Windows PE (WinPE) as a temporary server?

Can WinPE be used as server? Can WinPE be used to host file shares? I searched and didn’t really find a definite answer out there. One Microsoft page said no. But the actual answer is yes. Of course, most people only know/use WinPE for imaging, system repair, and data rescue.

Let me explain my need. I use the “swing migration” process when migrating to new server hardware. I’ve tried the other migration options. They either force me to change the server name or want me to rebuild some/all of the environment. Now when using the “swing migration” my original server and new server both have the same name. They both are domain controllers for the same AD forest. Therefore renaming is not possible and they should never actually be on the same network. How to move the data? There’s a few ways but I prefer to use WinPE. This allows me to move the data without booting in to the original operating system.

I’ve only done this with WinPE 10 so far. But here’s how it can be done. I use a simple batch file.

net user admin password /add
net localgroup administrators admin /add
net share /y
wpeutil disablefirewall
ipconfig | find “IPv4”

Explained. Line 1, creates a new user called admin and assigns it a password. Line 2, adds the admin user to the administrators group. Line 3, starts the server service. Line 4, disables the firewall. Line 5, shows the IP address of the system.

This allows access to the administrative shares (i.e. C$, D$, etc.). Connect to the shares via \\{ip address}\{share name}. You could probably create other shares using the net share command. My needs didn’t require it. As I mentioned earlier a temporary server, WinPE has 72 hour use limit and will restart automatically when reached.