Bart's Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) bootable live windows CD/DVD

What is BartPE and PE Builder?

Bart's PE Builder helps you build a "BartPE" (Bart Preinstalled Environment) bootable Windows CD-Rom or DVD from the original Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 installation/setup CD, very suitable for PC maintenance tasks.

It will give you a complete Win32 environment with network support, a graphical user interface (800x600) and FAT/NTFS/CDFS filesystem support. Very handy for burn-in testing systems with no OS, rescuing files to a network share, virus scan and so on. This will replace any Dos bootdisk in no time!

BartPE Builder


PE Builder is not a Microsoft product and does not create Microsoft Windows Preinstallation Environment ("Windows PE"). Using PE Builder does not grant you a license to Microsoft Windows PE or to use the Windows XP or Server 2003 binaries in a manner other than stated in the End-User License Agreement included in your version of Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Server 2003. Microsoft has not reviewed or tested PE Builder and does not endorse its use.

Please do not contact Microsoft for support on the preinstallation environment that has been created by PE Builder!
Microsoft does not provide support for PE Builder or for the preinstallation environment created by PEBuilder.

The PE Builder program (pebuilder.exe) runs on Windows 2000/XP/2003/BartPE. It does not run on Windows NT4/ME/9x.

To avoid any confusion, the bootable CD generated by PE Builder should be called by its nickname "BartPE"!

A word from the author

Hi, my name is Bart Lagerweij. I've been creating DOS based boot disks and bootable CD-Roms from Dos 3.x (not sure what year) until 2002. I have created the: Corporate Modboot, Network bootdisk, CD-Rom bootdisk, a hardware independent Dos CD-Rom driver eltorito.sys and lots of other tools needed to boot a PC the way I want it to.

As you can read above I've stopped doing that in 2002. Why? I saw a Windows PE (WinPE) bootable CD-Rom (from Microsoft) in action and I got very, very curious. I knew then as I know now, that in time PE-based solutions will be every PC technicians best friend.
Goodbye to all the good and bad dos-based NTFS utilities! Now we can boot from a CD-Rom and have full read/write access to NTFS volumes!

Here are a few things that are possible with PE and are not possible with any type of dos-based boot disk, even when using network support and ntfsdos:

  • Accessing very large (>2TB) NTFS volumes or accessing volumes that are not seen by the BIOS, like some fiber channel disks.
  • Very reliable scanning and cleaning of viruses on NTFS volumes using a "clean boot".
  • Active Directory support.
  • Have remote control over other machines, using vnc or remote desktop.

While I was already thinking about what great things this could do, I noticed the end-user license agreement for Microsoft software that is included with Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) 1.2 (eula.txt). In section "1. ELIGIBILITY." it states the following:
..."You may only install and use the SOFTWARE PRODUCT if you are an active Microsoft Software Assurance Member ("SAM") for the systems product pool or servers product pool, if you currently have license coverage for Microsoft Windows operating system (OS) Upgrades via a Campus Agreement or School Agreement, or if you are a current or former participant in the Windows XP Joint Development Program, Windows XP Rapid Adoption Program, Windows .NET Server Joint Development Program, or Windows .NET Server Rapid Adoption Program. If you do not meet one or more of the requirements listed above, you may not install or use this SOFTWARE PRODUCT and you must terminate the installation of this SOFTWARE PRODUCT immediately"...

Oops, that does not include me. As a matter of fact that does not include most of us! This was very disappointing. But then I started thinking, how difficult can it be to build something similar to Windows PE from a Windows XP installation CD-Rom? A quick file compare looked like most of the needed files are on the Windows XP CD-Rom. Only because I thought building this would be easy, I started coding my own builder program. Had I known how hard it would be, I would probably never have started programming PE Builder.
This first version (v1.0.0) of PE Builder was released on April 28, 2003. Yes, version 1 was a very simple, very static, very bad and copyright violating program. And the (very friendly) people at Microsoft had every right to kick my butt. But I learned from it and in May 2003 I started on a second version. In July (three months later) v2 was ready.
Version 2 did not have the problems that version 1 had. The version 2 build engine had its own registry hive builder which was not easy to program and took about 50% of my research and coding time. It also was dynamic enough that it could build from Windows XP and Server 2003. In v2.0.1 I added a small but very powerful menu program called nu2menu, which was written by my buddy Henk de Jong. The latest 2 version (v2.0.2b) even used a new ISO filesystem called "ISO-9660:1999 (version 2)" instead of the Joliet extensions. Some non-English versions of Windows XP had filenames longer than the maximum allowed length for Joliet filenames (103 chars). I had to patch the ISO building program (mkisofs.exe) so that the Windows NT bootstrap and setup loader would boot properly. The file and directory names can now be up to 207 characters. But again this version had something bad. When comparing some INF files they looked too much like the Windows PE builder from Microsoft.

