14 November 2015

How to rebuild a custom Windows To Go device with recovery environment (RE) partition

  1. Getting the Windows 10 DVD
    1. Acquire latest ISO image from Microsoft for Windows 10. This can be done with the Media Creator Tool (Microsoft did temporarily revert this tool back to the July RTM version, but it's now back to the latest November one) or from MSDN
    2. Run the Media Creation Tool. Preferably download Windows 10 Pro, x64, English United Kingdom
    3. Choose ISO file
    4. Let it download and save the ISO with a useful name e.g. 'Windows_10_Pro_x64_en-gb_November2015_10586.iso'
  2. Format SSD with 3 partitions using Disk Management
    1. First partition: 500MB FAT32 "System"
    2. Second partition: remaining space minus 500MB NTFS "Windows 10"
    3. Third partition: 500MB NTFS "Recovery"
  3. Get and run EasyUEFI WinToUSB (need licence for Pro version of Windows)
    1. System partition: First 500MB one
    2. Boot partition: Second partition (where Windows will be booted from)
    3. Wait for completion until 100% (will take about 45 minutes for 256GB)
  4. Reboot and boot into SSD
    1. Complete all setup steps - use custom settings
    2. Do not enter serial key if you already have a computer associated with your Microsoft account
  5. Configure for SSD
    1. Install drivers
    2. Run "winsat formal" to identify disks as Solid state drives
      1. Run Defrag and Optimise drives to trim space and verify correct identification
    3. Disable write caching on the disk using Device Manager
    4. Disable Windows Search using Indexing Options in Control Panel. Windows Search can also be disabled from services.msc
    5. See more recommendations here
  6. Setup apps
    1. Install Classic Shell
    2. Compare with previous installation using Beyond Compare
    3. Change Power Options in Control Panel
      1. Maximum performance for Graphics and Link State Power Management
      2. Do not let hard drive go to sleep
      3. Do not let computer sleep after 10/20 minutes
      4. Critical battery action should be Shutdown
    4. Change System Restore settings to use 25% of the disk size. Delete all existing points and create a new one.
  7. Setup recovery environment
    1. Create the "winre.wim" and related files by using the ISO image (does not provide all the files you need) by creating a VM in Oracle VirtualBox (install the addons too)
      1. Create a new Windows 10 VM with at least 15GB space recommended 30GB dynamically expanding, and use VHD as the disk format
      2. Change Input device from USB Tablet to PS/2 Mouse
      3. Set Network to Bridged Adapter
      4. Mount ISO image and proceed with fresh install of Windows inside the VM
      5. Shutdown VM after install complete
      6. Close VirtualBox
      7. Use Disk Management to Attach VHD of the VM
      8. Use AOMEI Backupper to backup mounted 'System Reserved' Partition
      9. Detach VHD
      10. Use AOMEI Backupper to 'Restore' the System Reserved Partition to Partition 3 on the SSD, choose to Align for SSD
    2. Follow instructions to deploy WinRE - just step 2 as we have just done step 1
      1. 'Reagentc /setreimage /path R:\Recovery\WindowsRE' (where R is the third partition on the SSD)
      2. 'Reagentc /enable' and then 'Reagentc /info' to check it is enabled
      3. Update settings in This PC > Properties > Advanced > Startup and recovery > Settings > Tick both boxes at top
      4. Use EasyBCD (free version) to Edit Boot Menu
        1. Untick Use Metro Bootloader
        2. Choose Countdown from 30 seconds
        3. Save Settings
  8. Verify recovery environment is setup correctly
    1. When OS boots you will get Windows 10 option. The 'Windows' option at the bottom is just the memory test. To get to the recovery environment, press F8, then when you get to the menu, press F10 to get other options, then press 1 to Launch recovery environment
    2. Go to Troubleshoot, then System Restore, and login as your username. Confirm you can see the System Restore point you made earlier.
  9. Get on with the rest
    1. Backup Disk with AOMEI Backupper
    2. Install drivers
    3. Use Ninite or FileHippo as a reminder to install apps
    4. Use CCleaner or Task Manager to clean up startup apps