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How are hidden partitions set up


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#1 MaryBet82

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 11:06 AM

I have "hidden" utility partitions on my dell desktop & thinkpad pc and I'm about to do a reformat/reinstall on the dell. I guess they call them "hidden" because you can't access them thru winxp, but you can see them in Drive Management.

The dell's boot.ini has the windows boot partition as partition 1, so I'm assuming the hidden utility partition is on partition 0 with the MBR. You get to the dell utility thru F12 which offers several boot options [safe mode] including the dell utility or DOS. If you choose the utility partition it loads win 98. I'm thinking it uses Windows to configure a multi-boot, altho I don't know if/how that works when you can only access other boot options thru F12.

The thinkpad has a blue button on the keyboard you use to access either the BIOS setup or their own version of recovery console on the separate partition.

Does anyone know how these hidden partitions are set up during formatting the hdd? Do dell & lenovo write their own programs to write the MBR or do they use windows w/ bootsect.dos or replace bootsect.dos w/ their own version of that file?
mac 10.6 on macbook pro
WinXP sp2 on Dell 380 w/ 512 MB RAM- currently dead in the water
WinXP tab ed sp 3 on Thinkpad X41 w/ 1.5 GB RAM - lemony flavored
Win2K Sp4 on Sony VAIO GXR600 w/ 512 MB RAM - currently blue screening

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#2 computerxpds

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 11:19 AM

There are some registry edits out there for the sole purpose of hiding a partition and there are some programs that will do it i found this article on the subject--> http://news.softpedia.com/news/How-to-hide...acy-44023.shtml
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#3 keyboardNinja

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 01:32 PM

Just leave those partitions alone...format only your C: drive and reinstall there, as well.

I don't have extensive knowledge of different OEM's recovery partitions, but I do know you should not mess with them unless you have to. :thumbsup:
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#4 hamluis

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 01:51 PM

In general...OEMs (Dell, HP, eMachines, etc.) use hidden partitions to install recovery/restore capability which is built into systems sold/manufactured by them.

If a user is doing a clean install via a Genuine Microsoft XP CD, which has been purchased separately from the system...it is not dependent upon such partition for files.

If a user is employing a recovery/restore mechanism which has been provided by the system manufacturer...chances are that such partitions will be needed by user to actually employ the recovery/restore mechanism...whether that rests entirely on the hard drive or also requires a recovery/restore CD to bring about.

FWIW: A hidden partition can be created by anyone who is actually creating the partition and installing the O/S on a system. Just about any partition management software which I have used...provides this capability to users of its product.

More Info On Hidden Partitions

Louis

#5 MaryBet82

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 06:13 PM

Thanks to all,

I'm not intending to hide a partition or to do anything w/ lenovo's partition. I think encryption would be better for my thinkpad if it gets lost or stolen than a hidden partition someone could eventually figure out. A known only to me partition might be nice if I had to share a computer w/ someone who was nosy but not computer savvy, but I don't have to share. If you hid a partition via that registry change, would it not show up in drive manager? The FAT hidden utility partitions do even tho you can't access them from explorer.

Mostly I'm just trying to get the boot process and its variations straight in my head for when I'm troubleshooting blue screens or get an mbr virus or trying to clone my hdd. I might have been interested in using partedit32 to access the thinkpad's hidden partition to make a winxp tab ed slipstreamed sp3 cd, but I think cloning is the way to go these days.

Also I'm getting ready to reinstall the OS on the dell via dell's install cd which may give me the option to reinstall the utility partition, may only "see" the hdd outside that partition or may give me the option to format the whole drive and remove the partition. I'm expecting dell to do all the work and I'm hoping they present any options in adequate English - i.e I understand the question.

Dell's info was sparse and confusing on the utility partition but one article said in some dell configs you can place the utility partition after the OS partition - didn't say which of their computers. That made me wonder what difference before or after would make. I seem to remember something about the placement of a windows os partition on the hdd for optimum performance but that may have been for older drives.
mac 10.6 on macbook pro
WinXP sp2 on Dell 380 w/ 512 MB RAM- currently dead in the water
WinXP tab ed sp 3 on Thinkpad X41 w/ 1.5 GB RAM - lemony flavored
Win2K Sp4 on Sony VAIO GXR600 w/ 512 MB RAM - currently blue screening

#6 hamluis

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 06:56 PM

Well...I have never seen any advantage having anything that relates to a system...hidden from me (sole user).

