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  1. #1
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    System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    Just before Christmas, I installed a new DVD burner in my Dell 4600 (80 gig drive - Drive C and a NEC cd burner - Drive D). The hard drive was a single partition (or so I thought). Originally, I had Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum installed (fully updated with the latest patches). As Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 came bundled with the new TDK DVD burner, I dutifully uninstalled Easy CD Creator 5. I then installed the TDK drive and the new software.

    Disaster! CD Creator 6 would start to launch, and then it would terminate. This didn't surprise me particularly as I have had more than one bad experience with Roxio software. Using MSCONFIG, I removed the applications that CD Creator was launching at startup. Then, I tried to restart the computer. It would logoff, save my settings, and then hang. After waiting for almost half an hour, I finally shut down by holding the power button on the computer.

    After rebooting, I then uninstalled CD Creator 6 and tried to reboot again. Same scenario. Had to use the power button on the computer. Well I thought, now is the time for a system restore. I looked at all of the restore points and picked the system checkpoint prior to the uninstall of CD Creator 5. System Restore did its thing, shut down, and upon reboot, told me that it was unable to restore the system to that particular restore point. OK, let's pick another restore point. When I looked, ALL of the restore points were gone. Panic started to set in.

    I then looked at Device Manager and discovered that both the CD and DVD drives were not functioning. Research revealed that uninstalling CD Creator 5 leaves two registry keys that disable the CD drives. After removing these keys, both drives reappeared. Great. Now for System Restore. I decided, just as a test, to create a restore point. No luck - system restore told me that I didn't have enough disk space left to create a restore point. I knew that this was incorrect but I went to Windows Explorer just to verify. When I looked at my system, I now had a Drive C, Drives D & E (cd & dvd) and a NEW Drive F. This drive had NEVER displayed before. Where on earth did this come from? Drive F was a small (40 Mg) partition that contained some Dell diagnostic stuff. I presumed that Dell had partitioned the drive at the factory and had then somehow hidden this partition. I reasoned that when I installed the new DVD drive (E, Windows somehow made the previously hidden partition now visible. OK, but what about the system restore dilema? When I opened System Properties and then clicked on the System Restore tab, I found that System Restore had been suspended. Also, Drive C AND Drive F appeared under Available Drives. Now this was beginning to make sense. System Restore was trying to monitor both drives, and since Drive F didn't have the required 50 mgs. to create restore points, system restore simply suspended. As soon as I turned off monitoring for Drive F, I was able to turn it on again for Drive C. System Restore is now working as it should.

    After reinstalling, CD/DVD Creator 6 is functioning properly. Shutdown is now working properly. And System Restore is working properly.

    My questions - if anyone else has run into this situation.

    Why did this Drive F never appear in Windows Explorer or as an available drive for System Restore prior to the installation of the new DVD Drive? How did Dell hide this partition and why did it become visible after the installation of the DVD drive?

    John
    John
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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro -

    You've done a good job of keeping cool in a crisis! <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>

    Dell is not the only OEM to put its back-up material on a hidden drive. You are basically only allowed to have one active partition. If, however, a second one is hidden, then it can be active also. From the sound of it, your hidden drive is no longer so, and you probably need to consider a Partition Manager to restire it to its proper status. (That is, if you intend to keep it for its original purpose.)

    As for the DVD drive installation, it sounds as if you were dealing with badly written software. Your previous experience with Roxio emboldened you to accept the software bundle. I know of people who would either have thrown away the bundle - or used its existence as grounds for considering another make of DVD burner. <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>
    Gre

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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    As Unk said, Dell almost invariably makes a hidden drive to put their material on. How much is backup I don't know. They used to have something which would allow them to access and see your computer, but suspended use of this. I don't know how they hid it, but I'd get my moneysworth and call Tech Support--and have them get you someone who can tell you. Some of them understand the hidden partition process and some of them don't. You can google "dell hidden partition" and come up with a lot of threads and hits. You may well get a good explanation if you put in your Dell Model 4600 (Dimension C?) with the words hidden partition as a search term as to how they hide it and what they put on it.

