The Windows Preinstallation Environment (PE) is a sortof 'abbreviated' version of Windows that can run some Windows programs. At work we run command line scanners, rootkit scanners, some antispyware apps - and a lot of Windows utilites.
The benefit of it is that it isn't cluttered with all the startups that a regular Windows installation is, and you've got the option to load or not load the registry when working in it. So a virus scan will be able to remove all the files that it detects without worrying about locked files. Also, you can easily access any directory (to include the System Volume Information folder) to get at any files that you may need (like the registry files. BTW - the method that I use works about 50% of the time.
Version 1 was used with XP (and maybe earlier?), while version 2 came out around the time that Vista did (the boot sequence for version 1 is reminiscient of XP, while the boot of version 2 looks sorta like Vista). Also, I believe they changed it from PE in version 1 to RE (Recovery Environment) in version 2. Version 1 would only recognize a USB drive if it was inserted before you booted into the PE - version 2 lets you insert a USB drive as needed.
Also, version 1 wasn't too easy for the average person to get hold of. So Bart (of BartPE fame) developed another way of doing this with your windows disk at this link: http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/
Version 2 is freely available to all who are interested enough to compile the boot disk, as a part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) from here: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details...;displaylang=en
My browser caused a flood of traffic, sio my IP address was banned. Hope to fix it soon. Will get back to posting as soon as Im able. - John
(my website: http://www.carrona.org/
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