WAIK is an acronym that stands for the “Windows Automated Installation Kit.”
To understand what it is and why we need it, we need to talk about backup programs in general and Macrium Reflect specifically.
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Macrium Reflect and rescue media
Macrium Reflect allows you to create two different versions of their rescue media.
The rescue media is the CD or DVD that you boot from when you need to restore your machine. When restoring a backup image, wither because your machine doesn’t boot or you need to replace whatever’s on the existing hard disk, you boot from the rescue media instead. The rescue media runs a copy of the backup program that accesses your backups and helps you restore a backup image to your hard drive.
The two versions are Linux and Windows.
The Linux version is a free standalone program. Macrium and many other backup programs leverage this and make their rescue media based on the Linux-operating system. They have a Linux version of their recovery program and it works most of the time.
Emphasis on “most”.
The problem with Linux and Microsoft
But Linux isn’t Windows. In fact, Linux may or may not be able to access all of the different hardware configurations that work with Windows. As a result, many manufacturers also have rescue media that actually boots a stripped-down version of Windows. As your machine has been running Windows, it’s likely that a Windows-based version of the rescue media will be able to access everything that your Windows installation can.
The problem is that when you create a Windows disk, it needs certain components that are a part of Windows. Microsoft doesn’t give Windows away, so they control exactly what companies are allowed to do when they’re trying to create a bootable disc like this, and how they’re allowed to do it.
In the past, Macrium was able to include those parts of Windows for the Windows rescue disc when you purchased Macrium Reflect.
Microsoft changes the rules
Unfortunately, Microsoft changed the rules late last year. Companies (like Macrium) are no longer allowed to include those parts of Windows to make a Windows-bootable disc.
The operation still works, but now you need to download those components directly from Microsoft. They’re bundled in the WAIK, and that’s probably why you’re hearing about it now.
The problem, of course, is that the WAIK is a roughly 1 gigabyte download. Many people are reluctant to do that depending on their internet speed.
So, what happens if you don’t have the WAIK?
If you don’t have the WAIK, you will not be able to build the Windows-based rescue media. That’s all.
You can still build and use the Linux-based one, but you will not be able to create what’s called the Windows PE-based rescue media.
My recommendation is to build a Linux-based rescue media disc. Then boot from that disc and make sure that you can access your computer’s hard drive and that you can access the backup images that you’ve created with Macrium.
If you can, you’re done. It will work.
If you can’t, you’ll probably want to take the time to get the WAIK from Microsoft.
You can then build the Windows-based rescue media. Once you have that, repeat those tests and make sure that the Windows-based rescue media can access your hard drive and your backup images. My guess is it probably can.
But give the Linux version a try first. It will be much quicker to build, and if it’s all you need you’ll avoid a very large download.