    SMBP

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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    Thanks for your replies Unk and SMBP. As for Roxio, I've been BSOD'd by their software on a few occasions, but once past the installation woes, the applications work fine. As far as the Dell hidden drive, what I find most intriguing is how it became "unhidden". Do you think that it would be advisable to restore it to its previous hidden state? In the meantime, I'll try to gather some more information on this topic.

    John
    John
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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    There are many people in the Lounge who are very experienced at partitioning with Partition Magic and other 3rd party partition makers who really have an excellent feel for this and I'll leave that to them. You should hear from them soon. If I had solid information it'd be up here. This also raises the question to me at least of what happens to that hidden partition after you have formatted whether you do the quick or more complete format the first time you do.

    SMBP

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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    Well, I think I have an answer to the hidden partition becoming visible. There are several recent posts on Dell's community forums about this exact topic. Many Dell owners have suddenly discovered a "new" drive on their systems after installing - you guessed it - Roxio Easy CD Creator 6 (or Napster Ver. 2 which is also now a Roxio product). Apparently Roxio and Dell are both aware of this problem and Dell is working on a fix. As well, from all that I have read, Partition Magic will NOT rehide the partition.

    It's not a major issue having this partition show up as Drive F. It can be pseudo - hidden by using the Group Policy Editor in XP. But, this partition is very important at this time, until (or if) Dell can fix the problem. I don't have much faith in Roxio to come up with a solution. The partition contains Dell diagnostic tools which are accessed by pressing the F12 key on bootup (F2 gets you to the BIOS setup and F12 gets you to the diagnostics on this partition).

    Well, since the installation of CD Creator 6, F2 no longer functions to allow me to access the BIOS setup. I now have to access the BIOS through one of the menu options which appear when I press F12. As you can see, this is a major problem IF by chance, some of the files on the partition are somehow modified or erased. If that happens, there is no way to access the BIOS (at least that I know of).

    I don't know what Lounge policy is on matters such as this, but I'm sure that there are many thousands of Dell owners who will install Easy CD Creator 6 or Napster 2, and a warning about this potentially serious problem might be in order.

    John
    John
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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro -

    You have contributed to Lounge Policy by making the posts that you have, and we are grateful. We are looking to have our Search facility back up and running on December 29th. After that, your experience will be available to anyone searching on Roxio and/or Dell.

    As for not being able to rehide the partition, I am unclear as to whether or not that is a peculiarity to Partition Magic. I use Paragon Disk Manager - which offers capabilities on hiding partitions - but I have yet to have to use it "in anger".
    Gre

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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    <img src=/S/hello.gif border=0 alt=hello width=25 height=29> Hi Rebel, thanks for posting your experiences with Dell and Easy CD 6, I am working with Dell desktops and notebooks at home and work, so information of this kind is always handy to know. If I upgrade the burning software to 6, I wont have a heart attack if I experience similar symptoms. I had no idea there were back up files on hidden partitions, if I suddenly have an additional drive, I will know where to begin looking for the solution. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>

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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro -

    Unkamunka,

    Yes, Partition Magic will hide partitions, but from what I have read on the Dell forums, it will not hide this particular partition (F: is a FAT partition while C: is an NTFS partition) .

    As I said in a previous post, you can pseudo-hide the partition using one of the Microsoft PowerToys - TweakUI. Its Explorer / MyComputer allows you to check the drives that you want to show or hide. While the partition is still accessible, at least if it can't be seen, you will not be tempted to write or erase files to or from the partition.
    John
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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro -

    This seems to be a specialised situation. A quick search turned up this article, which seems to confirm my experience that having mixed file sustems does not in and of itself prevent the hiding of partitions.
    Gre

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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    John--

    You have explained why I saw that extra partition when I installed Roxio 6. I have wondered about that for about a year and now I understand what was going on. I also had to play around to get back my CD/DVD and DVD drives (G and H) but I didn't know about the registry key changes that disable them and am not surprised. I should have gone there to look. I bet if you look around you can find keys that are altered when Dell or any other OEMs install a hidden partition. I didn't notice any hidden diagnostic tools when I've used F12--I'll look again, but during the time and after I've been able to access the bios setup via F2 with no problems.

