Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

About the Recovery (D:) Drive

A Reader Asks a Very Good Question About the “Recovery Partition”..

Q: Paul,
When I open up the My Computer icon on my desktop to check my hard drive, the recovery disk is usually close to 2/3’s full and it is in GB. Is this a drive I want to do anything with? I have plenty of drive space on my C drive but this takes 3-4GB of space.
What is the recovery drive for and should I try to recover the the disk space it uses?

A: When you click on “Computer” (or, “My Computer” in XP) an explorer window will open showing the storage devices (aka “drives”) attached to your computer (storage “memory”). These storage areas will be assigned a “drive letter”, and usually start with the area which contains the Windows operating system and is responsible for “booting” your computer — labeled drive “C:
drivesWhy doesn’t it start with “A:“? Well, back in the day, it did. Long ago, computers came with A and B drives – which were 5.25” ‘floppy’ drives (which contained the operating system. Windows didn’t exist yet). When the first “hard” drive came along, it had to go next in line.. thus C:\ (c: equated to “hard disk” [with a “k”]). Eventually, operating systems were designed to run from “hard” disks, and – eventually – “floppies” went the way of the T-rex. (But “hard disk” still equates with “c””)

I digress, but! I need to keep talking about computer history/evolution for just a bit longer. Long ago, computers used to come with CD’s. Either a Windows CD or a Windows CD relabeled by the manufacturer to something like “Dell Recovery Disc”. These were used in the sad case of really bad errors crashing the computer, and tech support told you you had to “reinstall Windows”.
(Sometimes called “disaster recovery”)

At some point in time, some brick-headed, idjit barnacle of a CEO made the absolutely dumbest decision ever made by Man — in the hopes that they could save 3¢ per computer sold. (Can you guess what I would say to this *person* if I met them?) They decided to do away with the Recovery CD and instead put those files on a special section (called a “partition“) of the hard disk — which came to be Drive D:\ (aka “the ‘recovery partition’)… the topic today. Ahem, sorry.

Back to the topic: When you first start up your computer (aka “boot up”) you will see a drab screen that says something to the effect of “Press F11 to recover your computer” (or some F key.. maybe F10, maybe F2..) This function is used in the sad case of really bad errors crashing the computer, and tech support tells you you have to “reinstall Windows”. (Sometimes called “disaster recovery”)

This “recovery process” will wipe (aka “erase”, aka “delete”) your C:\ drive, and copy the “image” stored on D:\ over to there — thus returning your PC to “factory condition”.. complete with crapware, such as Connect to AOL and Polar Penguins, and minus all your installed programs, updates, and … files.

You do have a backup copy of all those.. right?

This disaster of a disaster recovery method was not necessarily the case if you had/have a disc. Which is why the CEO mentioned above is a jackass. And why you want to read, Windows 7 Owners, You Want To Do This…

Answer the question, Paul: Okay okay okay
The drive D: aka “Recovery” is a special, protected area, which contains the files necessary to restore your computer to factory defaults. You cannot modify it. Short version: Pretend it isn’t there, and … hope you never need it.

(If you are eyeballing that ‘open space’ because you have filled up your C:\ drive.. well, no. What you need to do is install additional storage [ aka “upgrade” ] and/or go in and remove stuff from C:\)

* Okay.. maybe not the dumbest…

Today’s reco’d reading: Warning: Surprise spam trojan on Facebook

“Ever received messages from your Facebook friends containing a notice or invitation, such as an invitation to visit a particular site, added with an interesting message, like “Hey watch this, so cool!”? In most cases, the recipient of the message will be happy to follow it, especially if the message was sent by one of your best friends, which you trust. However, did you ever think that it could be sent by an intruder, spam, or even viruses?

Like yesterday, one of my friends received a “surprise” from Facebook, but then soon realized that his computer was now infected with the trojan, as well as making it a “spam machine.””

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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January 20, 2011 - Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, storage, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Paul,
    I assume the sexy second pic is of D drive, saying aaaaahhhhhhhhh…leave me



    Comment by Grr | January 20, 2011 | Reply

    • Grr,
      Close, but no. That is a photo of said CEO braying “three cents, three cents, three cents!” (hee haw, hee haw, hee haw!)


      Comment by techpaul | January 20, 2011 | Reply

      • ha ha…hope that CEO is reading this post..

        hee haw


        Comment by Grr | January 21, 2011 | Reply

        • Grr,
          I am certainly not an expert on what I am about to say next.. and I do not know what year it was when it started happening.. Maybe about the era of Lee Iaccoca/Chrysler?
          But it seems to me that – across the board – companies have hired ‘outsider’ business executive types to be their CEO’s – who know absolutely nothing about the industry. And these types run a newspaper (say), then go to a running shoe retail chain (say), then run a hospital… and they make “business decisions”; not newspaper/running shoe/medical decisions.
          As a “business decision”, the recover partition makes perfect sense. It’s a “winner” as it cuts costs.. which makes the company “more competitive”. The CEO is probably proud of their decision. And maybe, I am willing to concede, justifiably so.

          But to my way of thinking.. it’s a small symptom of a greater disease.

          As always, I appreciate your participation.


          Comment by techpaul | January 21, 2011 | Reply

          • I agree Paul…their savings cut on us customers’….we loose some % of our HDD..



            Comment by Grr | January 21, 2011 | Reply

            • Grr,
              I believe “Pass It On To The Consumer” is one of the first things they teach at CEO school.

              But having never been to CEO Academy, I am only guessing at that…


              Comment by techpaul | January 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. Hey Paul,
    Nice tip about the recovery partition.
    Also, it’ll be a good idea to have the MBR backed-up incase the user wants to revert to the factory settings as re-installing or repairing with the repair disc will replace the original code with the standard windows code and the user won’t be able to boot into the RC.


    Comment by Ranjan | January 20, 2011 | Reply

    • Ranjan,
      Good to see you here again!

      To your point(s)… Well, I don’t know that using a disc for a reinstall makes accessing the Recovery Console impossible. That has not been my experience.
      But.. the RC is XP and .. legacy*. Back in the XP days.. a lot of PC’s came with discs, not recovery partitions (and/or.. obtaining a disc is pretty easy).
      Also, the article is about answering the (specific) question submitted.. not a “How To Perform Disaster Recovery”. (And it already ran a bit long..)

      Those out of the way — I am absolutely an advocate of making proper backups. And have recommended DriveImage XML disk imaging freeware here many times as my prefered tool for “disaster prep”. Which when done properly allows you to ‘clone’ back your C:\ and MBR and MFT and so on.

      Maybe another article for another day. As always, I very much appreciate your participation!

      * Folks, “legacy” is a polite word for “obsolete”. It is typically used by Geeks as a substitute for “obsolete junk”. Not that I am saying XP is junk, but it is time to get off 32-bit XP. Past time IMHO.


      Comment by techpaul | January 20, 2011 | Reply

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