96. Saving the day with BartPE
By Andrew D. Wright
You're working late at your computer. The lights flicker for a moment
sending Windows into an extra-crunchy sounding shut-off. You go to reboot.
The hardware seems to work okay but Windows won't start up. Your work is
trapped inside the computer, out of your reach.
Tomorrow you can think about re-installing Windows or taking the computer
to the shop but tonight you just need to get your work off the hard drive.
Good thing you took precautions.
Bart's Preinstalled Environment, or BartPE for short, is a bootable CD
that lets you start up a limited Windows interface complete with
networking, access to your hard drives and the ability to run some
Unlike DOS boot disks or using the repair option on the Windows CD, BartPE
lets you access NTFS formatted hard drives with a graphical user interface
and readily copy files to a floppy disk or to a networked computer.
The stripped-down Windows interface can also run programs using plugins. A
Firefox plugin allows you to run the Firefox web browser from within
BartPE. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software can be run with plugins
allowing the sort of deep cleaning not possible when normal Windows is
You create your own BartPE CD using PE Builder, a free program written by
Bart Lagerweij, a Netherlands programmer. You'll need your Windows XP
installation CD, a copy of Windows XP Service Pack 2 if your Windows CD is
older than that, around 1 GB of free disk space and a CD burner.
Copy your Windows XP CD files to a new folder on your hard drive. You will
need to slipstream your Windows XP CD to update it if it is older than
Service Pack 2. PE Builder makes this easy with a Slipstream menu item
(under Source). You specify the original CD folder, the location of the
Service Pack file and where you would like the slipstreamed Windows XP CD
files to be copied.
PE Builder's interface is easy to follow. A Plugins button shows all
available plugins with the options to add new ones or enable existing
Unfortunately finding new plugins is quite difficult; they are scattered
over a number of different sites and web forums. As often as not they are
dead links or only work with out-dated software versions. Some plugins are
self-contained while others require the original software be installed on
the computer running PE Builder.
Two options are supplied for burning the BartPE CD image to disk -
StarBurn and CD-Record. Which one will work best with your particular CD
burner is trial and error. When ready press the Build button and PE
Builder will copy over hundreds of files from the slipstreamed Windows XP
folder to a disk image and record it to a blank CD.
When a computer is booted from a BartPE disk it looks a lot like a regular
Windows XP startup. When it is done you will be looking at a BartPE
desktop graphic with a big yellow Go button where the Windows Start button
usually is. Some monitors may need to be manually adjusted to move the
screen up to see the Go button.
The A43 File Management Utility under Programs is the BartPE equivalent to
PE Builder: http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/
Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 download:
The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community
Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about
computing, email email@example.com or
click here. If we use your question
in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.
Originally published 19 November 2006