How can I create a hidden bootable partition on a custom built PC?

KamilKozyra December 19, 2012

Hi everybody.

When you buy a newer laptop, there’s a hidden bootable partition (that has an image of your basic along with drivers) that can be used if Windows gets bad.

Can a bootable recovery partition like that be created on a custom built PC?

  1. Robert Backlund
    December 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    One way that you can achieve this though perhaps not as elegant would be to create a backup image using Clonezilla on to a removable usb drive. The size of the Windows install with drivers is only a few GB's. I just built a home theater PC for my parents as a Christmas gift and created a backup image on an unused 80GB HD that had been taken out of a PS3 when we put a 1TB drive in it. I did not think about doing this until after I had installed a few apps and the space that it took up on the C drive at that point was about 44GB's. The drive I put into this new system was a 1 TB drive and it only took Clonezilla about 8 minutes to create the image and about 7 minutes to restore the image. I had a duplicate 1 TB drive that was new so after I created the back up image I wanted to test it to make sure that it would restore the original C drive without any issues. After restoring the image to this new drive I rebooted the computer and it loaded right into Windows with out any problems. The reason I feel this method is better than creating a hidden partition on the only drive that is in the system is what happens when and if you have a catastrophic failure of that drive, you loose not only your C drive with Windows on it but your precious backup of your Windows install so you are left with starting from scratch with a new drive. Since I am my parents tech support guy I will leave this 80GB drive installed in a drive bay but not plugged in to the motherboard, and if the worst happens then all I will need to do is get a new drive and restore the image from this 80GB drive. If I were building this system for a friend or client I would have purchase a 64 GB usb 2 drive that are averaging around 40 dollars on NewEgg to put the backup image on and label the drive with not just backup of C drive but also the date when it was created and I would give it to the person with any system documentation that you give them. Part of the documentation would be all the instructions as well as the links for Clonezilla and I would also create a bootable Clonezilla live usb drive that would not even use up a 1GB usb drive and give that to them as well. Clonezilla is a very powerful backup utility that usually can back up any system regardless of the type of file system or OS that it uses. Clonezilla comes from the open source community and is available as a live CD/DVD image that can also be installed on a usb pendrive instead of writing it to a disk. If you are not familiar with what a live CD is, here is a brief explanation. A live CD or DVD is usually a version of the Linux OS that has been configured to auto detect hardware and to be temporarily installed into system memory and run from there without affecting any of the existing hard drives that are installed in a computer. To use it you either burn it to a CD or DVD or there are Windows utilities that you can download for free that will create a bootable usb pendrive with the live Linux.iso image on it, in this case one that has Clonezilla as a part of it. Once you create either the disk or usb drive you reboot the computer with the media installed either in the optical drive or usb 2 port and select the boot menu at start up, most systems will give you a brief message on the initial boot screen telling you what key you press to enter into the boot menu as well as what you press to enter into the BIOS setup, I think that mine is F2 to enter the boot menu. Once you are in this menu just select the appropriate entry, CD drive or usb drive and hit enter on your keyboard. The system will then look at your selection for a boot image before it looks at the internal hard drive that is installed on the computer. Once it finds the boot media that you just created it will then uncompressed it on the fly and put it into ram memory and after a minute or two you will be presented with in this case the Clonezilla menu. Just select the default screen size as well as the keyboard mapping if you speak English, if not then you can alter this and when you do you are presented with some info for what to enter for the language you speak and your localized keyboard will be chosen. Once you are into the Clonezilla program you select the drive where the back up image is located, I believe they call it the source drive and then the next screen one of the selections available is to restore an image, once you choose this you are then asked to identify what drive to write the back up image to. Once you do this just sit back for a few minutes while the backup is restored to the new drive. Just keep in mind, the larger the image and the larger the drive the longer this process will take, you might want to go have lunch if you have backed up say 500GB's to an image. There is one caveat to all of this, if you are dealing with a new “Certified for Windows 8” desktop or laptop that was purchased from one of the OEM providers, like Dell or HP for example, then this probably will not work because of the Secure Boot feature that is a part of the new UEFI Bios will be activated and will only allow Windows 8 to be run on the hardware. I have not looked at their new systems but I have looked at some of the new gaming laptops that MSI has as well as Sagar and Origin gaming pc's and noticed interesting wording, In the case of MSI they say their systems are either Windows 8 ready or Windows 8 pre-installed and even though when you talk to them they say that they only support Windows 8, looking at their drivers downloads page you find that they have drivers for Windows Vista, 7 and but not sure about XP. This means that the secure boot feature is not turned on. With Sagar and Origin you are given a choice when configuring your laptop specifying if you want Windows 7 or Windows 8 installed on it. If on the other hand it is a Certified for Windows 8 computer you will be out of luck using any utility that involves the use of Linux. If you build your own systems then the secure boot function will probably not be an issue, just check with the motherboard vendor to see what drivers are available, I have not seen one yet that only offers Windows 8 drivers. This issue with secure boot is the main reason I personally dislike Windows 8 (I also do not like the new UI but that is a side issue for me) and will never use it for any reason. Windows 7 will probably be the last OS from Microsoft that I will ever run. I have run dual boot systems for years with Linux being my OS of choice for most tasks, the only reason I still use Windows is I am an avid gamer and most pc games are written for Windows. Oh I almost forgot, here are the links for Clonezilla as well as one of my favorite Windows utilities for creating a live usb Linux drive called LinuxLive USB Creator and Good luck with what ever method you choose for your system. Even if you do not use Clonezilla for this project you might like to explore Linux and creating a usb pendrive with one of the many different flavors of Linux that you can download for free is a safe way to explore what for you will be a new OS, if you do not like it at all then simply remove the disk or pen drive and reboot. If you do want to try this a good one to start with would be Ubuntu Linux If you create a live usb instal of Ubuntu you can set it up with what is called persistence using the usb utility. What is this? The extra unused space on your pendrive that the utility has put the live usb image of Ubuntu can be configured as extra space for Ubuntu making it act almost like a regular install. All of your personal configuration files like WiFi security info etc can be stored as well as also giving you the ability to actually install additional software if you would like making it available for each use of the pendrive with Ubuntu. On a side note, it appears that most of the OEM's are hedging there bets with respect to Windows 8, when I went to Ubuntu's website to verify their URL they have a large section talking about all the certified for Ubuntu systems that are available from Dell, HP, Levono and IBM. So you can buy desktops as well as laptops that will have Ubuntu pre installed. So perhaps this secure boot feature will not be active on their systems either or if it is perhaps it can be turned off.

    • ha14
      December 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      nice efforts:)

  2. maria
    December 20, 2012 at 6:25 am

    maybe you can create a partition with 3rd party partition wizard, i know a free one call minitool parittion wizard, yo u can have a try.

    good luck.

  3. Qin Tang
    December 20, 2012 at 3:42 am

    You can use the Partition Wizard to create a recovery partition. This software is free, and is easy to use, recommended! You may google it.

  4. ha14
    December 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    - Use MDT to create a fully automated iso media installation
    set my MDT task sequence to create a second partition, mark it as bootable and copy the ISO image to it.
    - use bcdedit (or EasyBCD from Neosmart) to create a new boot entry

    Recovery Environment

    Windows 7/8 - OEM Recovery Partition Creator

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