Inside the Dell PC Restore Partition
An Exploration by Dan Goodell
Symantec Ghost 10
In early 2006 Dell began shipping computers with a time-limited trial version of Symantec Ghost 10.
This section describes the effect this change has on the DSR partition.
Ghost is a program used to create backup images of entire partitions
or disks, and is particularly useful for backing up your operating system partition.
Note that a backup image of a partition cannot be stored on the source partition itself,
so it must be stored somewhere else--perhaps on an external hard drive, a set
of CDs or DVDs, or even just another partition.
Accordingly, in systems Dell preloads with Ghost 10 the main XP partition (formerly the only
user-accessible partition in the system) will be split into two partitions--one
partition for XP and the other for Ghost backups.
(See this example.)
(Note to reader: the "Backup" partition need not be used exclusively
for Ghost. It is an ordinary user-accessible partition, and can be used by the user to store
other files, if desired.)
The customer can use Ghost 10 to create "recovery points"--snapshots of the
operating system at chosen points in time, and store them on the "Backup" partition.
In effect, the Dell factory has already created something similar with the DSR backup image.
So if you already have Dell PC-Restore, why would you want Ghost 10, or vice versa?
Here is a comparison of the two systems:
| Dell PC-Restore by Symantec (DSR)
|| Symantec Ghost 10 |
| Dell license, derived from older Ghost version
|| Symantec license |
| free, included with DSR system
|| time-limited trial version |
| cannot create backups--restore only
|| can create and restore backups |
| image stored in DellRestore partition
|| images stored in "Backup" (D:) partition |
| Dell provides image of XP as of date system was shipped
|| make your own up-to-date images of XP |
Bear in mind that PC-Restore is based on an earlier version of Ghost, and the two programs
and the format of their image files are not compatible!
(For the record, Symantec did not develop either program. The software conglomerate purchased the
two programs from different companies, so it is not surprising that the programs are incompatible.)
Ghost 10 cannot work with the factory image in the DSR partition, and PC-Restore cannot
work with any Ghost 10 backups in the "Backup" partition.
Ghost 10 is more versatile and allows the customer to periodically update backups (renamed "recovery points").
However, it is not free . . . and if you're going to have to pay for something,
it would be prudent to also consider other worthy alternatives before deciding which to buy.
Do your homework, and don't pay for Ghost 10 just because Symantec cut a deal with Dell
to preload it on your computer.
You can delete Ghost 10 and the "Backup" partition, and PC-Restore can still be used
(although repair may be necessary).
You can delete PC-Restore and the DSR partition, and Ghost 10 will still work with its
recovery points from the "Backup" partition.
(However, note Ghost 10 will no longer work from the SRE because the SRE would have been
on the DSR partition, so if you delete the DSR partition you will need to run Ghost 10
from XP or from a Ghost bootable CD.)
The PE-Type DSR Partition
The WinPE version of the DSR partition serves multiple purposes. These multiple purposes are
available from a "Symantec/Dell Recovery Environment" (SRE) menu.
(See here for a few screen shots from a PE-type DSR partition.)
While Ghost 10 is made to run in XP, sometimes the XP operating system might be unbootable.
Thus, Dell has enhanced the DSR partition to add the ability to use Ghost 10 from there.
That way, if XP will not boot you can still boot to the SRE and use Ghost 10 to revert
to a previously saved recovery point.
Since Ghost 10 is a 32-bit program, the 16-bit operating systems used in earlier DSR versions
are unable to run Ghost 10. Therefore, the DSR partition has been changed to boot WinPE
so that it is compatible with Ghost 10.
Some of the SRE menu options include:
The "Original Dell Configuration" option still serves the original DSR purpose--restoring
from fi.gho, the factory-created DSR backup image. Note, however, that the image is in Ghost 8.3 format,
which Ghost 10 cannot read.
The OS change from DOS to WinPE means the 16-bit recover.exe utility previously used will
no longer work, so it has been replaced with RestoreGhost.exe, a 32-bit counterpart
identical in appearance.
- Recover My Computer (using recovery points Ghost 10 has created, recover to a specific time and day when it was working correctly)
- Recover My Files (recover specific files or folders from an existing Ghost 10 recovery point)
- Recover My Computer to Original Dell Configuration
- Recover using a legacy Ghost image
- Delete Backup Volume (and merge its space into the preceding partition)
- . . . and more.
The "legacy Ghost image" option is similar to "Original Dell Configuration",
but whereas "Original Dell Configuration" is predestined to look only for fi.gho
and restore only to partition 2, "legacy Ghost image" can be used to
manually restore any Ghost 8/2003 images
to any partition.
Some users may prefer not to keep Ghost 10 or the extra partition.
Ghost 10 can be removed from the Windows Control Panel.
The "Backup" partition can be deleted via the SRE.