Mark Minasi's Windows Networking Tech Page
Issue #84 Late January 2010

Document copyright 2010 Mark Minasi; please see below for info on subscribing, unsubscribing or copying portions of this text.

What's Inside

  • News
    • Join Me at a Seminar!
  • Tech Section
    • Catch Up On 90s PC Advice at Compute!'s Archive
    • Liven Up Your WinPE with a Custom Background
    • God Mode Works on 64-Bit Vista/2008 After All
  • Conferences
  • To Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Read Old Newsletters or Change Your Email Address

News

Hi all —

I've been writing computer articles and columns since the early 80s, but to this day I never know which articles will generate reader interest and which won't, so I was happy to see that many of you liked the piece on the so-called "God Mode" folder.  I said in the last newsletter that as far as I knew, you couldn't make "God Mode" work on 64-bit Windows, but a reader wrote to show me how, as you'll see in this issue.  And speaking of columns, I came across an online archive of all of the columns I wrote for Compute! in the early 90s, and I've got the link to that archive here for your entertainment.  But that's not all; in this issue, I also want to tell you how to spruce up a WinPE desktop with a custom bitmap.  There's lots to talk about here but first, a word from our sponsor:

Tech Section

Catch Up On 90s PC Advice at Compute!'s Archive

In the early 90s, I wrote a monthly column called "Hardware Clinic" about PC hardware and repair.  Some kind souls have resurrected them in an archive of old computer magazines.  You can find my old columns at http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/index/index.php?author=Mark+Minasi.  (And before you spend too much time there, rest assured that there is probably no actual information value in the columns -- making the choice between 386DX and 386SX chips just isn't something we need do very much these days!)

Liven Up Your WinPE with a Custom Background

I use WinPE a fair amount both for deployment and system recovery tasks.  Its ease of use -- it fits on a USB stick -- and versatility makes it an essential tool in my PC support toolkit.

But ever since Server 2008 came out, WinPE's had this dull, boring gray bitmap for a background.  I mean, at least Vista's WinPE had this colorful blue-green thing that sort of reminded me of a kelp forest.  How, I wondered, can I get something better for my WinPE wallpaper?

Well, a bit of Googling reveals two kinds of Web pages on the subject.  The first, which far outnumber the others, are pages explaining how to use the MDT to set a custom wallpaper bitmap for WinPE.  I don't use MDT (there's nothing wrong with it, I've just not had the need to learn it), so those pages were no help.  The second and smaller set of pages had some advice that said something like

"Well, in theory, all you need do is to put a file named winpe.bmp into \windows\system32 of your WinPE image and that'll be your WinPE wallpaper.  But you've got to exactly match the characteristics of the current winpe.bmp file, or WinPE will just ignore your wallpaper."

Aha, I thought; heck, if anyone can create an image to a given specification, that'd be me, with my extensive photography tools and such.  So I took my favorite bullfrog picture and set it up just as the default WinPE bitmap file "winpe.bmp" is set up:  1024x768, 24-bit color, 72 DPI resolution, Windows BMP format.  I then

  1. Copied the new bitmap, which I'd named to winpe.bmp, to c:\winpe, which is where I keep my WinPE stuff (see Newsletter #59).
  2. Fired up my Deployment Tools Command Prompt, which I got when I installed the WAIK (ditto).
  3. Changed my default folder to c:\winpe by typing cd \winpe.
  4. Mounted the boot.wim that I use in my WinPEs by typing imagex /mountrw iso\sources\boot.wim 1 mount
  5. Copied the new Winpe.bmp by typing copy /y winpe.bmp mount\windows\system32
  6. Unmounted the boot.wim by typing imagex /unmount /commit mount
  7. Created a new WinPE ISO by typing oscdimg -n -h -betfsboot.com iso frogpe.iso

I then burned frogpe.iso to a CD and booted from that CD.  When booted, the WinPE screen looked like this:

Neat, eh?  The beauty of having a bullfrog in your WinPE background is that it distracts the client, who then is more interested in the bullfrog than in asking you annoying questions while you're trying to fix their problem.  (Haha.  Kidding.  Kind of.  Not really <g>.  Feel free to grab the picture and crop it as you like, it's at http://www.minasi.com/photos/2009/content/bin/images/large/bullfroginwater_1.jpg.)

The odd thing is that I then tried messing with the bitmap to see why WinPE allegedly rejects attempts at replacing winpe.bmp.  I was, however, unable to break the thing.  Color depth, size and DPI had no effect.  So, the bottom line is that if you'd like a different background on your WinPE, it's as simple as creating a BMP file, naming it winpe.bmp, and installing it in Windows\system32 on your WinPE image.

God Mode Works on 64-Bit Vista/2008 After All

In the last newsletter, I discussed Windows' capability to create a single folder that displays a sort of flattened view of your Control Panel applets, something that many on the Web have dubbed the "God Mode" folder.  I said that it didn't work on 64-bit Vista or 64-bit Windows Server 2008.  Based on reader questions and feedback, here's a bit more info.

  • There's no way to do it on XP.  I got this question from 15 readers, so I guess I didn't make clear that XP can't do it, no matter what.
  • There is a way to create a "God Mode" folder on 64-bit Vista and 2008.  Reader Peter Kraemer was the first to tell me the fix.  Peter says, "Launch the command line (or make a shortcut): %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe shell:::{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} This will bring up the explorer window described in your newsletter even if you are on a 64-bit system."  I've tried it, and it works like a charm.  Thanks to Peter and the others who offered this tip.

Do you hate printers? I do, and so does this clever person

This is fall-down funny. My thanks to Wes Lazara of the Forum for pointing this out.

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