive. 🙂

So pardon the passion flying through my fingers.   The Energized Tech is about to rip through and launch a technical barrage of information.

And you’re about to benefit

The Energized Tech

“I have two Mistresses, Powershell and WinRE”

Microsoft Techdays Canada 2009, my Foray in "Speakerism" (is that a word?)

Techdays day One here in Toronto has completed

I didn’t have 100 cans of RedBull as some feared and run Amok. Nor did I start singing into song after song ( although I did show the "Bing" booth the "Bing it" video on Youtube )

My first day I didn’t get much of a chance to check out the other tracks. I was too busy "in the crowd"

I was engaging whomever wanted to be engaged. Whether it was helping man the "Experts" booth, roaming about the various areas so questions could be answered, or meeting people just cuz.

What a strange change! The same guy who would hide in the corner, the ultimate "Introvert" was changing.

And then of course the biggest change of all. Presenting to a crowd of approximately 200 in a packed room all about the Windows Recovery Environment.

I found I had a few wrinkles (as I was warned about in previous Influencer sessions) that I would and did encounter. Problems will happen on stage. And when they do, GO WITH THE FLOW! In my case, I gave my lead the wrong Powerpoint deck, my Microphone fell off in the middle of the crowd and one of my demos (even with the correct line of code) wouldn’t work.

But we are in the IT World, we are ITPros, we Devs, we people who fight the good fight daily UNDERSTAND that fellow "Mr. Murphy" is a sneaky guy. And we roll with the punches.

And contrary to my original thoughts on presenting (and the same will apply to you if you speak to a room full of people, the following things did NOT happen.

The floor the did not open up and swallow me up

I did not fall off the stage

The crowd did not light up torches and begin burning effigies of me

I had no hecklers

People laughed at appropriate times

I did *NOT* make a fool of myself

Many GOOD questions came from the crowd

and most important


And why was all of this possible? Microsoft invited me to sessions called "Influencer Days" and they told me all the mistakes THEY encountered. Shaughnessy-Howell told me useful things to work with.

And yes, in between all the funnies, the singing, the mad blog posts, I LISTENED CLEARLY!

And you will learn, as I will, that when you present, especially to a large crowd, that although you look up to your heroes as models here’s what I know and you will too.

I am not the DPE’s of Redmond Washington, I am not the MVP’s or the MCT’s of Microsoft, I am ranot Rodney Buike, Rick Claus or Damir Bersinic. I am not Mitch Garvis or Cameron McKay.

I am not any of my heroes that I aspire to me

Nor will I ever be (nor will you)

I am (and you are) something unique. As we aspire to our heroes, we grow and change.

I am Sean Kearney, Energized Tech and Energized about Technology and my speaking will reflect myself, my personality and my passion in it’s OWN truly unique way.

And so will yours. Don’t be afraid to present or speak. Because remember this.

No matter how polished others are, THEY ALL STARTED AND FAILED AT SOME POINT!

And more importantly, practice practice practice. The more you know your timing the better you are. The more familiar you are with the flow of your content, the better you will be. And eventually, you may not even look at speakers notes! (*Whoa*)

And yes, practicing speaking to your AVATAR on Xbox360 DOES qualify as a test audience!

Just go to a #failcamp sometime and see how others failed, and learn with them. And learn like I did.

DON’T feed "Green Eggs and Ham" to your computer.

Cheers all and we’ll see you here at Day Two of Techdays-CA here in Toronto

The Energized Tech