Archive for the ‘technical’ Category

How to overcome these limitations?

January 20, 2008

This is how far I got by now. The result is a batch file that will open a task bar and an explorer. There is a script to extract files from the install.wim. The shutdown link will not work yet, and the setup window will still be displayed (and can be used to shut down). I hope to fix this soon (so that the setup window is invisible and will be closed once you click shutdown). For download, see the article on the right.

First problem was extracting files. Fortunately, the latest version of 7-Zip can extract files from WIM files. There is a command line version available that works well within the Vista Setup, (you will only need 7z.exe and 7z.dll), so this one is solved quickly.

Getting Explorer to work was a bit more tinkering, resolving dependencies with Dependency Walker, copying registry settings (which were missing according to Sysinternals Registry Monitor) from a real Vista installation
until it worked, and when I got it working, I gradually reduced the number of DLLs and registry keys until it still worked.

So, as a result, you will need these files from your install.wim to run Explorer (add MSVBVM60.DLL so that portable apps which are written in Visual Basic work as well):


%LNG% means the language version of your Vista CD, i. e. en-US for English or de-DE for German. To autodetect this version from a batch file, use the folder that matches x:\sources\??-?? and save its name to %LNG%.

You will also need about 8K of registry settings (mostly the result of registering the DLLs mentioned above) to get Explorer working. Import those with regedit.

Then run explorer and be happy about your nifty taskbar that appears.


How to contribute

January 20, 2008

If you have any suggestions or know ways to improve this tool, drop me a message. But how to find such improvements? How to tinker with the Vista Setup?

Of course, you do not want to reboot your machine everytime you want to try something. So, you will want to use a virtualization solution. Microsoft’s Virtual PC looked like being the optimal choice, because it is free and from Microsoft (like the Vista setup). However, for some reasons, the mouse acts somehow jumpy while being in the setup. It is hard to describe,  but it is very annoying. Using VirtualBox worked much better for me, the mouse is much smoother. I use a temporary 1GB virtual partition to store scripts and tools I use for tinkering, like:

  • Sysinternals Suite
  • 7-Zip
  • Dependency Viewer
  • OllyDebug

So I can reboot my Vista Setup as often as I want and still have my tools. For transferring tools onto that disk, I use a virtual floppy. Copy stuff on there (if needed split with 7-Zip first) and copy it to the virtual hard disk.

The built-in rescue system and its limitations

January 20, 2008

You might have installed Vista for a lot of times, but never found the rescue system?

The reason for this is that the rescue system is a bit hidden in the setup to avoid newbies to get confused by it, I guess.

When you boot up your Vista setup, The pre-setup wizard will ask you to select language and keyboard settings. After clicking “Next” and “Install” you will notice that the screen background changes color slightly and soon the screen to enter the product key will appear. At that point (somewhen after the screen background changes and before you entered your product key) you will have to press Shift+F10 to open a command shell.

Now you can exit the setup (which will give you some more free RAM), but you may not exit the pre-setup wizard; as soon as you exit that one, your Windows will reboot.

From there you can start several utilities that are included in the setup, but unfortunately you can neither start an explorer nor extract files from install.wim.

For the explorer problem: You can load notepad (the Windows Editor) and abuse its Open dialog as some kind of notepad. But that does not help you: if you want to start applications from there, you will have to use the command shell for that (which is hard if you do not use that very often).

The larger problem (from my point of view): if you hosed your Windows installation and maybe even know which file got destroyed, you cannot restore just that file manually. This also means that you cannot extract files from install.wim into the ramdisk and run them from there out of the box.

Of course, there are solutions for both of these problems and I will post them soon. If you know better ways (or other problems) feel free to write a comment.