duplicating hidden system recovery partition.

By Fred · 7 replies
Aug 1, 2005
  1. Recently somebody brought me a 2-year old HP Pavillion that had one of those system recovery partitions that HP stores the XP image on in case the OS gets corrupt. In this case the Maxtor 80G drive had numerous read errors on the C: drive, but fewer on the D (system recovery) partition. The drive was a mess. I tried to run Spinrite on it, but it said it would take 17,000 hours to fix (not kidding). When I slaved the drive, WinXP could see the drive, but it couldn't open it to see the files. It just paused for a minute or so and then asked if I wanted to format it because according to Windows it didn't appear that it was formatted. I tried the recovery console using chkdsk and fixboot and stuff, but chkdsk stopped with an error after a few minutes and fixboot didn't seem to do anything. In this particular case I was in luck because the lady had the image on CD’s (eight of them) and I was able to install it back to a new HDD easy enough. She had them because she had a problem with the PC before when it was under warranty and HP mailed them to her. But what if I was not that lucky and the PC wasn’t under warranty and I didn't want to call HP and pay for the CD's. She already paid for an XP license, and she shouldn't have to pay again even though I guy at a CompUSA said it was not that costly. What if she called HP’s tech support line, and upon finding out her PC was out of warranty, they switched her over to the sales department? I’m not sure how that would go down, but even so she'd probably be out of a computer for a week waiting for the CD’s to show up in the mail. I’m thinking that there must be a way with the help of some software tools out there to copy just the D: partition over to a new drive and then do the system restore by pressing <F10>, or whatever key it was. In her case I tried to use Ghost to take a full drive image and it stopped after a minute saying there were read errors. There were a few read errors on the D drive so making an image of that didn't work either but what if the D drive was intact?

    Ok, list of questions coming up…

    Does Ghost have a switch that will ignore errors?

    Would Ghost put the recovery partition back on the drive in the same spot it came from so that it wouldn’t mess up the system recovery process?

    Does the system recovery partition use other pieces in the boot sector that make it go, and if the boot sector is damaged are you out of luck even if you could salvage the files from the system recovery partition?

    Does the system recovery process use the BIOS in any way? What does pressing F10, or whatever key it is, really do?

    Windows won’t let you see the files in the D drive, you get an error saying it is used for system recovery, is there a way around that within Windows?

    Is that system recovery partition really the primary partion? Dos based programs always list it first for some reason.

    Has anybody had any luck using dos boot disk and copy the recovery files over to a USB external or something and just use Fdisk to make your own partions on a new HDD and copying the files back over to the new drive and trying to restore the image then?

    Has anybody tried to do this and found some tools to make it easy?

    Is it easier just to call HP and order the disks?
  2. PanicX

    PanicX TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 669

    While I don't think I can answer most of your questions, I'll try and help you with what I do know.

    Assuming that the recovery partition is similar to a utility partion on HP servers, this partition contains a custom filesystem that prevents an OS from seeing it as a readable/writeable drive. This way it's far more unlikely for a user or OS to damage the recovery partition or its utilities. When you press "F10" during the boot (or whatever trigger the BIOS requires), you specify to the system that you want to boot off of the utility partition, at which point should allow you to perform any number of recovery options.

    If the recovery partition is damaged in any way, the only way to recover it is through the system restore CDs that may or may not come with the machine. Some manufacturors consider this partition the equivalent of the restore CD (its not) and you'll have to download or order them if needed.

    It's also been my experience that if you wish to do a fresh install on a machine with a recovery partition, you may need to use the OS recovery utility to get a proper install and prevent the OS from giving C: to the recovery partition instead of your system partition.

    Hope this helps.
  3. tdeg

    tdeg TS Rookie Posts: 119

    I have been able to see the recovery partition on some computers by booting to Knoppix and burning it off out of there.

    If there is corruption on the recovery partition though, forget out it. You don't want to do a recovery from that, its just asking for problems.

    As for getting disks.... as long as you have the license, BitTorrent could be your friend.
  4. Paul N.

