For anyone working with OSD for more than about 4 minutes, you know that its in the WinPE phase most of the magic happens. For testing and troubleshooting purposes its quite helpful to add some tools to your boot image, so you always have them available without having to download from a web server or file server etc.
Note: When adding tools to WinPE, make sure to copy the right architecture. X64 versions of WinPE can only run native x64 tools.
And, If you are missing a useful tool for WinPE, please let me know in the comments below, and I'll be happy to add it to the list.
Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT), which part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), has been around for quite some time and contains many useful tools. For example:
- Remote Connection
- File Explorer
- Secure Disk Wipe
Here is a post about adding DaRT to WinPE, and to launch it as part of the WinPE boot process:
Adding DaRT to ConfigMgr Boot Images – And starting it earlier than early – Deployment Research
Tip: If you want to learn more about the WinPE boot process, check out this excellent post from Michael Niehaus (@mniehaus):
Windows PE startup, revisited – Out of Office Hours (oofhours.com)
The following Sysinternals Tools are useful in WinPE. Just make sure to copy the right architecture. X64 versions of WinPE can only run x64 tools.
- Zoomit, to Zoom in during presentations, or for taking screenshots in WinPE (not many people know the last option)
- Process Explorer
- Process Monitor
Yes, NotePad++ runs fine in WinPE, just download the portable version and copy it to your boot image.
CMtrace, which is included by default in ConfigMgr boot images, but not MDT boot images, are useful to read log files.
Note: Even while available for download from the public Microsoft downloads site. CMTrace is not freeware, usage rights are included with the Configuration Manager license. However, I got this note from the product team: One thing we realized is that the tools are on the evaluation ISO, and licensed as such, anyone downloading the evaluation is covered for the duration of the evaluation period.
Good old Network Monitor from Microsoft works in WinPE. Here is a post on how to add it: How to run Microsoft Network Monitor in WinPE – Deployment Research
ServiceUI.exe is useful when you need to interact with a ConfigMgr task sequence in full Windows. Meaning ServiceUI.exe is actually not a tool you need in WinPE, but it's helpful to have it in WinPE, so you can easily copy it to your offline Windows image.
I bet you didn't expect this one on the list 🙂 But good old Ghost and other disk cloning or disk backup software can still be useful for full disk backup scenarios, for example when being hit by ransomware.