Recovery partition

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This article is for experienced users ONLY. Do not attempt the following if you are unfamiliar with the material. If in doubt, please contact the Help Desk at 874-HELP.


What is the Recovery Partition?

A recovery partition is a separate partition on a computer hard drive that contains all the system files, drivers, applications, and default settings that a computer shipped with from the factory. It can sometimes be hidden from view, only revealing itself to very low-level processes, such as disk formatting utilities, operating system installations, DOS, and boot processes. They are designed to be write-protected, ensuring that the data on it remains in pristine condition and no tampering from outside sources can occur. Upon activation, they boot into a separate, bare-bones operating system designed specifically for operating system repair or recovery and sometimes data backup.

How do I Activate It?

Every company ships their machines with a different method of activating a recovery partition. Most companies implement the same method and system across their product line.

Known methods are listed below:

  • Dell - Hold ctrl + f11 at startup (or f8 for Vista)
  • HP - Hold f11 at startup
  • Compaq - Hold f11 at startup
  • Toshiba - Hold f8 at startup - Click "repair my computer"
  • Lenovo(IBM) - Blue button located above the keyboard labeled "Access IBM" or "ThinkPad" depending on your model
  • Sony Vaio - Hold f10 at startup
  • Gateway - Hold f11 at startup
  • Acer - Hold ctrl + f10 at startup

Help! I Can't Find the Recovery Partition!

Older model laptops typically do not ship with a recovery partition. They most likely use the old system of recovery discs. These are CDs or DVDs that contain all the files found on a recovery partition today. This system is not as widely used today due to the tendency for such discs to be lost or misplaced. Replacement recovery discs must be obtained from the company tech support. Typically they are free, but a shipping cost may be charged.

To use a recovery disc, insert the disc into the cd tray and start the computer. Most computers are preset to automatically boot from the cd drive when a bootable cd is detected, but you may need to change that setting in the computer's bios.

Making Your Own Recovery Discs

Computers that are fresh from the factory or a successful recovery may give you the option to create your own recovery discs. This can be a good backup system in case your recovery partition becomes corrupted or compromised. Each company has a different method and program to handle this process, so on-screen instructions must be followed. You will need either blank cds or dvds to complete this process.