    Paul N. TS Rookie

    My own interest has to do with the inaccessibility of the Recovery partition, which seems to be matched by the way they lay out their installation...and by the unhelpfulness (perhaps by company rule) of their service people.

    In short, their Recovery method includes reinstallation of an enormous quantity of stuff that I wouldn't want on a bet, and that I want to remove from said 'Recovery' procedure. This ranges from matters involving internet gaming (which are listed as games on the compute), to material in support of HP products I don't have, to 'trial' editions of MS Office 2003, to a great many HP executable files of obscure purpose demanding entry through the Windows firewall.

    Is there some way of breaking through their proprietary obscurantism here, and opening up that Recovery partition for editing? Or of demanding the OS files, period, for a system restoration, without all that they have added? (I still don't know what much of it is, and I didn't care for the support staff's suggestion that I should try it all and find out!)

    Would it be possible to get said OS files from Microsoft?--now that with magnifying glass in hand I was finally able to decipher the Cert. of Authenticity stamped in miniature on the base of the case...and nowhere else that I can see.

    Efforts thus far to deal directly with HP have been frustrating in the extreme, amounting only to an assurance that the viruses Avast found inside their Recovery partition (!) weren't really anything of the sort, just advertising of some sort...

    Any help on these matters would be greatly appreciated.

    --- Paul N.
  5. Fred

    Fred TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I think it could be easy to get the OS files from the hidden directory buy downloading Bart's Preinstalled environment (google "Bart PE'). You can copy and paste the files right to a USB hard drive. You could edit the files on the USB hard drive and then delete the contents of the hidden partition and then copy your edited files back. I would make a full image of the drive before you start editing that partion though just in case.

    As for my first post I was not looking to edit the files, but somehow copy everything in the hidden partition and rebuild it back again somehow. I have a plan. The next time I run into a working computer that has one of those hidden drives I am going to make a backup image the drive first. Then go in with BART PE and delete all the files in both the C drive and the hidden D drive and then make another (empty) image and save it. I don't know how to make a hidden partion, but I bet the image will copy the partion information just as it is. And then next time I get handed a computer with read errors on hard drive, I will see if I can get the files off of the hidden D drive and copy them to a USB drive. Then install new hard drive and image it with the empty image, and then just copy the OS files back to the hidden D drive with BART PE. Then I will turn on the computer and press F10. Yeah, it's a stretch, but if it works, I'll post back.
  6. budman21901

    budman21901 TS Rookie

    I have a HP a550y with the dreaded restore partition. Found this topic on google doing a search on a way to access the files off the restore partition. I need some drivers for my preinstalled SB audigy, and my nvidia 5500 so i can do a clean install, so i dont get all that preinstalled crap from restore partition. The drivers from the manufacturer website will not work. I was told they are HP drivers, and only the HP drivers will work although its a Soundblaster. After contacting HP they told me the drivers are on the restore partition, and not downloadable from there site. I am going to wack at this partition with Barts, and see what happens. I have the dvd backups for restoring, so i have nothing to lose. I will let you know the details this weekend.
  7. Fred

    Fred TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Sometimes I run into a problem finding drivers as well. I dowloaded a trial version of Windriver Ghost and I run it on an old computer before I blow it away. All this program does is go and find all the drivers on that machine and puts them in folders with the title of the device as the folder name. You can do a quick collect and just get some of the drivers, or you can collect all the drivers like the ones that Windows does automatically, or you can just collect the ones you need. These are just the driver files (.inf and .sys) type files. If you bought your nvidea card separately you might have gotten a CD for it with some installation program that automates everything, but Windriver ghost won't give you that, just a the few small driver files that make it work. This program is useful so that you won't have to go looking for old drivers on the Internet after the OS is installed. Hope this helps.
  8. Paul N.

    Paul N. TS Rookie

    duplicating hidden system recovery partition

    Thanks to budman21901--I await the weekend with bated breath. --
    Does anyone know whether there have been legal challenges to this form of 'recovery partition', with info. hidden and OS files (for which we own the license) buried in many gigabytes of proprietary garbage?

    --- Paul
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