IMO, system files in Windows are initially hidden (default settings)...because Microsoft doesn't want to have confused users playing with them and sabotaging their own systems. Of course, this also prevents these same users from having a good idea of how to assess problems or repair such when conditions dictate such. Additionally, it hampers a user when trying to assess the growing malware presence on systems. A user who doesn't see or understand how to check the validity of various files and file extensions...is pretty much at the mercy of those who take advantage of such inability.

IMO, hidden system partitions have the same effect, for the same reasons. If you don't know what's there...you cannot repair it, understand its importance or treat it properly.

The assumption that users do not have the "need to know" is patronizing and promotes the concept of the system being a "mysterious, black box" which is incapable of being understood by the user. The result? OEMs sell systems that mandate being returned to the OEM for repairs, upgrades, troubleshooting, etc.

Which is why I don't encourage anyone to buy OEM (HP, Toshiba, etc.) systems. I want to know how to do basic repairs, troubleshooting, etc. on my systems. Between the documentation readily available from Microsoft and the zillion websites which provide info...I can do such with confidence on a system where I have installed a Microsoft Genuine O/S in accordance with known procedures. I prefer the opportunity to learn that a computer system is more than a "black box" by experimentation which is supported by a ton of info on what I should do if I go wrong somewhere in my experiments.

The sharing a computer with others is something I've never had to do because I live alone.

But the simple answer to problems that one might face if such resource had to be shared...is overcome in various ways. My answer is to have each person in possession of her/his own system. It's called a "personal computer" for a reason, IMO.

As for encrption and protection against theft/loss...the usual safeguards which have been extolled for eons now. Backups, encryption...or simply failing to have any data on a system...that can make you regret such in the event of loss/theft.

I try to keep life as simple as I believe it to be :thumbsup:.

Louis

#7 MaryBet82

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 03:45 PM

Thanks for your IMO hamluis,

That's pretty much my IMO regarding knowing what's under the hood in the box . We have a difference of opinion on the adequacy of the information MS provides to those who aren't engineers and programmers - I grade them F as in failure for accuracy, adequacy and clearness. I'm capable of reading and following instructions and explanations and I enjoy figuring things out and a little troubleshooting. But I purchased my pc to assist me in getting some critical work done - not to spend hours and hours trying to find the info to get the pc to work and then more hours trying to secure it from ever escalating threats. In my circumstances I should have gotten a mac.

I configured my first computer after a lot of research and compuzone put it together for me and it had a motherboard manual which actually told one in detail about the possible settings. Unfortunately, you can't do that w/ laptops and I discovered I couldn't sit up at a desktop for the hours necessary so I had to add a laptop. I read there was a trend toward configurable & upgradable laptops, but I never heard it had arrived.

I hired someone to take my specs for the compuzone computer [it got hit by lightning shortly after I got it which says a lot about my usual luck] and "update" it in a new computer w/ sata drives, pci_e, and dual vs hyperthreading [all new tech while I was out of the loop and off the internet for about a year] and that didn't work out well - I ended up w/ the Dell. Dell used to be good about providing users info regarding their machines - I was impressed w/ the info they provided w/ my sister's Dell - but w/ the 380 they get an F too.

I need the encryption on the thinkpad so that my files aren't accessible to someone else if it gets stolen when I'm out and about. A hard drive pw might also work, but if I don't put in the pw I think I put in I lose access to the hdd. Encryption seems a better choice since I'll have non-encrypted copies of my files at home. If I lock myself out of my encrypted folders or SAM gets corrupted, I can recover from that. MS's encryption is supposed to be very good as far as being hard to crack, altho actually using it is VERY complicated. I'll need to add a free-space scrubber, encrypt temp folders and configure pagefile to clear on shutdown.

We've had bad weather so the Dell is still waiting for its reinstall. I'm wondering if the utility partition was also included in the raid 1 it came configured in or, since the 955x chipset can raid by partition rather than whole disk, if it was outside the raid. Which reminds me I still have to figure out whether to change the BIOS setting from "RAID autodetect/AHCI" to "Combination SATA/PATA" after I use the raid utility to reset from raid.
mac 10.6 on macbook pro
WinXP sp2 on Dell 380 w/ 512 MB RAM- currently dead in the water
WinXP tab ed sp 3 on Thinkpad X41 w/ 1.5 GB RAM - lemony flavored
Win2K Sp4 on Sony VAIO GXR600 w/ 512 MB RAM - currently blue screening




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