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Outline of the WinPE boot process (winpeshl, setup.exe, startnet.cmd, etc.)

winpeshl.ini setup startnet.cmd

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#1 steve6375


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Posted 13 May 2019 - 07:58 AM


A lot of the Microsoft and other documentation is incomplete and\or wrong! I have not found a single complete description, so I thought I would post it here.


I experimented a lot and I think this is the correct execution order...

  1. Winpeshl.exe is run (required file - must not be deleted) - if winpeshl.ini exists the application(s) specified in X:\Windows\system32\winpeshl.ini are run.
  2. If the winpeshl.ini file exists but is invalid, a cmd shell will be opened and the process will stop.
  3. If winpeshl.ini does not exist then X:\Setup.exe is run, if it exists.
  4. X:\Setup.exe allows the user to choose a language and then choose either Repair or Install - if you choose Install it runs X:\sources\setup.exe.
  5. The \Sources\Setup.exe will look on all drives for a \Sources folder containing both the file "setup.exe" and  a install.wim, install.swm or install.esd file in the same folder -  if not found it will prompt you to install CD\DVD drivers.
  6. Windows can then be installed using the \Sources\install.* files.
  7. If no winpeshl.ini file is found and no X:\Setup.exe is found then cmd /k X:\Windows\system32\startnet.cmd is run.
  8. Usually, Windows PE's boot.wim install images contain the X:\Windows\system32\Startnet.cmd file which just contains the command Wpeinit.
  9. Wpeinit.exe loads network resources and coordinates with networking components like DHCP. It also loads a X:\Unattend.xml file (if it exists) to process settings such as firewall, network and display settings.
  10. When Wpeinit.exe completes, the Command Prompt window is displayed.
  11. The boot process of Windows PE is complete.

Read more: http://www.easy2boot.com/faq-/wimboot/

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