Blowing Away the Recovery Partition...Advice?

Discussion in 'Dell' started by Daddy, Mar 15, 2010.

  1. Daddy

    Daddy Guest

    I recently received a new Studio XPS 8100. I opted to keep the C: drive
    pretty much as-is, and uninstalled most of the smell-ware that Dell adds.

    I'd really like to delete the extra two partitions that contain Dell's
    diagnostics and the factory image. My first inclination was to simply
    use the Diskpart command, but now I'm not so sure.

    My problem is: I don't really understand the boot process that well. I
    believe Dell customizes the Master Boot Record to make it possible to
    access those hidden partitions (with the right key combination.) If I
    delete the extra partitions, do I risk making my computer unbootable?

    Daddy
     
    Daddy, Mar 15, 2010
    #1
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  2. Nope, first thing I do on every Dell is run a free utility called CopyWipe.
    It'll leave you with 1 partition.

    Then you can reinstall Windows frem scratch.
     
    Justin Credible, Mar 15, 2010
    #2
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  3. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    A friend has an XPS 9000. That's what we did. Deleted his recovery and
    diagnostic partitions. He creates his own backup images.

    Before you start, check in Disk Management to see if the recovery partition
    is the Active, System partition. It was in the 9000 so if you delete it,
    Win7 won't boot. You need to copy the booting files from the recovery
    partition to the Win7 partition before you delete the recovery partition. It
    is a 2 minute job.

    Let us know if the recovery partition is Active, System and I'll post a
    procedure to copy the booting files.
     
    Brian K, Mar 15, 2010
    #3
  4. Hi!
    You may want to keep the diags partition, it's only about 3-12MB
    depending upon the system. (In other words, you really won't miss it.)
    The diagnostics partition is set up for booting by the BIOS. You press
    F12 to request the boot menu, the BIOS dutifully displays it and then
    sets things up accordingly for a diagnostic boot.

    This is actually an old trick borrowed from IBM (and later Compaq).
    (Late model IBM PS/2 systems did this, and in some cases, they
    actually loaded their working BIOS from this hidden area.) The
    diagnostics partition has a customized header so it appears as a "non-
    DOS" partition type.

    It is the Dell custom MBR (this usually displays a blue line with
    "www.dell.com" printed on it) that fires up the recovery process when
    you press a key sequence.
    It's always a possibility. Normally the Dell custom MBR just segues
    right into a normal boot if no keys are pressed. I doubt that it
    actually checks the state of the recovery partion unless it's
    requested.

    It's not likely that you will render the system unbootable by removing
    partitions with diskpart. Make a backup anyway--it's cheap insurance.

    William
     
    William R. Walsh, Mar 15, 2010
    #4
  5. Daddy

    Daddy Guest

    Thanks very much for your help, Brian.

    As you are likely aware, my computer has three partitions:

    The first partition - Dell's diagnostic partition - is identified only
    as "OEM Partition".

    The second partition is the Recovery partition. It's a primary
    partition, and it's marked System, Active.

    The third partition is the rest of my hard disc. It's also primary, of
    course, and it's marked Boot, Page File, Crash Dump.

    Backup (including making system images) is something with which I have a
    great deal of experience, so I really have no need for Dell's Recovery
    Partition. Besides which, after having spent most of a weekend setting
    up this computer the way I like, installing and setting up my software
    and uninstalling most of what Dell added, the last thing I want to do is
    to revert to the factory image! ;-)

    Daddy
     
    Daddy, Mar 16, 2010
    #5
  6. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    Daddy, does your second partition have a drive letter? Probably not, but I
    thought I'd ask before posting the removal fix.
     
    Brian K, Mar 16, 2010
    #6
  7. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    Daddy,

    I'll assume the recovery partition doesn't have a drive letter.

    I'm with you, I make my own backup images and I assume you have already
    backed up at least the Win7 partition. I'm also with William. I'd keep the
    diagnostic partition. It is small and it is useful.

