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What Is Windows RE?

Published: October 22, 2009

Updated: July 8, 2010

Applies To: Windows 7

noteNote
This content applies to Windows 7. For Windows 8 content, see Windows Deployment with the Windows ADK.

Windows® Recovery Environment (Windows RE) is an extensible recovery platform based on Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE). When the computer fails to start, Windows automatically fails over into this environment, and the Startup Repair tool in Windows RE automates the diagnosis and repair of an unbootable Windows installation. Furthermore, Windows RE is a starting point for various tools for manual system recovery.

This topic includes:

  • Benefits of Windows RE

  • Common Scenarios

  • Image-based Recovery from Windows RE

  • Security Considerations

  • Technologies Related to Windows RE

Benefits of Windows RE

Windows RE provides the following benefits:

  • It can help reduce support through automatic repair of common root causes of unbootable operating system installations.

  • It can be customized to include additional diagnostic and recovery tools.

  • It can be used as the platform for image recovery by enabling users to restore their computer to the factory state or from a known good backup.

  • It provides diagnostic and repair logs.

Common Scenarios

End-user Scenario

A home user installs a video-card driver and restarts his computer. While Windows restarts, the computer stops unexpectedly and a driver error message appears on a blue screen. After the computer automatically attempts to restart, the user then sees a message that the computer failed to start and that Windows will attempt to repair it. Once in Windows RE, the Startup Repair wizard actively diagnoses the computer and determines that System Restore must repair the problematic video-card driver. The user chooses to repair the video-card driver, the computer restarts after the repair, and the Windows logon screen appears.

System Administrator Scenario

A system administrator for an enterprise is attempting to fix a client computer that cannot start. The administrator presses the F8 key during startup and selects the Repair your computer entry, which boots the computer into Windows RE. The administrator logs on by using a local account with administrative privileges, and selects the System Image Recovery option from the list of available tools. This allows the administrator to restore the entire computer using a system image the administrator might have created on that computer. Once the restore has completed, the computer restarts, and the restored Windows installation will start.

Full-system Recovery from Windows RE

In the event that the Windows installation cannot be repaired with Startup Repair or other manual repair steps, you can use Windows RE to launch various full-system recovery tools.

User-created Recovery Image

Windows® 7 provides end users with the ability to create a backup image of their entire operating system. End users can do this by using the Backup tool. They can store the system image on an external hard disk, on a hard disk partition other than those imaged, on a set of DVDs, or on the network. To restore the computer by using this system image, users must launch the Complete PC restore interface from the list of Windows RE manual tools.

Factory Recovery Image

To facilitate restoring a computer to its factory state, you can place a recovery image on the Windows RE partition. This eliminates the need for a separate recovery media in most cases.

If the Windows image format is used in the manufacturing process, you can use the same operating system image for recovery as well. If a recovery image in this format is provided, Windows RE will launch Windows Setup to recover the computer. Alternatively, a computer manufacturer can develop a custom application by using the Imaging APIs for Windows and the Windows image to restore the operating system volume. This application can be launched from the Windows RE user interface (UI) by using customizations provided by the original device manufacturer (ODM).

Reinstall Windows

If a computer is not preconfigured with a factory recovery image, and if the user has not created a full-system backup, Windows RE provides end users the option of reinstalling Windows using a Windows installation DVD.

Security Considerations

When working with Windows RE, keep in mind the following security considerations:

  • If you launch Windows RE from the hard disk by using the F8 advanced boot options, users must provide a local user name and a password for authentication. All local users can access the Startup Repair application and any manufacturer-provided tools (if permitted by the manufacturer). To access other tools, such as System Restore and the command prompt, the user account must have administrative privileges.

  • By default, networking is disabled in Windows RE. You can turn on networking dynamically if needed, but you are advised to disable it when network connectivity is no longer needed.

Supported Platforms

The following table lists the Windows RE tools and the platforms that support Windows RE.

 

Tool x86 Platform x64 Platform Itanium-based Platform

Windows RE (x86)

Y

N

N

Windows RE (x64)

N

Y

N

Technologies Related to Windows RE

Windows RE is related to the following technologies:

Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE)

Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) is a minimal Win32® operating system with limited services. It is used to prepare a computer for Windows installation, to copy disk images from a network file server, and to initiate Windows Setup. Windows RE is based on Windows PE.

ImageX

ImageX is a command-line tool that enables the capture, modification, and application of file-based Windows images for rapid deployment. Windows RE is a customized Windows PE image (.wim) file that can be modified only by using ImageX. Windows RE scripts also rely on ImageX to install Windows RE images.

See Also

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