Inside the Dell PC Restore Partition

An Exploration by Dan Goodell
Introduction Appendixes: MediaDirect HPA Issues Manual Restore Vista Windows 7 Testimonials Donating DellUtility
What About Microsoft Vista?

Dell computers originally shipped with Vista preinstalled do not use the DSR system described in this document. This section contains some general notes, but since this document is about the DSR system, a detailed discussion of Vista systems is outside the scope of this webpage.

Microsoft Vista now includes its own built-in imaging application, ImageX, which is functionally similar to third-party Windows-based imagers such as Symantec Ghost, Acronis True Image, the freeware DriveImage XML, and others. ImageX is available from the Vista Recovery Environment, a boot option accessible by pressing F8 as soon as Windows begins to boot. Since this option is now built into Windows, Dell has taken advantage of that. Instead of providing a factory Ghost image to go with a proprietary DSR partition, Dell now provides a factory image in ImageX format that can be restored from the Vista Recovery Environment.

Dell's Vista systems ship with the following partition layout:
  1. A small DellUtility partition, as before, and still disguised as type 'DE';

  2. A NTFS partition (type '07') of about 10 GB, which is used by the Recovery Environment and holds the Dell backup image;

  3. The main NTFS partition (type '07'), which contains the Vista operating system and occupies the bulk of the disk space.

  4. If the system includes MediaDirect 3, there is a fourth partition at the end of the disk. This is an extended partition (type '0F') of 2 GB. An extended partition is a container for one or more logical volumes (sometimes referred to as "logical partitions" or, incorrectly, as multiple "extended partitions"). In Dell's MediaDirect 3 configuration, the extended partition contains a single logical volume occupying the full 2 GB. This logical volume contains the MediaDirect 3 operating system. The "partition type" flag for this volume in the extended partition table is, in the now familiar Dell fashion, disguised as type 'DD'.

Appendix: Additional Reading

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author: Dan Goodell