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PE vs. full Windows on USB


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#1 MedEvil

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 07:57 PM

I'm fiddeling here a bit with a new setup and i'm stuck. I can't decide, if to go again with a PE or to choose a full Windows to run off the USB-Stick.

I'm looking for some opinions from members with hands on experience.

What reasons are there to choose a full Windows over a PE? What can it do better? When is it actually a bad idea. Does anyone actually run his full Windows from a USB-Stick or runs it everyone exclusivly from USB-HDD?

What is your experience with your portable Windows, did you ran into any gotchas?

:cheers:
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#2 sambul61

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 12:54 PM

I prefer using a full or light Windows install, bootable from VHD directly or via Grub4DOS from a SATA & USB 2.5" external HDD, but also use USB Thumb at times with the same VHDs. Using a Win PE is restricted in my case to very narrow scope of Windows prep & service tasks due to known limitations of Win PE compare to real updatable Win install, where one can also install and update any apps at any time.

I suggest you to try fresh installing Win to VHD, or backup your system HD with all familiar apps to it, then copy the VHD to your (bare metal :)) thumb and boot it natively or with Grub4Dos. You can add more Base and Differencing VHDs to the Thumb with various OSs. These VHD files are easy to delete & replace with new ones, no need to install anything to the thumb, just prepare VHDs correctly, and the speed is about the same as of native Win install to the Thumb.
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#3 ludovici

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 04:10 PM

Hello Medevil ;)

The difference for me is already a matter of size:
- 50MB - 1000MB for WinPE
- 1000MB - ? for full Windows Install

And How boot a full Windows install on PXE ?

Can we use a full Windows install on every the PC ?

Time boot ?

#4 maanu

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 04:52 PM

my experience , and preferences.

i have a 2k3 based PE ,and a 1.2GB Image of Full XP (with 500+ MB free space), i use the it as MobileOS .
i have updated this image with at least 50 different computers, but yet i dont think it is universal , so i wont use it as recovery purposes.
for recovery purposes , i have 2k3 based PE , which shares same set of tools as my MobileOS, which are very minimal.

so i would recommend , DO NOT prefer full xp on PE .

why ?

1- boot time
2- not universal
3- Memory requirements ( even though i can use my 1.2GB image as Direct Map on 256MB but still it is an issue)


for PE

1- quick boot time
2- universal (provided your pe has SATA drivers)
3-my 2k3 PE boots on 128MB all right , and can use all tools.
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#5 sambul61

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 07:02 PM

There are plenty of "light" and "embedded" Windows versions flying around the web with minimal RAM and disk requirements, yet almost fully functional. Of course, for some tasks Win PE might be preferable, but not on daily basis, even exclusively for PC service tasks (which is not that realistic to assume). :)

#6 Nuno Brito

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 07:08 PM

I would like to use a full windows 7 but it is still to big to fit on a 2Gb pendisk.

In fact, I never built one as the last time I tried a tool it wasted my local BCD and didn't even worked as intended. What I wanted was a simple tool to extract and install windows onto a .VHD and then let me run it from a virtual box session.

For me, the biggest advantage is running programs without so many PE related limitations.

#7 sambul61

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 07:43 PM

GImageX might be the right one...

#8 Nuno Brito

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 08:05 PM

I don't think so my friend. I want to install Windows on a .VHD, preferably using an automated tool that can be scripted from command line.

If I wanted to just unpack files with imagex, I'd use 7zip instead.

In fact, would be nice to see some tool unpack files with 7zip and then move them onto a bootable .VHD

This would bypass the need for install WIM drivers/ downloading WAIK.

#9 sbaeder

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 08:32 PM

Just be careful *IF* you use a flash drive that you consider all the same thigns that affect SSD's (like lack of defrag, etc.) Not sure that they support things like "TRIM" or the other things real SSDs support...Other than that, I think the above comments cover it very well...a PE is a Pre-Install Environment, and has it's limitations, which are fine in some use cases, and limited in others.