    Before commencing the Win7 procedure you should make a BootIt NG (BING) CD.
    There is a one month trial so download from...

    http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-next-generation.htm

    unzip the file
    double click makedisk.exe, next
    dot in I accept the agreement, next
    no tick for Registration, next
    dot in Mouse Support Enabled, next
    dot in VESA Video, next
    dot in Partition Work (Don't put a dot in Normal), next
    don't choose any Default Device Options (if necessary, these can be chosen
    in BING), next
    leave Registration strings blank, next
    select your CD burner drive letter (you can use a CD-RW or a CD-R disc)
    Finish




    In Win7, you have to unhide the Recovery Partition.

    In Disk Management, right click the Recovery Partition, click Change Drive
    Letter and Paths..., click Add, dot in Assign the following drive letter,
    click the drop down arrow and select P , click OK.

    Start an Administrator mode Command Prompt. To do this, click on the Start
    button, then All Programs, then Accessories. Right-click on the Command
    Prompt item and select Run as administrator from the pop-up menu. If a UAC
    prompt is displayed, click the Yes button.

    Unload the BCD registry hive by running the following command:
    reg unload HKLM\BCD00000000

    Copy the bootmgr file from the Recovery Partition to the Windows 7
    partition. Run the following command:
    robocopy p:\ c:\ bootmgr

    Copy the Boot folder from the Recovery Partition to the Windows 7 partition.
    Run the following command:
    robocopy p:\Boot C:\Boot /s

    The booting files have now been copied. If you wish to verify that they were
    copied correctly, run the following command:
    dir c:\ /ah

    If the bootmgr file and the Boot folder show up in the list, the procedure
    was successful.

    In Disk Management, right click the Recovery Partition, click Change Drive
    Letter and Paths..., click Remove, Yes. This hides the Recovery Partition
    again.
    In Disk Management, right click the C: drive, click Mark Partition as
    Active, Yes.

    Restart the computer with a BING CD in the drive.
    In BING, do a BCD Edit on Win7.
    http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/kb/article.php?id=318
    In BING, delete the Recovery Partition.

    click Close on Work with Partitions
    click Reboot and remove the CD

    Win7 should boot.
     
    Brian K, Mar 16, 2010
    #7
  8. Daddy

    Daddy Guest

    Many thanks for the detailed instructions, Brian. They are actually very
    similar to what I have read elsewhere, which is encouraging. I'll do the
    deed in a little while, as there are a few things on my to-do list that
    I would like to get to first.

    You are correct in saying that the Recovery partition has no drive
    letter. And oh yes, I have been backing up regularly. It's my practice
    to split the C: drive in two, with one partition for software and the
    other for data. (I acknowledge that there are other valid approaches.)
    The system partition is regularly imaged and the data partition is
    backed up.

    Daddy
     
    Daddy, Mar 16, 2010
    #8
  9. Daddy

    Brian K Guest


    Exactly what I do!

    I have one computer devoted to testing. I've used the above procedure over
    10 times. I tried several other procedures before I found this one but this
    one is the easiest.

    You don't have to delete the Recovery Partition at the end of the procedure
    if you don't want to. A delete tomorrow or next week is fine. It will sit
    there but won't contribute to Win7 booting.
     
    Brian K, Mar 16, 2010
    #9
  10. Daddy

    Daddy Guest

    Hi Brian (and others).

    Not to take anything away from the detailed and helpful instructions you
    provided to remove Dell's Recovery partition, but couldn't I simply
    delete the Recovery and Diagnostic partitions - from Windows 7's own
    Disk Management utility - and then boot from my Windows 7 System Repair
    Disc and repair the MBR? The 'repair' performed - as I understand it -
    simply replaces the existing (damaged) MBR with a standard, generic MBR.

    To do this means also losing the Diagnostic partition, but I can run the
    same diagnostic utilities from the Drivers and Utilities disc that came
    with my computer.

