59184: Acronis True Image 2017: How to create a WinPE-based bootable media

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To skip the introduction part and jump over to the step-by-step instructions, click here.

This article describes how to create a WinPE-based bootable media with Acronis True Image 2017 in Windows. Note that this guide does not cover any WinPE customizations, like adding custom drivers, startup scripts etc. The resulting media will have the default set of drivers from the installed ADK/AIK.

General information about Acronis bootable rescue media

Acronis bootable rescue media is a bootable CD, DVD, USB flash drive or ISO image, used mainly for:

  • recovering purposes, when a disaster strikes and you are not able to boot your computer and launch Acronis True Image in Windows
  • system migration, when you need to restore your system from an image file (backup) to a new hardware ("bare metal")

There are other functions that bootable media can perform: disk cloning, offline system imaging and others.

Differences between default (Linux-based) and WinPE-based medias

Acronis bootable media can be based either on a Linux operating system (the default choice) or WinPE.

Linux-based bootable media is easier and faster to create, compared to WinPE, but may not work properly with some hardware: local disks/RAID/network card might not be detected, the visual picture might be distorted, the environment might stop responding or crash in rare cases. See instructions at https://kb.acronis.com/content/58816 on how to create the default Linux-based bootable media.

WinPE stands for Windows Preinstallation Environment. Read more about its latest version at Microsoft website. See the history of WinPE versions.

WinPE requires more time and effort to build, but once created, it not only supports all kinds of computers where Windows could be installed (default WinPE media, covered by this guide), but also allows various customizations of the bootable environment (WinPE customization is out of the scope of this article):

  • custom drivers for rare hardware
  • personalized startup scripts for automatic connection to your network drives and other tasks
  • custom background pictures
  • copying custom files and programs (WinPE plug-ins) to the bootable media

An exception to the wide range of hardware supported by WinPE are wireless adapters. Microsoft did not include a module for establishing Wi-Fi network connection into WinPE. Even if you customize the WinPE and add correct drivers for the wireless network adapter, you will not be able to use Wi-Fi under WinPE, because of the missing module. Only Acronis Linux-based media supports Wi-Fi.

How it works

Before creating a WinPE-based media, you need to download and install Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK) or Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK).

Windows ADK/AIK contains a bootable Windows environment with a minimal feature set. This environment is completely independent from your current Windows version. E.g. you may have Windows 7 32-bit on your computer and use a bootable media with Windows 10 64-bit environment on it.

When you use Acronis True Image to create your WinPE-based media, Acronis Media Builder takes a clean Windows PE image, copies Acronis True Image into it and sets Acronis True Image as the default start option. So, when you boot your computer with the created CD/DVD or USB flash drive, the following happens:

  1. Computer boots: BIOS/UEFI starts reading the CD/DVD or USB flash drive.
  2. WinPE loader starts up. As with any Windows bootable media, you are asked to press any key to continue booting from the media.
  3. WinPE environment loads. Windows loading logo is displayed, similar to what you see when computer is starting up normally.
  4. Once the operating system is fully initialized, you see a black command-line window on the screen.
  5. Acronis True Image launches automatically as a part of the WinPE's startup script.
  6. The main Acronis True Image screen appears, with Restore, Backup, Tools and other options to get started.
  7. You can start working with Acronis True Image program. In addition to Acronis software, you also have a regular Windows cmd tool available to you. To access it, just click on the black window behind Acronis True Image to switch to it.

Limited support for 32-bit UEFI devices

Some tablets (and other devices as well) may have 32-bit UEFI firmware. See https://kb.acronis.com/content/59194 on how to check if your computer has 64-bit or 32-bit UEFI.

It is possible to create a WinPE-based media that supports 32-bit UEFI with Acronis Universal Restore tool on it only. You cannot create a WinPE-based media with the main product (Acronis True Image 2017), that would boot on 32-bit UEFI devices. Linux-based versions of both Acronis True Image 2017 and Universal Restore do support 32-bit UEFI. It means that if you have 32-bit UEFI device, then:

  • you can use Linux-based bootable medias of both Acronis True Image 2017 and Universal Restore
  • you can use a WinPE-based media with Acronis Universal Restore tool only
  • you cannot use a WinPE-based media with Acronis True Image 2017

64-bit UEFI is fully supported by both Acronis True Image 2017 and Acronis Universal Restore, both Linux and WinPE versions.

