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Many machines come with a portion of their hard disk set aside as a recovery partition. When visible as a drive, some maintenance operations are safe.

I have a Compaq notebook with Vista Home Premium 32 bit. HP/Compaq machines have D:\ recovery partitions, and I'd like to know if I cam run Clean Disk, Check Disk, and Defrag on D:\.

Vista from HP has by default C:\ and D:\ on a monthly defrag schedule. My Security program tells me C:\ is 1% fragmented and D:\ is 15% and recommends I defrag D:\. My security program just sees D:\ as a drive and not a recovery partition I assume. So, I don't know if I am allowed to defrag D:\ or perform any basic maintenance on it. I also don't understand how D:\ got 15% fragmented to begin with.

Personally I'm amazed at how little information manufacturers give you sometimes about how they decided to set up your machine. HP and Compaq aren't the only ones to create a D:\ partition and use it for recovery, my Dell laptop came the same way.

I mean, they could at least tell you what's on it and what it's for.

So, what's safe to do to it?

First realize that it's not just your security program that sees D:\ as "just another drive", because that's exactly what it is: just another logical drive. A portion of your hard disk that's been partitioned off to appear as a second drive letter. No more, no less.

What makes it the recovery partition is what your manufacturer puts on it, and the tools that know what should be there should you ever need to perform a recovery.

"So while some things are safe to do, doing nothing is also very safe."

So, with that in mind:

  • Defrag: go for it. Like you I'm surprised it came fragmented, but there's nothing at all wrong with defragmenting (or "defragging") it. Given that the drive is never used otherwise, you'll probably only need to do that once.

  • Chkdsk: go for it. It better show no errors, though, otherwise I'd be concerned that the contents of the recovery partition may be corrupt. That's good to know now, as opposed to later when you actually need it.

  • Clean up: it's probably safe, but in all honesty, I'd avoid it. The problem is that we don't really know with absolute certainty that a cleanup wouldn't delete something important. Almost by definition everything on the recovery partition is there for a reason, and even if not, that's the assumption we need to make. (Mine even has a recycle bin with deleted files. My guess is that's just being sloppy, but I'm not going to take the risk; I'm leaving it alone, just in case.)

Now, there is another alternative.

Do nothing. Ignore it. Don't touch it.

The recovery partition is not part of your normal, day-to-day use of your machine. Defragging it won't help you in any way. Chkdsk might tell you of a problem ahead of time, but if the recovery partition's never been used the chance of there being a problem are very small. And cleaning up the drive, besides having a small chance of deleting something important, also won't help you, and won't free up any space that you'd actually use.

So while some things are safe to do, doing nothing is also very safe. In fact, perhaps the safest of all.

Article C3391 - May 21, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

benjamin merkur
May 22, 2008 12:25 PM

I submitted the question and was very pleased you selected it for an answer ..HP Support has kept my ticket open and just replied that the "fixed image recovery partition" cannot become fragmented, its size is fixed so no room to become fragmented..also informed that any attempt to defrag will just receive an error message..they would not comment on why or how Security program sees it as 15% fragmented if it cannot become fragmented...also would not comment on why HP installed Vista OS has defrag default set to defrag C:\ and D:\ since D cannot get fragmented and will just generate an error messsage. Which I guess all HP/Compaq owners are receiving even though I have yet to get the error message. If I had Vista OEM OS installed I could understand why C and D on defrag schedule. To Vista OEM C and D are real (not virtual) seperate drives. The HP installed version of Vista OS should know D is an image (a virtual drive) not a real second drive. So, your comment "I'm amazed at how little information manufacturers give you sometimes about how they deceided to set up your machine" is why I have persued this with HP and also with Microsoft. Your clear and concise response to my question is allot more than HP and Microsoft have done. Many thanks and much respect for

Bill Nelson
May 28, 2008 12:40 AM

This article has me wondering if it's overkill to backup the backup partition on a regular basis? After reading some of your commentary, I purchased Acronis True Image 10 and have it set up to make an incremental backup of the C: drive every evening to an external USB hard drive. About once I month, I switch to another partition on that external drive and make a new full image, followed by nightly incremental images. Every month, I also make a full image of the backup partition, D: on our laptop. The PC doesn't show a backup partition, but does show a FAT16 and a FAT32 partition, so I back those up once a amonth, too. I'm not doing incremental backups on them, but am I wasting my time on these additonal partitions?

June 19, 2008 4:31 PM

how do i open a Recovery Partition this partition on my HP pc it has seemed to fill up and i cant to see what is in there . i can not defrag because it has onley 14% free space left.. please help

June 19, 2008 4:39 PM

it has xp on the pc

Tsane Dose
January 23, 2009 11:46 PM

I have an HP pavillion 521n desktop pre service pack XP Home 55277OEM edition, is there a way to update the recovery partition w/ M$ SP2 and SP3
so that I dont have to languise with the blasted post install of these Packs??? I am fairly computer literate, have found info for Windows XPe, BartPE, liveCD. I am able to access the hidden partition at will? I severly need help with this conumdrum!!!

August 7, 2009 9:28 AM

My HP laptop has Windows XP and a recovery partition.

I'm wondering what happens when I install Windows 7.

Does the recovery partition now recognise Windows 7 or does it default back to Windows XP?

I believe recovery partitions are unaffected by any installs, and thus are left with whatever they had before. In a case like this I believe it renders the recovery partition with XP useless once the machine has been upgraded to a different version of Windows like 7.
Dave Markley
August 11, 2009 9:14 AM

I just wanted to add a little note about adding Windows 7. On my desktop, my main hard drive has 2 partitions - 1 with XP (F:)and 1 with Windows 7 RC (C:), and I added a 2nd, larger hard drive (drive G:) where I store all of my videos, pictures, flight simulators, etc. I can access drive G from either OS. When installing Windows 7, it MUST be installed last! If you need to re-install XP for whatever reason you'll most likely need to install Windows 7 again as well. The reason for this is that when your computer boots up, you're given a choice of 'starting Windows 7' or 'start using an earlier version of Windows'. If Windows 7 is installed before XP, XP doesn't 'know' to give you a choice and will automatically boot into Windows XP. You'll still be able to access anything stored by Windows 7 on the hard drive, but the OS itself won't run and you're stuck in XP (unless you know how to change these settings in the BIOS, but the average user probably doesn't).

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