    The generic MBR might not recognize my Data partition, but that's no
    problem, since I can easily recreate it and restore the contents from
    backup.

    Daddy
     
    Daddy, Mar 18, 2010
    #10
  11. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    Daddy,

    As I mentioned, there are several ways to copy the booting files. The first
    method I tried involved copying these files while in BartPE.

    Unfortunately, the Recovery partition can't be deleted from Disk Management.
    Windows won't let you do it because it is the System partition. I can't
    recall if the Diagnostic partition can be deleted from Windows. Another
    point to mention is the MBR. None of these methods alter the Dell MBR code
    or the partition table. So don't worry about your Data partition. Even if
    you had 15 data partitions before you started, they will still be there when
    you finish.

    Another method that works is simply deleting the Recovery partition using a
    partitioning tool (outside of Windows). BING for example. Then set Win7
    Active. When you then try to boot, you will receive this error..

    BOOTMGR is missing
    Press Control, Alt, Delete to restart

    There is no point pressing Control, Alt, Delete because the same error
    message recurs. You don't have booting files.

    But you can recreate the booting files in your Windows installation. If you
    boot from the Win7 DVD and do two repairs, Win7 will boot. You must do two
    repairs, one is not enough. It is only on the second repair that you get to
    a big menu where you can choose Startup Repair. The repairs can take a few
    minutes so I moved away from this method.



    Out of interest, here is another method (describing the System Reserved
    Partition in this case).

    From Win7, open Regedit, under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, unload BCD00000000 from
    the registry by highlighting it, click File/Unload Hive, Yes - or the
    following boot files will be in use and won't copy.

    In Disk Management, right click the SRP, click Change Drive Letter and
    Paths..., click Add, dot in Assign the following drive letter, OK.

    In Folder and search options, View tab, put a dot in "Show hidden files,
    folders and drives". Also, remove the tick from "Hide protected operating
    system files (Recommended)". OK.

    In Computer, SRP, right click to copy the "Boot" folder and "bootmgr" and
    paste them into the C: drive. (Copy, not Move these files)

    In Folder and search options, View tab, put a tick in "Hide protected
    operating system files (Recommended)". OK.

    In Disk Management, right click the SRP, click Change Drive Letter and
    Paths..., click Remove, Yes.
    In Disk Management, right click the C: drive, click Mark Partition as
    Active, Yes.

    Restart the computer with a BING CD in the drive.
    In BING (Partition Work), delete the SRP.
    In BING, do a BCD Edit on Win7.
    http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/kb/article.php?id=318

    reboot
     
    Brian K, Mar 18, 2010
    #11
  12. Daddy

    Daddy Guest


    Thanks again, Brian. It's not surprising that there's more than one way
    to get this done.

    Another method I'm considering is simple and elegant...if it will work.
    I submitted it to the user forum for my backup (disk imaging) software.

    It doesn't hurt that I made an image of the C:\ drive immediately after
    setup completed, after I pushed the power button on my computer for the
    very first time.

    Here's the outline of my idea:
    1- Backup my C:\ drive as it is now.
    2- Using the boot disk from my imaging program, delete the C:\drive,
    Recovery partition and diagnostic partition.
    3- Restore the backed-up C:\ to the empty space

    A key point is to restore a generic Windows MBR - not Dell's modified
    MBR - and to set the restored C:\ partition as Active.

    I'm sure most any imaging program can do all the above.

    What I'm left with is a C:\ volume that can 'extend' to occupy the
    remaining empty space, and an image of the factory-fresh C:\ drive that
    I can restore at any time, e.g., if I'm selling or donating the computer.

    This /should/ work...but I'm checking it out just to be sure.

    Daddy
     
    Daddy, Mar 18, 2010
    #12
  13. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    Daddy,

    That's a lot of effort and it won't work because your Win7 doesn't contain
    the booting files. Your (Daddy's) booting files are in the Recovery
    partition. You would still have to do two repairs from the Win7 DVD to
    create booting files.