Solution

Please follow the steps below to create Acronis True Image WinPE-based media:

Step 1. Download and install Windows ADK/AIK

Step 2. Using Acronis Bootable Media Builder to write the media

If you do not plan on restoring/migrating your system to a different computer, you only need one bootable media, with Acronis True Image 2017 on it.

If you do, you need to create two medias: one CD/DVD/USB flash drive with Acronis True Image 2017 and another one with Acronis Universal Restore. First use Acronis True Image 2017 media to restore Windows, then boot the computer with the second media and apply Acronis Universal Restore to make the system bootable on the new hardware.

Acronis Bootable Media Builder does not allow placing both Acronis True Image 2017 and Acronis Universal Restore on the same WinPE-based media.

Creating media with Acronis True Image 2017

1. Start Acronis True Image and click the Tools icon on the left sidebar:

2. Click Rescue Media Builder:

3. Click WinPE-based media with Acronis plug-in:

4. Select the CD/DVD or USB flash drive to write the media to:

5.  Click Proceed to write the media:

6. Wait until the process completes. It may take several minutes: the program will be extracting the contents of downloaded WinPE image in background, copying Acronis True Image program into it, packing it all back together and writing the resulting image:

7. Once the bootable media is created, click Close:

Creating Acronis Universal Restore media

1. Start Acronis True Image and click the Tools icon on the left sidebar:

2. Click Acronis Universal Restore:

3. Acronis Universal Restore media builder opens. Click Next:

If you see a different screen instead, with a green "Download' button on it, it means that Universal Restore Media Builder is not installed on your computer yet. Please follow instructions here and then return to this article.

4. Click Default (Linux-based media) to open the list of available bootable media types:

5. Select Windows PE from the drop-down list:

6. Mark the Create x64 media checkbox, regardless of whether your Windows or the system that you plan to recover is 32 or 64-bit. Leave this checkbox unmarked only if you plan on using the media on a 32-bit UEFI firmware. Keep in mind that the firmware version does not always correspond to the Windows version running on it, for example, you may have 32-bit Windows on 64-bit UEFI firmware. Read more about 32-bit UEFI devices support in the Introduction part of this article. Click here to learn how to check whether you have 32 or 64-bit UEFI firmware.

7. Click Next:

8. A black window with scrolling text appears. Do not do anything, just wait for it to close:

9. Acronis Universal Restore's main function is to allow the recovered system recognize the new chipset or RAID controller found on the new computer. It is done by injecting the corresponding drivers after the system recovery is done with Acronis True Image 2017 media. At the current stage of building the bootable media you are asked to specify drivers for the new mass storage device controller. You can skip this step, if you are not sure on which computer you will be recovering/migrating your system, and add the drivers later, when booted from the media. In addition to the mass storage device controller drivers, you can also add drivers for the network card here. See more details about Acronis Universal Restore at https://kb.acronis.com/content/2149 and https://kb.acronis.com/ati2017/aur.

Drivers for other kinds of devices (graphic card, audio, etc.) are not supported by Acronis Universal Restore. All the drivers must be in unpacked form: there must be at least one .inf file. Drivers in .zip and .exe forms are not accepted. If you are unsure about where to find the right drivers, consult the website of your new computer's manufacturer, "Support" - "Downloads" section, look for "Chipset", "Storage", "SATA", "RAID" items.

Click Add:

10. Select the folder with the drivers and click OK:

11. The program searches the indicated folder and its subfolders for drivers and lists found items:

12. You can see the names of the supported devices for each driver by clicking on the plus sign near the file's name:

13. Click Next:

14. Select the destination for the bootable media and click Next:

15. Click Proceed to write the media:

16. A number of black command-line windows will be opening and closing, one for each driver that you specified previously. They indicate that the media builder is copying drivers into the bootable media. Do not do anything with them, just wait for the process to complete.

17. Once the media is created, click OK to close the media builder:

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