Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Recovery partitions are created not by Windows or Microsoft, but by computer manufacturers. As a result they rarely get upgraded when Windows does.
I plan on updating to Windows 7. My question is when I upgrade what happens to the recovery partition of my laptop? Does it get upgraded as well or do I just reformat it and free up the space? Other suggestions?
I don't know.
It's not that I don't have some guesses (I'll share those in a moment), it's just that there's no standard for what should even be on a recovery partition, much less what might happen to it when you upgrade.
It's one more reason I really, really dislike recovery partitions.
It'll also depend on where you get your copy of Windows 7.
Let me run through the two scenarios and my alternative.
The recovery partition is not produced by Microsoft and is not a part of Windows. Rather, it's created by the computer manufacturer. And of course there are probably about as many different kinds of recovery partitions as there are computer manufacturers.
I believe recovery partitions exist for two primary reasons:
To make recovery easier or faster. Simply rebooting and choosing some kind of recover option is a pretty fast and easy way to restore your machine to its initial configuration.
To save the cost of shipping you additional installation media, such as a Windows installation DVD or the media required to install all the other software that comes with the machine.
Unfortunately, recovery partitions suffer from what is in my opinion a fatal flaw: they live on the hard disk. If that hard disk ever dies (and they do), you have nothing. No operating system, no data and no installation media with which to start over.
If you get your new operating system from the same manufacturer as your computer, and if that manufacturer chooses to update their installation process to do it, they could actually update the data on your recovery partition to the new OS as well.
I'm not aware of any manufacturer that does this.
Not a one.
Typically the recovery partition is left untouched by an operating system upgrade.
In fact, if you get your Windows upgrade from anywhere but your computer's manufacturer it's the only possible result. No one knows how that recovery partition is set up except for the manufacturer that set it up in the first place.
What you'll be left with is a recovery partition that, if you use it, will recover your machine back to its initial state: the original version of Windows that was on the machine when you got it. You'll need to perform your Windows 7 upgrade all over after the recovery is complete.
At least you'll probably have the Windows 7 upgrade media to do so.
I'd delete the partition, myself.
With or without the partition, and even with or without the upgrade, you need to be prepared for the partition to not be there.
Like I said, the partition is on your hard disk. That's convenient, but what if the hard disk dies completely, taking all of your data, your OS and the recovery partition with it?
You replace the hard drive and then what? There's no recovery partition, and no installation media.
You're S.O.L. (Severely Out of Luck).
If you can, get the installation media to be able to install from scratch onto a completely empty hard disk.
Take an image backup as soon as you can when you get the machine, or after performing the upgrade. This will act as the ultimate restore point - you can always restore the machine to this state should you ever need to.
If you do any of those, but particularly the image backup, you're freed of any requirement that the recovery partition even exist, no matter what's on it.
Which is why I delete the partition and increase the usable space on my hard disk for other things.