Sunday, January 01, 2012

Make a dual-boot WinPE CD

I’ve been in the workshop for the past several days hammering out a new WinPE product for our technical field-support team.

You may recall from the GSD post WinPE Building and PGP Support Links Updated that I have previously built a highly-customized PGP WDE injected WinPE boot CD to allow our team to manually off-line boot, then authenticate into a PGP v9.x encrypted hard-drive.

Now we are rolling out systems encrypting with PGP Desktop 10.x.  Unfortunately the v10 isn’t backwards-compatible in supporting the v9 encrypted systems.

So I cleared off the workbench and using the techniques I have previously outlined here, built a new customized WinPE boot disk that supports PGP-WDE 10.x.

Only there was one problem; we currently now have a mixed PGP-WDE environment where some systems are running PGP Desktop v9.x and others are running v10.x.

I started to plan just having the techs carry both WinPE boot disks with them.  But that seemed silly.  The WIM files were both very small.  Too bad I couldn’t include both BOOT.WIM files on the same CD as the rest of the CD structure was identical.

Or could I…..?

I knew a suggestion Brett had made earlier that with some BCD file editing on a customized WinPE booting USB stick, that I could multi-boot different WinPE BOOT.WIM.  We outlined that process in this GSD WinPE Multi-boot a Bootable USB Storage device post. I can tell you it works like a charm.

But surely that doesn’t work for WinPE CDs. That’s crazy talk. Right?

Nope. Works fine.

David over at the “ITC Guy’s Doodles” blog has it all laid out, simple as can be (with screen-shots):

David and I are assuming here you already have the WAIK installed and are long-past the steps regarding building a customized WinPE build or two. If not, check out these GSD posts first for some background if needed:

Once you’ve done that and have your primary WinPE folder structure set as well as your custom BOOT.WIM files ready you basically do this:

  1. Launch your WAIK Deployment Tools Command Prompt (in Windows 7 I chose to run it elevated as Administrator).
  2. Change directories to your WinPE building folder (in my case it was C:\winpe_x86 yours may differ adjust recipe accordingly for your WinPE baking altitude).
  3. Copy into the c:\winpe_x86\ISO\sources folder the BOOT.WIM files you want to include. Note they will need to be named different things. Your first/default booting wim can remain “boot.wim” to keep things easy, but the 2nd (and each additional one if so desired) should be named something more descriptive.
  4. Next you will need to edit the BCD file for the booting build which is located in C:\winpe_x86\ISO\boot location.
  5. Follow David’s steps to make a copy of the default boot entry item to a new second one with a different boot guid. Then you need to “fix” some of the copied sub-items to associate with the new guid value.
  6. Finally, you can rename the default boot item description to something more meaningful.

Use oscdimg to build the ISO file and when you boot it, you should now see your different boot image options appear on the boot selection menu!


I’m  not aware of any limitations to the number of different bootable wim files you can have.  I suppose that’s mostly limited to the size of your CD/DVD media (if not USB-booting) as well as the size of the custom WIM files themselves.

So for me, I now have one physical bootable CD with two distinct WinPE boot choices…one for PGP v9 and one for PGP v10 support.  Locked and loaded now baby!

In theory, if you weren’t really comfortable with all this CLI work, you could use one of two GUI based tools to edit the \winpe_x86\ISO\boot\BCD file.

EasyBCD 2.1.2 - NeoSmart Technologies supports WinPE BCD files. There is also a EasyBCD 2.2 Beta Build that may have additional support. Check out the forum as well as this Multiboot WinPE CD - How to specify .WIM forum post for some tips.

In fact, somewhere between eating lunch, listening to a football game, and trying to pay attention to a holiday story Lavie was telling me while I was following David’s steps, my own “descriptions” work for the BCD file got mixed up a bit and I wasn’t getting the custom boot descriptions to appear as desired.

I was able to quickly and easily use the Visual BCD Editor - Windows 7/Vista to clean up the mess I made and get it all put right.  So if you knew what you were doing, you could do it all from the GUI with this tool rather than the CLI.

Anyway, thanks to Bret for his original tip and for David for the game-walkthrough for making a multi-boot WinPE CD.


Claus V.

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