All current versions of Windows offer a built-in, independently bootable command-line environment that you can use for heavy-duty troubleshooting and maintenance tasks.
This specialized system isn’t for everyone; there’s no graphical interface and scant built-in help. But if you’re an experienced user, you might find that this relatively obscure option offers faster and more extensive troubleshooting than more traditional methods — especially when standard Windows won’t boot.
Some of the tasks you can perform include:
- Recovering user files and data from your main drive or drives, even if your regular Windows installation won’t start.
- Doing deep hard-drive maintenance, recovery, or set-up.
- Installing, reinstalling, or modifying Windows.
- Capturing and applying Windows system images.
An offline toolkit for fixing Windows
The Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) is based on the Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE). Both are available in all Windows versions, from Vista onward.
This article is mostly about Win10’s WinRE, but Win8’s is very similar. And many of the concepts also apply to the Win7 and Vista versions. (You’ll find additional general-WinRE/PE information and version-specific details in the references at the end of this article.)
Win10’s WinRE is the home of several functions and features: the stripped-down, bootable, command-line version of Windows that’s the main focus of this article — plus Reset (with “Keep my files” and “Remove everything” options), System Restore, System Image Recovery, and