But does it do Mac?

Just to clear up any questions on whether WinFE can 'do a Mac', well...it can.  And Linux too.  And of course it can do Windows as well.   As long as the machine can be booted to a WinFE CD or USB, then you can image the hard drive.  Actually, you can do a whole lot more than just image it...you can triage it, preview it, search it, or just copy files and folders from it.  If the drive is encrypted and you have the key, you can access the drive.  And what about VSS (Volume Shadow Service/Copies)....you can access those too, all through WinFE.

I can promise that as soon as you build a WinFE CD or bootable USB, you will regret not having done it months or years earlier (it's been around since 2008....).  And if building a forensic boot OS makes you hesitate at all, there is no need because if you use WinBuilder, it is as simple as pointing and clicking to fully customize your Windows FE CD or bootable USB.
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It's time to build your WinFE!

You can now download the WinFE WinBuilder.  Thanks to everyone that helped support this effort, it was well worth it.

As to a guide on how to use WinFE, it probably isn't really needed since WinFE is simply a forensic boot disc.  So, you might not need any help in putting WinFE to good use.  However...there may be a few things you didn't know you could do with WinFE that could be of interest.   Since that might be the case, here is a quick guide on tips on using WinFE as well as tips for building with WinBuilder.

Users Guide to WinFE

For support on how to use WinBuilder (troubleshooting, advanced features), check out the WinBuilder website at http://reboot.pro.

To reiterate some points about WinFE (and to hopefully prevent 'hate mail' coming to me from commercial products...), WinFE is an addition to your forensic toolkit. It doesn't replace any tools, only supplements what you are using anyway.   Commercial products that do the same thing that WinFE does work too, keep buying those if you want, you don't have to use WinFE.  And for the Linux lovers out there (Hey, I'm one of you guys too!), there is time and place for everything, sometimes WinFE is best, another time CAINE or DEFT or ???*nix may be best.

As far as anyone making a profit out of WinFE, no need to ask, because no one is;  it is a community project of customizing a Windows PE to fit your needs.

And yes, there are even some more neat things to be added to WinFE in the future...but as of now, you have access to a solid forensic environment.

For additional credits to this project;

This project uses the project Win7PE_SE as Base building, thank's to ChrisR for his great work ( Win7PE_SE http://reboot.pro/12427/).  Also, thanks to theYahoouk , JFX, Altorian, Lancelot, and RuiPaz with the Win7PE project on which this WinFE WinBuilder is based.
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Portable Internet Evidence Finder and WinFE

Jad Saliba (of JadSoftware.com) has released an update to his Internet Evidence Finder/IEF in a portable version.  Now this sounds really good to have the ability to plug in a USB drive into a running machine to gather the information that IEF does.   But, to take it a step further, I tried IEF within a booted WinFE system.   And the result....it works perfectly!

To make sure you can get the full grasp of how neat this is, you can boot to WinFE and run IEF across the physical drive, without making any changes to the evidence.  This could be of real importance in an investigation such as a missing person case where internet/chat/webmail may be of immediate intelligence value.  Rather than imaging the hard drive to search for this data from the image, or booting the machine to its operating system and potentially overwriting pertinent data, you can boot to WinFE and run IEF on the write protected drive.   Of course, in a missing person case where chat is involved, it may also be most important to capture the volatile data FIRST before turning off the computer.

In civil case matters, this can be a fairly quick method of obtaining data relevant to the case matter onsite if imaging the hard drive is not allowed.

Although IEF doesn't run on Mac or Linux....if you boot a Mac or Linux machine with WinFE, IEF will run against that Mac or Linux hard drive ;)

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Updated video and other things

If you haven't seen Marc Remmert's video on creating a WinFE ISO, here is his video.  Although the WinBuilder method greatly simplifies what Marc shows in his video, it certainly recommended to see what is actually happening to a Win"P"E to make it into a Win"F"E, no matter the process used, at least understand the changes being made, the reason for the changes, and the validation of the changes.  And for those that insist that WinFE is not WinFE and that it is WinPE...well, you are sorta correct.  WinFE is the 'forensic' modification of a WinPE, so it really is something different.


On the WinBuilder topic, a great group of beta testers have started to put WinBuilder through its paces.  Again, although the end result is that you will be able to create a WinFE ISO with a few clicks, it is best to know what is happening behind the scenes and Marc's video gives you that insight.

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Do you wanna be a beta tester for WinFE?

Just before the latest WinBuilder WinFE gets released, would you like to take it on a test run first before the rest of the world gets it?  There are some neat features (Bitlocker support, DiskPart batch file, plus others), but the main concern is testing to see if anything needs to be fixed, corrected, added, or taken away from the build.

If you have the time to make a build or two and run it against your computer, send me an email and I'll send you the build (not the ISO, you have to build that, but you get the Winbuilder app to build it).  I'd appreciate any comments, good-bad-or indifferent.   I'll cut off the number of beta testers as soon as a decent number can reply to this request by email to; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  So give me your email to get your beta!

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WinBuilder Revisited

A big thanks to Royal Meier for providing  a script to modify the registry with a WinBuilder Win7PE build.   What I thought would be a difficult task of using WinBuilder to build a WinFE ISO, is turning out to be quite simple, at least for Royal Meier (he makes it look simple anyway).

