Times change, emulators come and go, but PE building, and testing, and building, and testing, continues. Back in the day I started with ubcd/ubcd4win and a CD/RW bootstrapping from a 3.5 floppy loaded with a handful of drivers and bart's amazing modboot framework. Then Virtual PC was released free and rocked my world. Now years later USB and network booting is the new norm and your lucky to find a CD drive in a modern computer. I've been a VMware user for 15 years or so (I deal almost exclusively with ESXi/vSphere in my enterprise) so vmware is my goto emulator for testing my projects & builds and at least 75%+ of my completed builds are used via PXE booting on a corporate LAN (the other 25% is the keychain USB build I keep around for those times when a friend/relative/etc bribes me into helping them fix/devirus their personal PC). Which got me to wondering, what are the rest of reboot using these days and how has your testing cycle changed over the years? Feel free to explain your preferences and if/how they have changed with the times.
How do you typically test your project/builds?
Posted 09 May 2019 - 10:20 AM
I use to test booting directly from files (VHD, boot.wim, Iso) on a partition on the PC, no PC emulator used (this avoids some potential troubles). latter once all is tested, it will be used mainly from USB device, but also PXE booting is possible.
No more scripts for WinPE or a WinPE builder required.
Following is for using any fast USB device as SSD, MicroSD (hight speed) or a USB stick, USB 3.0 recommended, but also works fine on old PCs with USB 2.0.
The expandable VHD (480 MB size and expands to 1.5 GB) can be booted from Windows boot manager (UEFI or MBR) or Grub4dos 0.46a (only MBR)
Now the best practice is Rambooting (PC with minimum of 4GB Ram required) a full OS on a Wimboot VHD with all you may require including Office and any other software and also your printer installed into it if you want, for detailed info see:
By means of LZ4 compressing the VHD (wich will load on Ram) you can reduce it from a 1.5 GB VHD (fixed size) to 130 MB or smaller depending of OS (only valid for Ramboot through Grub4dos 046a), and it boots in a matter of seconds, faster than any WinPE.
And (for not advanced users) this is a tool from wimb to make all the process (after you create your VHD with all your programs) automatically:
NOTE: wimb's tool do not make LZ4 compressed VHDs, if you want them you have to make them manually.
Posted 09 May 2019 - 04:02 PM
Ahh, the good old days. I too used BartPE, in fact I remember working with Bart on something, I was a tester fro him.
I remember having to write out each ISO to a physical disk and booting in a mule PC I kept on the bench. I was thankful when I found VirtualBox and started booting directly from the ISOs. The BartPE tool was such a pain at times, syntax was goofy and I fought and fought making plugin, or whatever they were called back then. I've still got an XP ISO from BartPE I keep around for grins and giggles. It won't boot on any recent PC.
Posted 10 May 2019 - 07:03 PM
I then moved to CD booting - again on real hardware. With floppy emulation used to boot the same customised Windows 98 floppy boot disk (image) from the CD. With DOS programs loaded from either the CD or a USB flash drive. Burning CDs and then testing on hardware was a time consuming process - I only had access to one machine at the time.
And then I discovered BartPE and did lots of testing. Again on real hardware. Again burning lots of CDs. And then I started testing BartPE builds using Virtual software - including QEMU, VirtualBox, Virtual PC and VMWare Workstation.
Then moving to USB flash drives as USB boot support improved.
I then migrated from BartPE to other WinPE builds and continued to test using virtual software. And real hardware. And PXE booting - TinyPXE rocks. Thanks erwan
Having played around with various builds including my own projects, my testing platform is now a combination of VMWare
As the projects I use tend to be wim based, when testing on real hardware I simple copy the .wim file to a local drive (and rename as boot.wim if necessary) and reboot the PC - my BCD store contains a menu entry for boot.wim.
When using virtual software for testing I tend to stick with VMWare Player as back when I completed some WinFE testing a few years ago it was the only option I had access to that actually worked with the most recent (at the time) Windows 8.1 release. And with a minor edit to the config file it's possible to easily switch between BIOS and UEFI firmware.
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