I had to change the entire INF file layout to use its own format. And on Sep 1, 2003 (almost 6 months after starting) version 3 was ready. After adding plug-in support, PE Builder got very popular. People from all over the world are writing their own plug-ins to add the program they like and use.

BartPE vs. Windows PE?

  • BartPE is not supported by Microsoft. Windows PE is an official Microsoft product.
  • BartPE has a graphical user interface. Windows PE has a command line interface.
  • The tools needed to make a BartPE installation are free software. Windows PE is available only to Microsoft OEM users.
  • BartPE allows unlimited custom plugins. Windows PE has a limited range of plugins options.

What is the technical difference between BartPE and Windows PE?

  • Target - Microsoft sees Windows PE as an installation platform. Bart sees Windows PE as the next generation rescue platform.
  • Start-menu - Bart's builder gives you a simple, dynamic and powerful start-menu (Nu2Menu, see screenshots). Microsoft's builder does not give you a start-menu, it uses a command prompt.
  • Build from - Bart's builder can also build from Windows XP Home Edition or from a preinstalled Windows XP version (without CD).
  • Plugins - WithPE Builder you can easily add applications, drivers or tools using plugins. This makes PE Builder extremely powerful. The end user can even combine plugins from different software vendors into one CD image.
  • Network support - PE Builder includes its own network support tools (bartpe/penetcfg) to start TCP/IP and Microsoft Client. The TCP/IP settings like: dynamic/static ip-address, subnet-mask, default gateway, dns-servers computer-name, workgroup can be changed on-the-fly. You can create pre-defined profiles, that you can select. Microsoft Windows PE only supports DHCP or fixed settings using winbom.ini.
    Also there is a plugin (NwDskPe) created by Erwin Veermans that loads the Netware Client on BartPE (IP/IPX).
  • Fileshare - BartPE can start File Sharing support so you can connect to the system through a share.
  • VNC - Because of the File Sharing support you can also run UltraVNC.
  • Dos support - Bart's builder has a plugin called "dospe".
  • License - Microsoft Windows PE is only for Enterprise/OEM customers (see previous), BartPE is for everybody!
  • 64-Bit - Bart's builder does not support Windows 64-bit editions.

Requirements to build:

  1. The files from your Windows Installation CD-Rom.
    Supported Windows versions are:
    • Windows XP Home Edition (must be slip streamed with Service Pack 1 or higher)
    • Windows XP Professional (must be slip streamed with Service Pack 1 or higher)
    • Windows Server 2003, Web Edition
    • Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition
    • Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition
  2. PE Builder runs on Windows 2000/XP/2003/BartPE systems.
  3. CD/DVD writer if you want to creat a bootable CD/DVD.

Why did I build PE Builder?

Microsoft only provides Windows PE to OEM and Enterprise customers. So the small companies and end users do not get Windows PE. I think this is really bad. With PE Builder they can build a Bootable XP CD-Rom (called BartPE) to use for maintaining their systems.

Getting Started

This page will help you create your very first BartPE CD. It assumes that you are using Windows XP.

  1. Make sure that your system has about 500MB of free disk space!

  2. Download the latest PE Builder version (self-installing package) and install it.
  3. Start PE Builder (pebuilder.exe). When you start PE Builder for the first time it will ask if you agree with the license agreement.

  4. Now PE Builder will ask to search for windows installation files. If you don't have your windows XP setup/installation files on your system you must insert the original Microsoft Windows XP installation/setup CD at this point.
    The files you have at c:\windows are not installation files. They are your already installed files!
    Click "yes" to start searching. PE Builder will now search all fixed- and CD-Rom drives for Windows installation files. This will take some time. When more than one valid location is found, a dialog will appear where you can select which location you want to use.

  5. At the main PE Builder dialog, select the "Burn to CD/DVD" option. When you are using an erasable medium, make sure that the "AutoErase RW" option is enabled. The "burn using" option should be set to "StarBurn". Select your CD writer device from the Device list.

  6. Hit the "build" button. PE Builder will now ask you to create a BartPE directory, answer with "yes".

  7. The license for your Microsoft Windows XP product is shown. Read it and agree to it to continue.

  8. PE Builder will now start building BartPE. This will take a few minutes.
    You will see a lot of files getting copied and/or decompressed, the ISO image build and the data recorded to your CD/DVD writer.
    If the data verify was correct and there where no errors reported you can boot the CD/DVD!


BartPE Builder3110a.exe    |   Visit the Official Website for more information