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Windows 7 Recovery (/Rescue) Disk -- HP Elitebook 2740p -- VirtualBox

Isn't it terrible that my new, and relatively expensive business-grade laptop from HP did not come with Windows 7 installation disks. (Admittedly, I purchased my laptop ex-demo and on an auction day when no-one else seemed to notice what was on sale! Just a few weeks earlier I saw the earlier model sold on the same web-site for twice as much!). However, this is sadly routine, HP says on its web-site that it has not provided Windows installation disks since 2005. Even for a laptop which still sells for $3000AUD when new!

What's worse, my computer arrived without an HP_Recovery partition. HP_Recovery is supposed to contain the required installation media for re-installing Windows. Ringing up HP support was not helpful at all, I think they expected me to pay $15 (+postage?) for new recovery media. In fact, I can't even find the recovery media for sale on the 2740p support web-page.

However, it turns out that Windows 7 can create its own Recovery Disk. The recovery disk can re-install from a whole-disk image `backup' created by Windows 7, and also make use of Window 7's restoration points. Windows 7 will burn the disk to CD-ROM. The HP 2740p doesn't have its own CD-burner, of course, so a USB CD-burner needs to be attached (sadly, my model came from HP without the expansion bay. Some-one else got an HP 2740p with the expansion bay at the same auction for only about $40 more. Grrrrrrr.....)

The Windows 7 recovery disk can be installed onto a USB stick, apparantly, but wouldn't it be great if it could be stored right on the hard drive, just like the HP Recovery tools?

Unfortunately GRUB/Grub2/Burg does not seem to be capable of booting Windows ISO images, although Grub2/Burg can boot various Linux ISOs. However, the Windows ISO image can be started by a virtual machine, like VirtualBox.

  1. Create an ISO image of the Windows 7 Recovery disk. K3b (a Linux disk burner) does the job very well.
  2. Install VirtualBox. I am using version 4.0
  3. Create a virtual machine will boot from the Windows 7 recovery disk
  4. The internal hard-drive needs to be installed as a raw disk image to the virtual machine. There are instructions on how to do this in the `Advanced' section of the VirtualBox manual. In my case...
    VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename ~/Virtualbox VMs/Windows7Recovery/sda.vmdk -rawdisk /dev/sda
  5. Attach sda.vmdk to the virtual machine. The default user doesn't have access to /dev/sda. VirtualBox will complain that sda.vmdk is not a valid disk. Various advice available on the Internet. Things like `sudo adduser yourname disk' (add the user to the `disk' group, which does have access to /dev/sda) or `sudo -a -G disk yourname' (does the same thing, I guess).
  6. My Windows 7 image is stored on a separate disk, so I needed to allow VirtualBox access to that disk as well.
  7. I had lots of crashes when restoring. I think this was because I was trying to allocate two cores(/CPUs) to the virtual machine. The following virtual machine options worked.

    1. System -- Motherboard -- Base memory -- 1024 MB
      512 MB is not enough! System restorer will run out of resources, and throw an error code.
    2. System -- Motherboard -- Disable IO APIC
    3. System -- Processor -- Just one CPU (this is the default)
    4. Display -- Video -- leave 2D/3D acceleration disabled.
    5. Audio -- Disable audio
  8. Make sure the CD-ROM has a higher boot priority than the raw disk image. I tried to remove the disk image from the boot list, but that doesn't seem to work!
  9. During boot, the Windows 7 recovery will ask you to 'press a key' to boot the CD. If the key is not pressed, the boot will start on the raw disk image, which is both impressive and potentially very dangerous.
  10. I have successfully restored to a previous restoration point using this method, `rolling' back the installation of various Windows 7 patches and OpenOffice. I have not yet tried to restore a Windows 7 image.

next up previous Link to 'computer' page
Next: SliTaz (Cooking 20101104) Up: System software Previous: BURG (Grub 2 variant)
David Fong 2011-01-25