#10 MedEvil

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 08:56 PM

From the comments, i understand, that the main difference is not so much PE or full Windows, but if the OS remembers changes on next boot or if it does not. Do i see this right?

:cheers:

#11 MedEvil

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 09:01 PM

I would like to use a full windows 7 but it is still to big to fit on a 2Gb pendisk.

Hey Nuno, one can buy these days USB-Sticks, which are bigger than 2GB! ;)

:cheers:

#12 sambul61

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 09:24 PM

Nuno

Which tool did you try? :money:
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#13 Nuno Brito

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 09:50 PM

Hey Nuno, one can buy these days USB-Sticks, which are bigger than 2GB!

You should know by now that I am a cheap-skate. I only use (and waste) pendisks offered after software vendor presentations.. :lol:


Which tool did you try?

I went with PWboot: http://reboot.pro/6851/

For some reason I know have an unbootable laptop, still too lazy to get it fixed again.

Noteworthy pages to keep in mind:

Boot Windows 7 from USB hard disk by karyonix: http://reboot.pro/9196/
Universal HDD Image files for XP and Windows 7: http://reboot.pro/9830/
NT 6.x fast installer: install win7 directly to usb extenal drive: http://reboot.pro/10126/

This is all interesting, only now I seem to find enough time and good reasons to try out a full Windows and I'm looking at the available options.

:)

#14 sambul61

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 10:02 PM

When using a 2Gb Thumb, definition of "full Win7" gets VERY soft, despite there are some Win7 Embedded Standard SP1 popular incarnations that work very well from a 4Gb Thumb, and install to 1.5 Gb.

I've used steve6375's method (now re-done 47th Tutorial) to install Win 2008 R2 Server from an ISO to a USB HD, and it should also work for installing Win7 to a VHD, after you boot from Win 7 Setup ISO and create & attach the VHD. But won't do any-good in 2Gb space.

Alternatively, I'd just use GimageX to Apply the install.wim from a mounted Win7 Setup ISO to the attached VHD, and then add its boot entry to the Thumb's BCD Store (which you need to copy to the Thumb as well, assuming there is no system installed on it). Again, Steve's tool can also make the Thumb bootable.

#15 wimb

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 09:02 AM

Portable XP and Portable Windows 7 booting from Grub4dos Menu on portable 2.5 inch USB-harddisk
is in my view the most powerfull approach.
http://www.911cd.net...showtopic=24424
http://www.911cd.net...showtopic=23553

- PE will loose installed drivers and additional installed programs all the time and has no printer support,
whereas the portable windows versions are Universal and behave just as regular windows and will keep installed programs + drivers.
The size of Portable XP Image file is about 1 GB and for Portable Windows 7 VHD about 1.5 GB,
which is no problem and quite well acceptable on portable USB- harddisk.

- Portable USB-harddisk is preferred over USB-sticks
since the USB-harddisk boots faster, is more easily prepared, and has more capacity with more partitions visible in Windows,
and the USB-harddisk is connected and carried as easily as USB-sticks.

:cheers:

#16 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 10:09 AM

- Portable USB-harddisk is preferred over USB-sticks
since the USB-harddisk boots faster, is more easily prepared, and has more capacity with more partitions visible in Windows,
and the USB-harddisk is connected and carried as easily as USB-sticks.


Or flip the bit and be done with the stoopid stick. ;)

I doubt the "as easily" :dubbio::
http://www.supertale...e/18_75_336.gif

Of course the "best thing" is having BOTH a PE and a "full" XP or 7 AND have it together with a few .iso's in a thingy like the IODD, or the Isostick (when it will be available) or in a CDEMU device, for maximum compatibility.


:cheers:
Wonko

#17 wimb

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 10:17 AM

I doubt the "as easily" :dubbio::
http://www.supertale...e/18_75_336.gif

Sure, the size of USB-sticks can be very small, but the size of e.g. Samsung S2 Portable 2.5 inch USB-harddisk is quite well acceptable.

