Some time ago I've brought a Dell 7537 notebook, and it came with Windows 8 on it. First I've upgraded it to Windows 8.1, then to Windows 10 - the upgrade went pretty well, so the notebook worked fine.

Recently I needed to install some driver and right after the installation notebook suddenly rebooted and stop booting well, complaining for Memory Management error.

I tried general way of OS recover like the use of Recover menu of the Windows, no luck there. I also tried to find the driver installed and renamed its files but no luck as well.

The bad thing was that System Restore wasn't done, and I wasn't able to find 'Boot to Last Good Configuration' option that was there in Windows 7 (I found out now it is so - Windows won't allow that).

Ok, then I decided to reinstall Windows 10 over old (and broken) Windows 10 (so to say, it was perfectly an options for Windows 7), but I was told I have to do fresh install and I'll lose any of my data and docs and programs.

Moreover, as I try to proceed with Windows 10 setup it shows me my notebook drive with some like 6 or 7 partitions (most of them are Dell-made recovery kind), and I really afraid I'll broke my data completely before I'll get my chance to boot into new Windows 10 install and check the old data on the disk.

Here is my questions, if you're still here reading my messy explanations:

  1. These Dell OEM partitions on my HDD in the notebook, are they contains any Window 10 (that is, now Windows 8) files so I can use it to reinstall Windows 10? If not, is there any worth in keeping these partitions?

  2. Should I resize old Windows partition and create new empty one to do fresh install of Windows 10 onto it, so I'll be able examine old Windows partition and see if I need any data on it (I think I need most of it)?

  3. Are there any way to disable some or all device drivers in the installed (broken) system so at the next boot it'll rescan the hardware and reinstall needed drivers again? I can boot to command line only so I have to do that from command line.

Please advice how to handle that, this new Windows 10 approach that deny me to reinstall it over old Windows 10 installation is quite bad in such a situation, and I really need to save my data (and applications, if it is possible).

Thank you in advance!

  • So... it went wrong, then you broke it at least 3 more times trying to 'fix' it... & now want to get back to where you were. I hope you have a backup.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 14 '16 at 19:52
  • I don't have, bad for me, but I haven't broke 3 more times. The only thing I did wrong was install that strange driver. But at least I hope I can clear hardware drivers list so Windows will rescan for hardware anyway?
    – Alexander
    Oct 14 '16 at 19:55
  • 1
    Your safest procedure is to swap out the drive, setup a fresh OS on a new drive, then see what data may be recovered from old one, mounted via an external USB enclosure. Messing about trying to 'fix' your existing setup is a disaster waiting to happen [even if there's any more waiting to be done; your disaster has really already happened].
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 14 '16 at 20:00
  • Sorry I have no drive to swap and I need to fix it. What I can afford is to make the OS partition smaller and create another (new) partition to fresh install Windows onto. May there be less-bloody way?
    – Alexander
    Oct 14 '16 at 20:02
  • 1
    Every time you make any change to the existing drive, you lessen your chances of data recovery. What's worth more, your data or a new drive? This is why we have backups - "Any data stored in fewer than three distinct locations ought to be considered temporary."
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 14 '16 at 20:05
  1. The main functionality of the OEM partitions is to provide you with an option to restore your laptop back to factory defaults. Factory defaults as in the same version of Windows that came with it (in your case it would probably be Windows 8). If you see a relatively large partition of around 3-4GB or more, then that would probably be your recovery partition that contains the OEM version of Windows. So to answer your question, no. Windows 10 stores it's recovery information in an ESD folder inside your C:\ drive. The chance that it's decided to clone itself in another partition is very, very slim.

    Keeping these partitions is entirely up to you. I will recommend not touching these as long as you aren't in desperate need of space. You should ignore these partitions entirely unless you are confident that you will be able to whip up a Windows install USB to restore it on the fly if anything breaks.

  2. I wouldn't bother. If you're examining what's inside, use a Linux Live USB. Boot it up and use a terminal to see if you can mount your Windows partition. The "mount" command will come in handy, and you might need to use the "read-only" option. If you can mount it you should be able to browse through and copy anything you want to another USB drive. Most of your files should be in the C:\Users\ directory.

  3. Yes, a quick Google search yields the results. You just have to press "Shift+F8" continuously after booting until you get to a screen where you can either directly select "Enable Safe Mode" or you can get to a screen where you can go to Troubleshooting -> Advanced Options -> Windows startup settings and select "Enable Safe Mode". If you can boot into Windows head straight to Device Manager and uninstall whatever driver caused your laptop to break.

The good news is that Windows 10 is activated via a digital entitlement on your laptop. This means that you won't have to enter a product key on your laptop when you reinstall Windows 10. Good luck on fixing it.

  • I can not boot to OS in any way except command only. This limits my ability of clean device list from gui.
    – Alexander
    Oct 15 '16 at 15:02
  • If you cannot get a GUI after choosing "Safe Mode", then you'll have to use a Linux live USB to recover your files, then reinstall Windows. If you do get a GUI then go to device manager and select action->show hidden devices, then uninstall your faulty driver.
    – Simon L
    Oct 16 '16 at 20:27

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