Techie Tuesday: The Macrium Rescue Environment
Absolutely the first thing you need to do after purchasing and installing Macrium Reflect is create rescue media.
If you lose your Windows operating system, you can start your PC using Macrium Reflect rescue media on CD, DVD, or USB stick. This makes creating rescue media the first thing you need to do with Macrium Reflect. It contains a bootable, lightweight version of Windows and a full version of Macrium Reflect.
This lightweight version of Windows is called Windows Pre-installation Environment (also known as Windows PE or WinPE) and is provided by Microsoft. When you create rescue media, Macrium Reflect downloads Windows PE automatically for you and writes it to your media. It downloads just those components you need to rescue your system.
You have the option of restoring to a new system or virtual machine using Macrium ReDeploy to reconfigure your windows installation for the new hardware.
Windows PE and the rescue environment
Windows PE is a reduced version of Microsoft Windows that is designed to boot from CD, DVD or USB on a wide range of hardware. When you run the rescue media wizard, Macrium Reflect automatically downloads the Windows PE components from Microsoft and builds the rescue environment locally. The Macrium Windows PE rescue media has the following features:
- Fixes for boot problems
- Macrium ReDeploy to prepare Windows to load on new hardware
- RAID support
- USB 3.0 support
- CD boot
- USB boot
- Boot menu
- Full version of Macrium Reflect
- Reduced download size compared with full Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) — 150 MB to 450 MB (depending on PE version and 32- or 64-bit support)
Windows PE hardware support
The Macrium Rescue Environment needs to include support for your hardware such as USB ports, network interfaces, and in particular for your storage device if for example you use RAID disks. The default Windows PE environment supports a good selection of hardware and you can add support for further devices. When Macrium Reflect creates a rescue CD or USB, it analyses your system hardware and tries to locate drivers for unsupported devices by looking on your system. If it can’t find appropriate drivers, Macrium Reflect prompts you to provide drivers. You can provide drivers by finding driver packages on the local hard drive, looking for driver CDs supplied with the system, or downloading drivers from the web. After you provide these additional drivers, Macrium Reflect adds them to the Windows PE environment.
Note: You cannot add support for booting media because booting takes place before drivers are loaded. For example, if your CD drive is connected via an unsupported SCSI interface card or your boot menu lies on an unsupported RAID array, then the Windows PE cannot boot. Booting using a USB stick is a good workaround in this case as all USB 2 interfaces are supported by default.
Note: You can also overcome this issue using this solution.
CD, DVD and USB rescue media
You can boot your computer into Windows PE from a CD, DVD, USB stick or USB attached external hard disk. For convenience or for automated restores to your system disk, you can add Windows PE to a boot menu that’s displayed when your system first starts. Although, do not rely upon this local copy as a rescue mechanism because it could be lost if you suffered hard disk failure or corruption leaving you without a method for rescuing your system.
Macrium Reflect creates custom Windows PE systems for each installation type by downloading the required components from Microsoft.
The Rescue Media Wizard
- Insert your blank CD, DVD or USB stick.
- From the Backup tab of the task pane, below Other Tasks, click Create bootable Rescue media.
- Accept the default Windows PE environment selected by Macrium Reflect or Click ‘Change PE Version’ to use a different version of Windows PE for your rescue media:Explanation of the ‘Change PE version’ dialog…
- The device is supported by default in WinPE
- There is a compatible driver in the host operating system
- There is a compatible driver already present in the collection of drivers on previously created rescue mediaClick Next and add device drivers if required.This dialog enables you to add drivers for any Network and Disk controllers that are unsupported in Windows PE.A device driver is a collection of files (also referred to as a driver package) and generally comprises of:
- The driver software, these files have a .SYS extension.
- The driver information, or INF, file which contains the installation instructions for the drivers, these files have a .INF extension.
- An optional security catalog that signs those drivers for operating systems that require signed drivers, commonly used on x64 operating systems, these files have a .CAT extension.
- One or more optional supporting software library files (Dynamic Link Library) that contain further code to support the driver software, these files have a .DLL extension.
- Windows PE (WinPE) is packaged with a large collection of drivers but there are many devices that are not part of the WinPE driver package. If your device is not compatible then you must add its driver so WinPE recognizes it and communicates with your device.
- The wizard checks whether your device requires drivers adding to WinPE. It builds a list of devices in your computer that are either Hard Drive/RAID controllers, Network Interface Cards, USB controllers or USB hubs. For each of these devices it checks if:
- Example of adding a device driver…
- Click Next. to prepare and build the Windows PE imageNote: If you have already built the Windows PE image for this rescue media then the wizard will skip this step and advance to the Burn page
- PE Architecture Either 32 bit or 64 Bit. The default option is selected to match the architecture of the host Windows OS.
- Include optional components Select this option to add BitLocker Encryption and iSCSI support to the rescue media. Please note that adding these components may several minutes to the creation process.
See Adding iSCSI support to Windows PE for more information on using iSCSI in Windows PE
- Automatically unlock BitLocker encrypted drives Select this option to automatically unlock all BitLocker encrypted drives when Windows PE starts.
See Adding BitLocker support to Windows PE for more information on using Windows PE to access BitLocker encrypted drives.
- Default base WIM Use the standard Microsoft Windows PE base installation. Macrium Reflect executables will be added to this to crate the rescue media,
- Custom Base WIM Use your own customized WIM for the rescue media. This is an advanced topic not covered in this help.
Click Next to begin the WIM build process. If necessary, files will automatically be downloaded from Microsoft to complete the build process.
You can also select the PE Components .zip file by clicking the ‘Browse’ button in the download dialog. The PE .zip file can be downloaded by using the Reflect download agent ‘ReflectDL.exe’.
See Installing and updating Macrium Reflect offline for more information on downloading the PE components separately.
- A detailed log of the build process is saved to: ‘C:\ProgramData\Macrium\waik\waiklog.txt’
- Once complete you can choose where to burn the media
- Rebuild Click this button to advance to the ‘Prepare Windows PE image’ wizard page to rebuild the Windows Image (WIM).
Note: If updates are available for your rescue media then you will receive a message box prompting you to rebuild.
- Check for unsupported devices Select this option and Windows PE will prompt to add drivers for unsupported Network Interface and Disk controllers when started.
- Prompt for key press Select this option to enable the ‘Press any key to boot from CD or DVD…’ prompt when your PC starts. This is useful if you want to bypass Windows PE and boot into your host Windows OS.
- CD/DVD burner Select this option to choose a CD/DVD device that you are using to create your rescue media.
To save the rescue media to an .ISO image file for burning with any burning software. Click the drop-down list of burners and select ‘Create an ISO image file’:
- USB DeviceSelect this option to save your rescue media to a bootable USB stick or external hard drive.Enable multiboot MBR/UEFIOnly applies if you are saving your rescue media to a USB device. This option enables the USB device to boot both legacy MBR and GPT/UEFI for modern motherboards. Please consult your motherboard user manual for information on choosing these boot options at PC startup.
- Note: CD/DVD media is always created multi-boot MBR/UEFI
- Technicians USBApplies to Macrium Reflect Technicians license keys only. See Technicians portable application support for more information
- Click Finish.to create your rescue media
To complete the process, boot from your Rescue media to ensure it works correctly.
After Windows PE loads, Macrium Reflect runs. The Windows PE user interface for Macrium Reflect is identical to that of the main application and offers the same core functions.
If you are using USB media, you can make the Macrium Rescue Environment compatible with multiple computers:
- Use the Rescue media wizard to create a bootable USB rescue device on one computer.
- Repeat the process with each other computer in turn using the same USB device.
You can read more about creating rescue media here.