Indeed it is good to have additionally some extra ISO's available for booting from Grub4dos menu on USB e.g PartedMagic and LiveXP and 7PE

Another thing is that data on USB-sticks are less reliably preserved, e.g. I would not use USB-sticks as a backup medium.
USB-harddisks are as good as normal harddisks in this respect.

:cheers:

#18 Wonko the Sane

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 10:35 AM

Another thing is that data on USB-sticks are less reliably preserved, e.g. I would not use USB-sticks as a backup medium.
USB-harddisks are as good as normal harddisks in this respect.

Let me doubt this also. :w00t:
Of course the hard disk is just as reliable as *any* other hard disk, inside the USB case there is a "normal" hard disk, BUT the probabilities of mechanical shock are IMHO far greater for a 2.5" HD inside a USB portable case when compared to what it would normally have to bear inside a notebook/laptop.
After all the "solid" in "solid state" should have a meaning ;).

OT, but not much, unless you live in Japan ;) if the thingy falls from the table on the floor it is likely to become a dud:
http://www.msfn.org/...internet-noise/

Sometimes I wonder WHY thingies like this:
http://en.akihabaran...kproof-hdd-case
http://www.cultofmac...usb-hard-drive/
are not common or even "standard". :unsure:

:cheers:
Wonko

#19 sambul61

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 12:40 PM

wimb

I wonder, if your Tutorials may benefit from a Table of Content or Logic Graph... At fast look through it was difficult for me to understand, whether numerous described methods complement each other, represent a mandatory sequence, or are independent of each other. :dubbio:

Could you elaborate a bit (possibly in one sentence list instead of referring to a lengthy forum thread), what does your COMPACT program do to make Win7 and XP shrink, and what particular Win 7 features are deleted and/or switched off by this process. :)

#20 wimb

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 01:37 PM

Let me doubt this also. :w00t:

For the mechanical damage arguments you are right,
but I had writing and reading data on USB-drives in mind.
In that respect USB-sticks are less reliable than USB-harddisks.

@sambul
Interesting info for you can be derived from the list of files to be copied for making Portable Windows 7.
See files copy_7vhd.txt and nf20_7vhd.txt in folder IMG_XPVHD_W7

The main reduction in size is achieved by reducing folders
windowswinsxs
Windowsassembly
WindowsMicrosoft.NETFramework
WindowsSystem32DriverStore
WindowsFonts

I reduced for Portable Windows 7 those folders according to what is known to work in 7PE
and that was successful.

Further system32 folder was reduced according to the Exclude file Exc_port7_sys32.txt


:cheers:
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#21 sambul61

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 01:54 PM

Thanks!

Your above links lead to great methods of making portable Win versions boot from USB. Can you explain or point to a single post that presents a brief overview, why and how a regular WinXP backup to an .img or .raw file needs to be manipulated (if at all) to boot it via Grub4DOS? I guess, this thread gives some brief hints about it.

I mean not a sequence of tools to use, but a clear list of approaches to make it 1) universal and 2) boot (i.e., add FiraDisk to..., etc.). I was lost a bit following briefly your suggested "tooling" sequence wondering, why do I need to use these tools to begin with. The solution was presented without first showing a problem needed to be solved (why?) by suggested approaches (why?), coded into a select tools usage sequence. Now I have the book, where someone pulled out first half of its pages - go figure. :book:

I do understand, any tool development can be a lengthy process that may involve numerous discussions. But an average forum visitor doesn't have to be subjected to all these talks, unless he wants to. Once a Tutorial is written, IMHO it should be self-contained, briefly explaining:

1) a problem and, as a result, tasks at hand;
2) a suggested solution (a brief list or sequence of approaches) behind making the problem solved;
3) selected tools usage flow to implement that solution, briefly explaining what each tool actually does.

