DS7.1: How to modify your WinPE environment. Can we make changes to WinPE and is this supported?


Article ID: 180574


Updated On:


Deployment Solution




The simple answer to the question above is Yes, and No.

Yes, you can change WinPE, and no, the changes are not supported.  Obviously, if you have issues with the changes, you'll need to try removing everything, going with the default we provide, and see if the problems persist.  The only support provided by Symantec for this is that we do support the inclusion of the files in the OEM folders.  We do not support any custom changes you make.

Understanding how we build the preboot WIM is important - we use the WAIK folders as a source location, copy those to a temp location, overlay our own changes to this temp location, and then compress.  The rest of process is how to modify the information that is overlaid into the WAIK prior to compression.  By the way, this is the same process that our vendors use, thus the "OEM" folder name.

No, no such method exists for Linux Preboot.

The Process:

  1. First, find the appropriate "overlay" folders.

    1. Location in DS 7.5,  "C:\Program Files\Altiris\Notification Server\NSCap\bin\Deployment\BDC\bootwiz\oem\DS\winpe\x86\Base" on the Notification Server.
      1. Don't forget that there is also an X64 folder that may need to be modified if you use 64bit PE
      2. In 7.5, the BootWiz folder is, itself, part of a package, so normal package replication will pick up the changes, though it could take up to 24 hrs to update site servers
    2. Location in DS 7.1, "C:\Program Files\Altiris\Altiris Agent\Agents\Deployment\Task Handler\bootwiz\oem\DS\winpe2\x86\Base" on the Notification Server.
      1. Don't forget that there is also an X64 folder that may need to be modified if you use 64bit PE
      2. In 7.1, by default, this change is not replicated out to the site servers, so you'll either have to build a package to do so, OR make the changes manually on each site server.  The good news is that the location for these changes is always in the same spot under the Deployment Share on each site server.
  2. The BAT file in the BASE folder is what you modify to launch any application you want run at startup.  For example, BGInfo, or a menu.

    1. There's a comment in the file that indicates where changes should be made, near the end.
  3. The "Program Files" folder is normally where you would add applications, by folder, that will need to be compiled into the product.

    1. Anywhere under "Base" will become part of the X drive in Automation, but for order and standardization, we recommend following normal application best practice and putting things in the Program Files folder.
  4. The Windows folder is for any changes you may need to make or add to the system folders, such as fonts, or in some cases, adding system DLL's for expanding windows PE functionality (e.g. adding DAO support).

  5. Once all changes you desire have been made, a rebuild of the WinPE environment must be triggered.

    1. This will have to occur for all builds you want to include your changes.
    2. Remember to modify the site servers before starting the rebuild!  Otherwise they will not reflect the changes.  
      1. If you are using Package Replication, be sure to trigger that first, and ensure it's successful to all site servers.
  6. After BootWiz completes on the server (or site server), you should be able to test the new build of the environment and see your modifications in place.

Examples of things to add:

For my personal WinPE, I have added some things I like to have for troubleshooting.  You may want to add things for your environment, such as a custom graphic / background, or whatever.  Here is what I found and have done:  (Note: for all of my tools, to save space in WinPE and speed in the download of the automation environment, I pull anything out of my free apps that I don't absolutely need.  This takes a bit more time but is worth-it in the long run.)(Note2: None of these applications can be posted by Symantec unless OWNED by Symantec for legal reasons, so you'll have to go find them yourself.

  • A43 is an opensource File Explorer you can add to Windows.  In WinPE, it's limited due to several Windows DLL's missing, but by-and-large, it works, giving you a GUI interface to look for and launch files in automation.  
  • RocketDock is a tool designed to give a MAC-like menu to Windows users.  I slimmed it down to about 4M and included it in PE so I have a menu for launching apps.
    • I added several icons to this, including one for A43, Task Manager, links to the Log files and Notepad, and a link to a command prompt.  The latter is because I found that often, when in a command prompt, when done, I close the prompt.  IF you use the default prompt in PE, and close that, PE restarts, so I instead open another instance of CMD and use that - thus being able to close it without impact.
  • BGInfo is a Microsoft tool used to modify your background with basic information about your system.  I use this to post the Serial Number (for 7.5) or name (for 7.1) of the system so it's easier to find in the console.  Additionally, I add the IP Address, MAC, UUID - key identifiers for the system, and finally, the driver used for the NIC, in case I have problems with drivers.
  • TAIL is a free tool that watches text files for changes and updates on the fly.  This I use at times for watching a task execute, and watching the log files update in real-time.
    • I'm working on getting LogViewer into PE.  This would be a very nice replacement!!
  • PCAnywhere Thin Client is something you can build on any NS that creates a 1 M file you can launch in WinPE and then remotely manage the winPE client from the NS Console.  Because the Thin Client needs to be configured by YOU for YOUR organization, we can't post one here.  The advantage though is two fold.  1) you can see remote hardware for troubleshooting (unless the problem is the NIC driver).  2) you can show a Symantec Rep the problem when you call for support.

For instance, I have experimented with three "free" or "open source" utilities, one called RocketDock, a menu that will run in PE, and another called BGInfo, which modifies the background to display key pieces of information, and yet another called A43 which is a file-manager-like tool that will run, not fully functional, but at least run in PE.  Each app I simply create a folder for and drop into Program Files.  Then I modified the BAT file in the BASE folder to run one or two of them automatically.

Known Limitations / Restrictions:

  • There is no interface in the console for these changes!  Remember that.


    Replicating custom WIM files is NOT supported!  Neither is replicating a WIM file we build.  It is a known issue that each WIM must be built on each Site Server for proper functionality.


  • Adding too much to the WIM will cause problems.  We have a fixed memory size we allocate for storing the WIM in RAM of 512M, so if the WIM, or the functions you call, exceed the memory allocated and/or space allocated, there will be problems.