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Solved – Can’t boot to recovery partition (Vista)

I was recently working on an HP laptop running Vista (simply the worst operating system ever, hands-down) and ran into a little problem. Of course it was of my own making, as most of my problems turn out to be. Most computer manufacturers these days are too cheap to so cost-efficient they don’t give you operating system discs anymore, rather they put the OS and the drivers on a recovery partition on your hard drive. When you have some kind of catastrophic failure (which you will eventually if you run Vista), you should be able to get the machine back to its out-of-the-box configuration using the data in this partition. Now, unlike having the actual discs, which will allow you to repair your OS and keep your data, these recovery consoles will completely wipe out your programs and files, alas.

On an HP laptop, you can normally hit the F11 key just as the machine is booting and get to the recovery console. You are obviously pretty desperate at this point and the last thing you need is for that not to work, but indeed sometimes it doesn’t. In my case, I had fiddled with the Vista boot manager trying in vain to to get Vista to boot. To make a long story somewhat shorter, this fiddling took away the ability to boot to the recovery partition and since Vista was unbootable as well, the options were few.

The solution to not having access to the recovery partition is to make it the active partition and boot directly into it.

If Vista is working for you, you can find the instructions on making the recovery partition active here. If you have the same problem as me, that Vista won’t boot either, then you’ll need to get first get yourself a bootable Vista repair disc. You can run that and maybe it will fix your problem, who knows – its never helped me. Again, assuming you are in Vista hell and the repair disk doesn’t actually repair anything for you, the advanced functions on that disk allow you to get to a command prompt. From the command prompt you can make your recovery partition active using Microsoft’s Diskpart.exe utility (read more about diskpart.exe here). Here is the general workflow:


DISKPART> list disk

DISKPART> select disk 0

DISKPART> list partition

DISKPART> select partition 1 (yours could be different, the list function should indicate which partition is the recovery one)

DISKPART> detail partition (this should help you verify that you’ve selected the right one, it should say HP_Recovery or something similar)

DISKPART> active


Now, close your command window and restart the computer. You won’t need to touch the keyboard, if your recovery partition is present and working you’ll boot right into it. Good luck.

  1. admin
    October 24th, 2009 at 07:45 | #1

    Just a brief update on this strategy. I tried this on a Dell 1525 without success. It appears that the Dell recovery partition (at least on this machine) is not bootable. Fortunately there is an even easier method as long as Vista is even the tiniest bit bootable. When you turn on the machine, start hitting the F8 key, this will bring up the boot menu which give you the choice to boot to Safe Mode. At the top of that menu there is an entry to repair your version of Vista. If you select that and proceed, you’ll get an opportunity to load the recovery programs.

    I confess that I did not get al the way through this proceedure as in my case I had a computer on which the user had lost the only user password. Unfortunately, Dell makes you enter the user password before allowing you access to the recovery partition.

  2. Bo
    October 28th, 2010 at 00:09 | #2

    just wanted to say that by making the recovery drive active worked for my HP pavilion dv9000

    thanks for the info

    • admin
      October 28th, 2010 at 08:36 | #3

      Yes, this can work and I’ve done it successfully once or twice. However, with some machines, making the recovery partition active confuses the restore process and it installs the operating system in the recovery partition instead of the larger “normal” partition. This results in a virtually unrecoverable mess because the recovery partition is now ruined. I don’t use this technique unless all else fails.

  3. Wyshniukas
    January 8th, 2013 at 18:09 | #4

    Thanks bro, just worked with Sony VAIO FW recovery partition.

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