So What Does Microsoft Have To Offer?
The Knoppix solution still has a small problem - the lack of write access to the file system. Surely it would be a whole lot simpler if there were a Microsoft CD like the Knoppix one that could be used to boot up Windows. After all, Windows knows best how the NTFS is accessed.
Fortunately, this can be done. With a little bit of effort, a CD or even a DVD can be created that can do be used to boot Windows. To explain how, we first have to backtrack a little.
Windows Preinstallation Environment: A Mini-Windows
For OEM customers Microsoft offers the Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE). This is an environment for preparing Windows installations. Manufacturers use Windows PE to upgrade systems with preinstalled software; scripts make it possible to upgrade thousands of systems with exactly the same software.
Windows PE can be launched from a CD, and offers complete access to the Windows API and read and write access to NTFS partitions. The system shell is in a command line interface, perfect for scripts. However, this software is normally available solely for system integrators; it cannot be used by end users.
BartPE: Building Your Own Windows PE
The BartPE startup screen
Programmer Bart Lagerweij discovered that Windows PE is based on the XP kernel and that it is possible to create a similar bootable CD with the files from the Windows XP CD. This is legal if you are the owner of an original Windows XP license. A small tool can capture the BartPE system to a CD or DVD. The great thing about this is that a plug-in interface can be used to burn many programs to the CD or DVD, thus creating a universal tool tailored to personal requirements.