    Keep those ideas coming. I don't mind examining the pluses and minuses of
    new ideas. Again, the booting files have nothing to do with the MBR, Dell or
    generic.
     
    Brian K, Mar 18, 2010
    #13
  14. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    Daddy,

    I forgot to mention that after you have deleted the Recovery partition in
    BING (and the Diagnostic partition if you want to), you can slide and resize
    the Win7 partition to remove that 8 GB of unalloacated free space.
     
    Brian K, Mar 18, 2010
    #14
  15. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    Daddy,

    I didn't realize you were using SP. I saw your post in the forum. What you
    have suggested could work because SP can create the missing booting files in
    the OS during the restore process. It doesn't matter which MBR you choose.
    Dell, WinXP or Win7. The MBR makes no difference to the outcome.

    SPT has a procedure in this thread.

    http://forum.storagecraft.com/Community/forums/p/2556/12260.aspx#12260
     
    Brian K, Mar 19, 2010
    #15
  16. Daddy

    Daddy Guest

    You're a sharp man, Brian.

    Daddy
     
    Daddy, Mar 19, 2010
    #16
  17. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    Daddy,

    Have you taken the plunge yet?
     
    Brian K, Mar 22, 2010
    #17
  18. Daddy

    Daddy Guest

    Not yet. I've been having fun setting up and testing my new computer.

    The easiest thing to do is as I originally planned: to simply get rid of
    both the Diagnostic partition and the Recovery partition, leaving just
    the C: drive. (I've already partitioned C: to create a data partition,
    but that doesn't matter for this discussion.)

    I've come to appreciate the usefulness of the Diagnostic partition. It's
    not essential - I have much of the same diagnostics on a disc - but handy.

    But if I decide the keep the Diagnostic partition...well, that makes
    things more complicated. I can't simply use the generic Windows MBR. Of
    course, there are solutions for this; it's just a matter of investing
    the time.

    Daddy
     
    Daddy, Mar 22, 2010
    #18
  19. Daddy

    Brian K Guest

    Daddy,

    We seem to disagree about the MBR. If you are going to keep your Dell
    Utility partition then you need the Dell MBR. (Although I don't have a Dell
    MBR I can boot into the Utility partition with BING). Why do you want to get
    rid of the Dell MBR? I'm curious.

    If you don't have the Utility partition it shouldn't matter if you have a
    Dell, a standard or a Win7 MBR. Some computer brands need a Win7 MBR
    although I don't think this applies to Dell.

    "Windows 7 has tied the MBR code to the kernel loader such that a normal
    standard MBR may not allow Windows 7 to boot on certain machines."
     
    Brian K, Mar 22, 2010
    #19
  20. Daddy

    Daddy Guest

    I think you misunderstand me, my friend. I'm fully aware that the
    Diagnostic partition (and the Recovery partition) need Dell's modified
    MBR to be accessible. It's only if I was to completely do away with both
    those partitions...for example, if I was to remove /all/ partitions and
    start with an unpartitioned, formatted hard drive and then restore my
    backed-up system and data partitions...in that case a plain vanilla
    Windows 7 MBR would work. (At least, that's what I think, and that's the
    question I asked in the SP forum.)

    Clearly Dell has gone out of its way to make it very difficult to tamper
    with its partitions, and this is entirely justified. If I understand
    correctly, the MBR is actually located in the Recovery partition, and it
    looks to see what's in the keyboard buffer before deciding where to send
    the user.

    Keep 'em both or nuke 'em both, that's the easy decision. If I want to
    keep just one, well, that's do-able but it will take some learning on my
    part. So many angles, so many ways to work it. It's something I'll
    actually enjoy studying, and when I make my move, I'll publish the results.

    Daddy
     
    Daddy, Mar 22, 2010
    #20
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