#22 MedEvil

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 05:10 PM

@wimb
I didn't realize, you shrink the universal Windows acording to PE findings.

What's then the difference, between your PE and your universal Windows? Just the working security hive?

:cheers:

#23 Henshaw

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 05:46 PM

Fortunately I have much to say about this.

For about a month now, I have been experimenting a full blown Windows XP SP3 Professional and a complete Windows 7 Ultimate install on large USB sticks and 160 GB USB hard drives. In this experiment, I have also included a 60 GB SATA II Solid-State USB drive. In total, I have dedicated for this experiment 10 USB storage media of variable characteristics, using two computers:
  • ASUS Eee Top 1602 Touch-Screen, Cpu 1.6 GHz dual-core, RAM 2GB
  • ASRock 755V88+, Cpu 3 GHz dual processor, RAM 2 GB

First, I prepared an XP-to-USB Install disk by making the necessary modifications to the i368 folder then burnt back to disk.

For Win7:
  • I downloaded "NT 6.x fast installer batch scripts by fujianabc"
  • extracted the package to a LiveXP Target folder
  • created another sub-folder in the LiveXP Target folder and extracted Win7 DVD into it
  • then created my LiveXP-Win7 Install iso-file and burnt it to disk
Findings:
  • They both install and run smoothly on both computers.
  • To get a typical system behaviour, after inatall, go to your USB disk properties and activate "Write Caching" under policies.
  • When the USB disk is attached through a hub, WinXP will still run (with some glitches though) while Win7 will reboot infinitely reporting no error.
  • If no other hard disk in the system is attached to an ATA or SATA port, no pagefile will be created in niether of the systems (WinXP and Win7 alike)
  • If a hard disk is attached to an ATA/SATA port after install, WinXP will create and use a pagefile on it but if later removed, XP will no longer use pagefile even if it is present, until you make a clean install. Instead, if Win7 finds a disk on ATA/SATA port, it will create and use the pagefile; if the disk is later removed, it will report no pagefile; if disk is put back, it will re-create or reuse the pagefile.
  • While the pagefile is present, both WinXP and Win7 will run without any limitations (since USB reads are fast enough while writes are cached)
  • When no pagefile is present, memory-hungry applications like adobe premiere... will freeze and quit during intensive activity.
  • If you have plenty of RAM, then no problen at all.
  • If you install to USB SSD (solid-state-disk) Win7 will not create a pagefile but will treat the entire disk as RAM, thus, ReadyBoost will not be available. Both WinXP and Win7 will run faster. You may forget that your system is running from USB and un-plug it by mistake as I did a couple of times.
  • If you unplug your USB disk and plug it into another PC, WinXP will pop up some errors and try to install some necessary drivers then run acceptably after reboot. In the worst scenario, it will run in safe mode. Win7 instead, boots without errors then automatically installs new devices. The first time I did it un-intentionally: when I came back from the office, I plugged the Win7 USB disk on another computer and put it on. When I came back to work on it, instead of Windows XP Home Edition, I found Windows 7 Ultimate. I asked my child who installed Win7 on this computer. I later found-out it booted from the USB disk I brought from the office.
To my opinion, therefore, WinPE systems are extremely limited compared to Full-blown installs, amongst which, I would rather choose Windows 7.
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#24 pscEx

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 05:54 PM

Great report! :1st:

Peter

#25 Tripredacus

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 06:14 PM

I think my question would be, what purposes do you use these USB keys for? I have 1 USB key with a PE3 (from Make_PE3) which is useful to me if I need something to quickly boot to do a test or change a file. Overall, the USB key method is faster for me to test with than using WDS for whatever that reason is. I can't see a personal need for having an OS on a USB key like that.

As far as the drive conversation, we have started using USB HDDs (GoFlex) and take the drive off and put an SSD on it instead. It basically makes them a large USB key.




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