Let us start with the first of the new configuration passes. It is called WinPE pass and this naming is quite OK due to the fact that all its actions run on the WinPE operating system. WinPE is the “Windows Preinstallation Environment”, a really flexible and powerful maintenance OS that comes either with WES 2011, but also can be customized using the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). This comes in handy in a lot of device bring-up or factory scenarios.
Booting into WinPE the WinPEShell checks if there is an answer file available. If it is it starts the setup to apply the configuration to the system or to an offline configuration (WIM-File), if such a step is configured in the file.
But wait, there is more!
Settings that can be tuned in ICE for this pass are:
- Disk partitioning and formatting
- Selection of a certain OS image (e.g. from a WIM file or network path)
- OS partition selection
- Run of specific commands during IBW
- Insert product key and issue local Administrator password (not possible for domain accounts!)
.. and more!
If you fine-tune the WinPE image, e.g. with the help of the WAIK, there are endless possibilities in addition to the numerous ones already supplied by Microsoft.
One could think about diagnosing hardware before installing the image, or selecting different answer file from a network share depended on the currently available hardware.
WinPE could also reside as a maintenance OS on the hard disk of the target device to provide a dedicated small OS for image exchange or other task in field (you need to check with your local Microsoft guy, if this requires an additional license).
PS: The next pass to be looked at will be OfflineServicing. 🙂