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  Current Linux ISO's available online still may have older versions of software that are outdated.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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WinFE as a Student Training Aid

And yet another use for WinFE.

This year, at the University of Washington's Digital Forensics Certificate Program, I am having each student create their own Windows Forensic Environment with as many forensic applications as we can fit on a USB drive.   This fulfills several objectives that any school or training program can incorporate at virtually no cost.

Students in forensic programs can learn to create a forensically sound bootable media and validate it through testing (how's that for a takehome assignment?).  Since WinFE can be used as a forensic platform on almost any computer (for those students without a 'forensic machine' at home), this bootable media may be more than enough to practice and do homework assignments on their home computer (...they can image...they can run forensic tools against an image or hard drive...they can do quite a bit).  Forensic software developers...consider making your applications run in a portable mode and VOILA, you just reached a second use (and market) for your application/s.  Anything that runs on WinFE is a tool I want and so far, only X-Ways Forensics fits that bill as a full fledged, portable forensic suite.

And yes, a Linux forensic environment can do many of these things as well, so why not do both?  The cost of a Linux CD...same as WinFE :)

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WinBuilder-What a neat way to make a WinFE CD

I came across WinBuilder today (http://www.boot-land.net/), which provides downloads to a GUI based, Windows Live CD builder.  I'm willing to try anything, so I gave it a whirl and was happy I did.

With WinBuilder, many of the functions of Windows that are not in the basic WinFE builds are included.   This includes the Windows"Start" button, computer management tools, and even network access.

Running WinBuilder is not complicated and scriptable.  The one thing it does not do (at this time) is make your CD forensically safe with the 2 registry changes.  However, this is easy enough to do manually or by writing a script to be used during the build.

I'm not sure how I missed this before, but I may have now found my primary method of making a WinFE disc, using WinBuilder instead of a batch file.  Oh yeah, you don't need WAIK either.

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Follow up: Windows FE and Live Forensic Triage

For anyone that missed this WinFE webinar-"https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/892321554"...I did view it today.  The WinFE discussion started about 30 minutes into the webinar, and only lasted for about 10 minutes.   Fortunately, there was a question/answer after the presentation for about 10 minutes.   However, the only information given on building your own WinFE was to contact Microsoft and an article in Hackin9 magazine (there was no reference to this WinFE site as a resource to build your own WinFE…even after submitting the web address information…).

Given some interest, I’d gladly host a webinar on WinFE, (more than 10 minutes worth, showing how to build your own, and not based on selling you some software…).
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WinFE Wish List

Troy Larson and Colin Ramsden are working on making some changes and adding features of interest to Windows FE. If you have any ideas as to what you'd like to see, please post them in the forum.

Some of the features of interest are Bitlocker support and VSS support. Feel free to shoot your requests here since you have the best hands on WinFE looking for ideas to implement, and a rare opportunity to 'develop' WinFE as a WinFE user.

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Create your own WinFE ISO, for free, in just a few minutes

The below video shows how simply and quickly you can create a WinFE ISO. As you'll see in the video, all you need to do is...
1) Install Windows AIK
2) Download the WinFE batch files
3) Run "createfolders.bat"
4) Copy your forensic tools into a folder
5) Run "createwinfe.bat"
6) Burn your CD with the created ISO


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Gargoyle and Windows Forensic Environment

It is great to see that the Windows Forensic Environment is being used as an accepted forensic platform by software manufactures, such as F-Response (blogged about running F-Response on WinFE) and WetStone.   WetStone has a version of their malware software available  on the WinFE system (although WetStone calls it the Windows Forensic Edition rather than Environment,  I believe they mean the same thing).

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WinFE Teaser Screenshots

Colin Ramsden has been working feverishly on some modifications to WinFE that will appeal to everyone.    For some teaser screenshots, take a look here.   Bitlocker support, installing drivers while already booted to WinFE, clean shutdown that ejects the CD, and an easy to use Disk Management Console.  Believe it or not, Colin has even more to add.

Given the ability to make your own WinFE ISO with Colin's work, you surely will have one of the best forensic boot environments to date.

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New Site and Updates

As you can see, the WinFE site has been migrated to WordPress.  This format allows me a little more freedom than Blogger as well as less time maintaining a website.  This site and work is free...be patient ;)

You can now find the batch files accessed through direct downloads.  I am more than happy to put up additional work or corrections/improvements to what is posted.  At this point, Colin Ramsden is working on his code in creating something I call the "SuperDuper Version" of Windows FE.  I'll let him describe the details when he is finished, but I promise, from what I've seen so far, it is really cool.

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