Recovery Partitions – Why you should NOT delete them!

You may think that an OEM is being ‘cheap’ by putting a recovery partition on a computer and NOT giving you original Microsoft CD/DVDs. They take up valuable hard drive real estate, but the content of a recovery partition is maybe more valuable than the space it occupies.

The recovery partition contains all of the data required to rebuild the operating system, maybe a few utilities like personal organizers and calendars (which you may have become accustomed to using), manufacturer support programs  and, most importantly, the device drivers specific to your system which may or may not be included in an original Microsoft CD/DVD.

Some history..

In the past, recovery partitions have been accessed via a Recovery CD. Invariably, a driver CD would be supplied as well. Some users made the mistake of deleting the recovery partition, believing that the two CDs would replace everything on the computer as per when it was bought. More often that not, they didn’t and couldn’t, so users lost the the ability to do a factory refresh and the use of programs which were included on a ‘value added’ basis.

Older laptops were often supplied with a full CD recovery set of anything up to seven CDs because technology at the time was not up to making large capacity 2.5″ hard drives, and a recovery partition was out of the question.

It was the responsibility of the owner to ensure safe keeping of whatever was supplied, and many simply didn’t do this. The manufacturers, because hardware was changing and improving constantly, didn’t want to manufacture hundreds, maybe thousands of ‘spare’ recovery sets for any one model, because they would go beyond the ‘sell by’ date way too quickly. 

Present day..

Computers users are much more ‘Internet aware’ these days, so owners of older machines can surf to the half decent manufacturer web sites and appropriate drivers and, in some cases, software as originally supplied.

For new machines, full recovery partitions are the order of the day, accessed by pressing a function key at boot up. Dependant upon make, the user may be able to repair an installation, re-install drivers, re-install ‘value added’ software, or in worst cases only be able to institute a destructive restore. The onus on the manufacturer is to supply a means to restore the machine to working order by whatever means, so one can’t assume that the manufacturer has given all of the repair or re-install options mentioned in the lines above.

Some more history..

Upgrade versions of an operating system have traditionally required proof of ownership of an earlier installation. Proof could be an incumbent operating system or a facility whereby one would place the earlier OS CD in the drive during the installation process of the new OS. The OS CD required for proof of ownership had to be an original or OEM Windows 9x/ME or 2000/XP CD. A recovery CD did not cut it, and just when you thought that it couldn’t get any worse..

Back to present day..

.. it just did!! Vista upgrades require that the operating system being upgraded is installed and fully functioning. For sure, you can create a set of DVDs from which you can re-install your operating system and other stuff, but unless you know that it definitely did create a ‘working’ set, and/or that you will keep the recovery set safe and in pristine condition, removal of the recovery partition could lead you to the most far flung creek and not a paddle for miles.

My parting shot..

So how do you feel now about deleting the only reliable and fast form of recovery available to you? Is it worth deleting just for the sake of a few gigabytes of hard drive real estate? Bear in mind that you can buy additional hard drives for not a whole lot these days. For an outlay of $60, you can buy 80gb of brand new real estate (mounting kit and cables not included).

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