Inside the Dell PC Restore Partition

An Exploration by Dan Goodell
Fixing PBR Descriptor Alerts



Dell apparantly calls each partition table entry a "Partition Boot Record descriptor", as it describes where the partition's boot record is and what type of file system it contains. It is this "Type" indicator that Dell tinkers with for the Dell Utility partition and the Dell Restore partition. Note the partition itself is not altered, but changing this one byte in the partition table descriptor has the effect of disguising the partition from operating systems and utilities. Even sophisticated utilities like Partition Magic identify the disguised partitions as "EISA", "CTOS", or "CP/M" instead of "FAT16" and "FAT32".

The easiest way of correcting the partition-type indicators is with ptedit. Boot from a DOS boot disk, load a DOS mouse driver, and launch ptedit.exe. (Note to reader: ptedit is tough to use without a mouse, so make sure you load a DOS mouse driver before launching ptedit.)

Use the mouse and keyboard to change the entries in the 'Type' column. A normal Dell system should show 'DE' as the first partition's type, '07' for the second partition, and 'DB' for the third partition.

A value of '80' in the Boot column indicates the active partition. A normal Dell system should show '80' for the second partition, the Windows NTFS (Type-07) partition. There must be only one active partition, so make sure the other three partitions show '00' in the Boot column.


author: Dan Goodell

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