By Val Bakh
2.4.3 How to Load Drivers in WinPE
One of the great enhancements that comes with Windows 7 is Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE). The first version of WinPE was released with Windows Vista; the version that comes with Windows 7 is version 3.0. WinPE is a small starter operating system that can be loaded from a removable medium or device, such as a CD, DVD, or USB flash drive (UFD), and can run entirely from RAM. This means you can breathe some vital signs into a blank computer or try to bring back to life a computer with a dysfunctional, corrupted installation of Windows.
A standard version of WinPE is included in all Windows 7 installation DVDs, and you can use Windows Automated Installation Kit to create a custom version that includes some additional tools, such as ImageX, for example. WinPE is based on the same kernel as Windows 7 and contains tools for managing hard disks, preparing installation images for mass deployments of Windows 7, maintaining those images, and troubleshooting corrupted installations.
Windows 7 includes a vast library of drivers for commonly used devices. Unless you have some exotic or very old hardware, chances are that Windows 7 will support it. However, WinPE is not that powerful and there is a good chance that you will try to start an installation and discover that there are no hard disks for you to choose from. You click Install now in the first Install Windows screen, and a few more clicks later, you are staring at an empty list of the “available” disks under the Where do you want to install Windows? title. The solution is under that list, in the form of the Load Driver link. Click it, and browse to a location where the disk controller’s driver can be found, such as a UFD, CD, or floppy disk. Once the driver has been installed and the system has detected the hard disk, you can proceed with the installation.
But what if you booted into WinPE not to run a straightforward typical installation but to troubleshoot a problem or to prepare the hard disk for a custom deployment? When the WinPE boot has completed, instead of clicking Install now, click Repair my computer and, in the System Recovery Options dialog box, click Load Drivers.
In Windows, there is usually more than one way of accomplishing almost any task. Loading drivers in WinPE is no exception. Press SHIFT+F10 on the keyboard to open a Command Prompt window and type the following command:
Just keep in mind that, in WinPE, drivers are loaded dynamically. That is, they exist only in RAM and are gone when you reboot. Next time you boot into WinPE, you will need to load the same drivers again. Therefore, if you use WinPE often, you may be better off if you create a custom version of WinPE and permanently add the necessary drivers to it by using the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool. DISM is available in both WinPE and Windows 7.