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I have a Packard Bell Dot M netbook with two partitions: one with 140 GB containing Windows XP, one with 8 GB containing system recovery data.

I want to split the Windows partition in order to install Fedora on my computer alongside Windows; the Fedora installer offers to do this for me (leaving the system recovery partition alone). If I do this, will the system recovery application (launched from inside Windows XP) still know which partition it's supposed to reinstall Windows to?

Similarly, if I remove the Fedora partition altogether and (assuming this is possible) increase the Windows partition to take up all the freed-up space, will the system recovery application still know which partition it's supposed to reinstall Windows to?

At a more abstract level, what I'm asking is essentially this: Can I do whatever I want with my hard drive as long as I keep the system recovery partition, or can partitioning of the rest of the hard drive mess up my hard drive so that system recovery no longer knows what to do?

Update: I recently replaced my Windows XP installation with a Windows 7 installation. I could no longer access the system recovery utility from within Windows (since that's a Packard Bell-specific application), but the recovery partition was intact and I could access it by using GParted to add the boot flag to the partition. In other words, I could reset the computer to factory defaults even after replacing Windows XP with Windows 7.

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My first thought was "Packard Bell is still around?" I had no idea they were now a division of Acer, you learn something every day... – prestomation Sep 4 '09 at 13:35
Not only are they still around—they also have a shiny new logo! – Jakob Sep 4 '09 at 13:37
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Some restore partitions, like the one provided by Dell, do not alter partition layout; they just rewrite the partition Windows was originally installed on.

Others, like HP, offer two options - a "Destructive Recovery" that reformats everything in sight (including attached external storage devices apparently), and a more normal System Recovery that does not.

Ultimately, you need to check with your netbook manufacturer how the system recovery partition on your machine is configured to behave. Packard Bell seems to provide an option between a complete and partial recovery. Check the options on your system before you reformat since the relevant help pages state this: "Optional - depends on configuration purchased"

Complete and Partial Recovery

If the Recovery Program proposes the Complete and Partial options, you may by able to retain settings and personal data for later retrieval.

This version of the Recovery Program allows two types of recovery:

  • Complete Recovery
    o Removes all programs and data on drive 'C' (HDD) and restores your computer to its original factory state. If your personal data is stored in a separate partition, i.e. data stored on drive 'D' (DATA) this information will be kept for later retrieval unless the Delete all user files option is selected.
    o If you select the Delete all user files option, or your computer has no second partition, all your data will be lost (personal documents and settings, driver updates, etc.)
  • Partial Recovery
    o Restores your original operating system and software to their original factory state without deleting your personal data (unless stored in C:\WINDOWS, see Notes).

Packard Bell links:

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Here's a description I found in the recovery application's help file: "Packard Bell Recovery Management requires a specific hard disk partitioning structure to function. If the system detects that the hard disk does not use this structure, Packard Bell Recovery Management will be disabled." In light of this fact, should I assume that I cannot use the recovery application if I split the Windows partition to install another OS? – Jakob Sep 4 '09 at 13:15
(+1) When I used a recovery partition to restore my old PC, the recovery just removed ALL partitions to replace them with one big one. The recovery turned out to be nothing more than a kind of Norton Ghost disk image which was written back to the hard disk. I wasn't very happy about that... – Wim ten Brink Sep 4 '09 at 13:26
@Jakob - I'd assume that. However, you might have an option of taking a very detailed snapshot of your partition table as it currently exists (e.g the output of gpart /dev/sda run from a LiveCD), and ensuring you resize/restore the partitions to this exact state before you use Recovery Management functions. Of course, there's an element of risk here that you'll have to put up with. – nagul Sep 4 '09 at 13:35

Yes, no problem with recovery as long as the new partition is after the old partition.
And no, you can't do anything you like. Better not to change the order of the partitions, as they are normally known by their numbers (partition 0,1 etc.).
And warning: take backups first, since resizing the Windows boot partition might disable the boot. Also, even after defragmenting, some Windows files are unmovable, so shrinking the boot partition can be done up to a point.

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