    I use Nero (5.5 and now 6.Xwith upgrades) because in my experience there are no blue screens or crashes except for a peculiar InCD install problem I had and I think it has simply more capability/functionality than Roxio's Easy CD. But I wanted to compare them and when Roxio 6 came out I had Nero 5.5. If Roxio gives you continual problems, you might want to try Nero--I think they have a trial from their site that you can use but it won't actually execut the burning but can see the interfaces. And of course there is a lot of other burning sofware.

    When I installed Roxio 6 I noticed it crashed pretty frequently with XP--enough to make me uninstall it and stay with Nero.

    One thing I noticed though was that when I put "diskmgt.msc" into the run box I had an extra partition--I think 2GB so much bigger than yours. I have a Dell and I think that hidden partition's size and what is on it might depend on the time you buy and what Dell's doing rather than the model--but model could be in the equation also. I always divide into at least 4 drives and I can't remember what letter this one was labled. Now I know that it went away because I uninstalled Roxio--I wondered where it went, what it was and why.

    When you said "it can be pseudo hidden by using Group Policy Editor" how do you do that there? Are you doing something with Disk Management? Because if you manage partitions there it's not fault tolerant so I would assume if you do away with a parititon there it's permanent.

    The keys used to acess bios can vary according to the OEM, but there has to be another way to acess the bios for you or to reenstate F2 to do it. Someone from Dell not necessarily the first you reach could probably help you with that--also their forums or one of the bios mobo site forums.

    SMBP

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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    SMBP,

    I will use Roxio for a while and see what happens. Everything that I have read indicates that Nero is the better piece of software and certainly doesn't have all of the bugs and glitches that Roxio includes. I used CD Creator 5 for a few years, and apart from initial problems getting it to work with XP, I really had no complaints. But time will tell with version 6. If I start to experience problems, I will certainly switch to Nero.

    As for "pseudo hiding" the partition with Group Policy Editor - my mistake. I should have said Tweakui. Expand "My Computer", click on "Drives" and then simply uncheck the drive you don't want displayed. It becomes invisible in My Computer and in Windows Explorer but it is still seen by the System Restore tab in System Properties, and third party utilities such as Diskeeper still see it.

    As for the F2 keyboard issue, I have read that with a USB keyboard, it sometimes makes a difference what USB port it is plugged into. I will experiment with this one.
    John
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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    The keyboard tidbit is interesting. And Roxio may work well for you, I just have had better luck with Nero in terms of stability and the crashes and BSOD's got annoying and some took a little playing to recover from and get back to Windows-- or system restore--can't remember exactly If you could get an accurate consumer sales I think most consumers far and away don't get Nero because they've n ever heard of it so they ignore it, but I'll bet that is changing. Roxio advertises a lot more.

    I booted my Dell to F12 and got choices of what to boot from, but no information on a hidden partition's contents, but maybe I formatted it away. That's one question I raised that no one tackled--if you format can you wipe out that partition? I know Dell used to have a format tool I don't think they use anymore back in 2001 and part of 2002 called ZZ Top like the band. It now goes to that F12 choice, but I've seen that before instead of the usual options to boot to XP or the loaded Recovery Console. I wonder how to get back to the usual boot screens.

    SMBP

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    Re: System Restore and Hidden Partition (XP Pro - SP1)

    When I boot after the Dell fimrware screen for some time now, I've gotten a sentence on a black and white screen that the keyboard is plugged into the wrong port. It's a USB MS Office keyboard I've used for a good while, and I've plugged it into every other possible USB port and it doesn't make the error message go away. The error message only appears for a couple seconds, and then I get the screen to boot to the OS or Recovery Console (or was until I used F12 once--now I keep getting the F12 screen but the first choice is the OS so that doesn't seem to matter)--I boot just as fast and nothing else is changed.

    Maybe this problem with the keyboard error that has no single consequence at all except that I see it or accessing the bios with F2 or another way or the F12 different screen problem rate separate threads. I wasn't trying to hijack the partition problem.

    SMBP

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