I am planning that "the" WinFE WinBuilder will be available before Christmas, for Christmas.  So far, it works wonderfully, but there are a few tweaks to be added to make it really able to create the Super WinFE ISO without having to spend any time running batch files or typing in commands in a DOS shell.

There are a few other things to be added after the New Year, like Colin Ramsden's work, but that is coming up as well.  So, if you have procrastinated all this time to build a WinFE CD/USB, the wait is nearly over.

How cool is it to build your own custom forensically sound boot CD (in a Windows OS...) with a few clicks?  It is just plain cool.   This is quick and easy, quite super actually.
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Here is a neat and FREE app to test your Live CDs.  Not sure how I missed this one, but instead of creating an entire virtual machine to boot a ISO for testing, you can just run the ISO with MobaLiveCD (http://mobalivecd.mobatek.net/en/).  QEMU opens a virtual machine window that much faster on your screen.

This may just cut down the number of cup mats I usually make when burning CDs...

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WinFE and Triage

On the subject of triage, I have some thoughts which some companies may not like to hear (at least companies selling triage software or 'triage computer systems'...).

Here are some problems I see with several triage systems available;

-Any triage tool that is marketed that anyone can plug it in and capture all responsive data and even create a forensic image, without having any knowledge of computers is a tool I would keep at a safe distance from custodians of data...Plug n' Play to capture evidence or triage a system?  How many problems? Let me count the ways...

-Any triage tool that is restricted to run on a specific computer is one that has just limited itself out of the market.  Since when do you want a tool that can only run on a specific computer you must buy?  Sorta useless if something happens to that computer.

-Any triage tool that professes to magically find all relevant data, even in the hands of untrained persons...wow.    Are you sure its finding what you need?

Why not triage a computer like everyone did in the old days.  Boot to a forensic OS (pick your flavor of OS) and use a tool you always use to find what you need to find.  Every case is different, so every triage is bound to be different.   On one computer, you may need to see the registry, whereas on another, you need to see the images.

And untrained persons triaging machines?  Good luck.  Emergency rooms don't use non-medical staff to triage patients, why would anyone use non-computer trained persons to triage computers?

As for a pretty good system for triage, build a WinFE disc (it's free, you don't need to buy anything other than a CD) and put your favorite forensic tools on it, the ones you use all the time.  Now you have a triage system.   No, more than that, you have a complete Windows Forensic Environment to look for exactly the things you need to look for.   Done right the first time.

So the next time you see a "Triage System" that is plug n'play simple, that decides what data you need to be collected, and that you just sit back and let it work, think about it a little more.  As for me, I want to push the buttons and triage based on what I need and what I see when I am looking at the data.

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What makes WinFE better/different than other forensic boot discs?

I've been asked on occasion, "What makes WinFE better or different than any other boot disc?".

WinFE is Windows based, not Linux.  For someone not experienced in Linux, the Windows environment may be easier to use due to familiarity with Windows.

Additionally, WinFE allows you to use your Windows based forensic applications in a forensically booted environment.  Rather than using a Linux CD and image with Linen, you can use a Windows CD and image with the full version of Encase or FTK Imager or X-Ways Forensics or other Windows based tool.

If your lab is Linux based, then WinFE may not be as comfortable as using a Linux based tool, but still may be an option to keep on hand (the opposite still remains true, if you focus on using Windows based tools, have some Linux options on hand as well).

Lastly, WinFE is updated by YOU, when YOU need it updated.  There is no need to wait for a distro to be upgraded every 6 months or longer before you can download it.  Current Linux ISO's available online still may have older versions of software that are outdated.  With WinFE, if any tool is updated/upgraded, you can do it immediately and always have the latest apps.

Other than that, its just user preference.
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FTK Imager 3.0 in the Windows Forensic Environment

By now, most everyone involved with forensics knows about the latest release of FTK Imager 3.0.   In my opinion, this is perhaps the best release ever of FTK Imager and probably one of the top releases of software this  year because of one of the newest features and the price (FREE and MOUNTS IMAGES!).  Given other expensive software, or free software  that doesn't work as expected, or difficult to manage manual procedures to mount images, to now have FTK Imager 3.0 quickly and neatly mount an image is a nice addition to my Start Menu.

So the bigger deal with FTK Imager 3.0....it runs in WinFE.  With FTK Imager 3.0, you can mount images in WinFE and conduct analysis in the Windows Forensic Environment with any other tool that runs in WinFE, such as X-Ways Forensics, ProDiscover, or Encase.

Now I know what you are probably thinking.  FTK Imager "Lite" 2.9 will run in WinFE and that version doesn't support image mounting.  FTK Imager 3.0 needs to be installed, which is problematic in WinFE.  Well, right and wrong. FTK Imager 3.0 only needs to be installed on any system, then copy the program folder onto WinFE  to run as if it were installed.  Voila!  No need for the Lite version when you can have the full meal deal.

Now how's that for having a completely self-contained Windows Forensic Environment, running minimal processes on just about any system...technically, this is called, "Niiiccceee...."

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