RoBlog – Refactoring Reality

Discrete thought packets on .Net, software development and the universe; transmitted by Rob Levine

Vista install disc and the .wim files

by Rob Levine on 17-Apr-2008

Yesterday I needed to reinstall a Windows font that seemed to be misbehvaing. Over the years I have built up a fair bit of knowledge about Windows, so I thought I knew what to do:

  1. Delete the font from Windowsfonts
  2. Locate the i386 directory on the install media for Windows (or my local drive if I ever copied it over)
  3. Find the compressed font in question; e.g. for Wingdings, the compressed file would be WINGDINGS.TT_
  4. Use the command line expand.exe tool to expand this to WINGDINGS.TTF
  5. Install the font by copying it to the Windowsfonts directory.

If I remember correctly, the process has been the same for a long time. Back in the Windows 9x days there was no i386 (this was of Windows NT provenance), so you’d have to look in the cabinet (.cab) files. Before that, in the Win3.x/DOS days, you’d have to search the install media for any files you wished to reinstall. But overall, the process has been with us for some time, and the repository of files that is the i386 folder was the place to start.

The problem was that my Vista install did not contain a i386 directory. As a perused the directory structure of the DVD I discovered a directory named sources which contained a fair few files, but not nearly enough for a Windows install, and it didn’t contain the file I was looking for. In fact, the entire DVD didn’t seem to contain the file I was looking for. In fact, now I’d come to ask the question: “WHERE ARE ALL THE BL**DY INSTALL FILES?”.

And then I noticed install.wim, all 2,412,507,182 bytes of it (that is 2.24GB folks).

It is bound to be in there. It must be like the .cab file of yesteryear.

So I double-clicked it; no default viewer for this file type.

WinZip – “Not a valid archive”.

UltraISO (great utility) – “Invalid or unknown image file format”.

And then I thought “hang on – there must be a userspace tool that ships with Windows for this file format, even if it is command line”; after all, who’d ship an O.S. in a format that you can’t access unless you were the installer program? Clearly that would be silly.

So I searched my Windows installation, and I searched the install disc, and then I searched the web for info.


Either I missed something obvious, or there is no quick way to get at the files contained in a .wim image file.

From all my searching, apart from the odd shareware utility that might have been able to do it, I found one official answer; the IMAGEX.EXE utility. A Microsoft tool that lets you mount a .wim file as a drive.

And where was this tool?

Available as a free download in the Windows Automated Install Kit.

And how big is this download?

Glad you asked.

It is 992.2MB.

3 observations to make here:

  • If I am right and there really isn’t a userspace tool to read .wim files that comes with Windows then that is absolutely pathetic.
  • I’m glad I got my broadband speed doubled last week.
  • Naturally the font I resinstalled didn’t fix the problem, so I still can’t print Franklin Gothic Book type in bold to my HP Photosmart 3310 printer.

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