Software version: 5.1.4
Windows PE for free for licensed users of Windows. To get it, you need to download and install the latest Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK) from Microsoft...
You can use the resulting WinPE boot image(s) with almost any PC, including 32-bit and 64-bit PCs with BIOS or UEFI.
Hardwipe Portable Edition is designed to run from USB on 32-bit and 64-bit machines under Windows XP onwards. On its own, the Portable Edition is not bootable which means that, although you can use it from USB to sanitize user data and wipe secondary drives, you can't use it to completely wipe the PC's primary drive.
Windows PE, or Pre-installation Environment, however, is a free minimal operation system from Microsoft which can conveniently be used to create a boot image to host the Portable Edition. You can use both the Hardwipe GUI and command line utility under Windows PE, as part of a "boot and nuke" data sanitization solution.
In summary, you will need to:
IMPORTANT. The following instructions were written for WinPE 5.1 (part of Windows 8). If you are using a later version of WinPE, they will still be applicable, but you should refer primarily to the latest documentation from Microsoft (see above right).
Download and install the Windows ADK from Microsoft (see above right). Although Microsoft suggest the software is for Windows 8, you can also run this on Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Sever 2012.
During installation, you will need to select a minimum of the "Deployment Tools" and "Windows Pre-installation Environment" components.
Download a copy of the Hardwipe Portable Edition, and unzip the file on your local drive.
Run the GUI by launching the "StartHardwipe" shortcut, and input your Professional Upgrade product key* to activate the copy of the Portable Edition (your license information will be stored in the software's local runtime directory). Alternatively, since version 5.1.4, you can use the command line option "lic-key" to inject the license code over the CLI.
* Note that an "Essential Upgrade" key will not work with the Portable Edition.
Start the "Deployment and Imaging Tools Environment" as an administrator. You will find this under "Windows Kits" and "Windows ADK" from the Start Menu. This will open a DOS console window. (If you're using Windows 8, you'll need to find the short-cut using File Explorer. Try under: "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu".)
Create a local working copy of the Windows PE files on using:
You can specify either "x86" or "amd64". Use "x86" for maximum portability — you can use it to boot 32-bit UEFI and BIOS PCs, as well as 64-bit BIOS PCs. However, you will need "amd64" to boot 64-bit UEFI computers.
Here, we will "mount" the Windows PE image, copy the Portable Edition application into the Windows PE file system, and then "unmount" the image.
From the console, type:
Replace "C:\WinPE_x86" as applicable.
If you see the error:
Type the following and try the step again:
Here, we are going copy the Portable Edition into the WinPE Windows directory "C:\WinPE_x86\mount\windows".
The files we need are:
From the console, we can do this as follows:
As we will see later when we use the image to boot to WinPE, placing the Hardwipe start shortcut and command line executable directly in the Windows directory will mean that we will always have these applications in our PATH.
To avoid a common problem unmounting the image, come out of the "C:\WinPE_x86" working directory. I.e., type:
And unmount, as follows:
In our testing, we have seen the following error:
However, we have found the unmount was successful, and were able to proceed.
Insert a USB drive, and type:
Where "X:" is your USB drive.
Create an ISO file using:
In Windows Explorer, right-click the ISO file, and select Burn disc image > Burn, and follow the prompts.
There is a common bug in the "MakeWinPEMedia.cmd" file, and you may experience the error below:
Here's the solution...
Start Notepad as an administrator, and open the file:
In the Notepad open dialog window, ensure that you set the file filter to "All Files (*.*)" in order to see this file.
Locate the following line:
Update it to match below, noting the addition of "*.*" in two places, and save the change.
Run the "MakeWinPEMedia" command again.
Further information can be found on the Microsoft page for Window PE 5.1.
Insert the USB or DVD media, and start the computer. Typically, you can select the boot drive by pressing "F12" or "Esc" when the computer starts. Alternatively, you may have to change the boot order from the BIOS.
Windows PE is a minimal operating system and does not provide a "Start" screen or menu. Rather, when it starts up, you will be presented with a DOS console window.
If you have followed the instructions in the step 4, you will be able to start the Hardwipe GUI with the command:
Alternatively, you can use the Hardwipe command line utility directly from the console:
Use the "/help" option to display the list of options. Command options are described in more detail here.