Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adventures with the Lenovo Ideapad S10-2 Netbook - Part 3

(This revised blog was posted to myspace on Friday, August 7, 2009)

Layout of Partitions on the S10-2

To start off another day in the continuing adventures with my not-so-new Lenovo Ideapad S10-2 netbook, I started her up by booting from my trusty SystemRescue CD. For the un-initiated SystemRescue CD is a Linux system on a bootable CD-ROM for inspecting, administrating, and repairing your system and your data. My main purpose for doing this is to examine the Lenovo's hard disc partition structure with the 'gparted' application. Here is the result:

104 GB 2 GB 31 GB 15 GB
Primary Part. Unallocated Extended Part. Primary Part.
NTFS (C:) NTFS (D:) NTFS (hidden)

As one can see, there are some 'peculiarities' with the layout. I can understand the first partition, the C: partition. This is where the Windows XP Home resides and is a must for the netbook to work. I am not sure why the second 2 GB unallocated space exist - only the Lenovo designers know! I also can understand the D: partition - this is where the user-created backup files are stored (that is, if the user chose the default path as the destination of their backup files during the backup process). This is also where the drivers for the various devices on the netbook reside (in the 'drivers' folder). At this stage, I do not know what is inside the last hidden partition. My guess is that is being used to store the Vista-like windows system, the OKR system itself, and the image files used to restore the C: partition back to the factory default. Other stuff may exist but I will not know until I un-hide this partition and examine the contents - which I plan to do next.

The Hidden Partition Revealed

For this job I started up my netbook normally into Windows XP. I then copied a utility called ptedit32.exe from my USB thumb drive into the \Windows\System32 folder and make a shortcut of this utility on my desktop. This is the utility that I plan to use to un-hide the hidden partition. For the un-initiated, ptedit32 is a partition table and boot record editor (WARNING: Use with care!) and is free (use Google to locate downloads of this utility). After starting ptedit32, I discovered that the third hidden partition is of type 12 - using ptedit32 I changed it to type 07 (Windows NTFS) and then save the change. Windows being windows, I had to reboot the netbook - and viola! the hidden partition was revealed in all its glory! :)

Using Windows Explorer to navigate to the (formerly) hidden drive - it was designated as drive E: in my case - I examined the contents of the drive. As I suspected the drive contains the factory backup image (at the root level) and the OKR application files. There are other folders and files whose purposes I do not know - but one interesting find was some boot loader files. Could it be that this drive is bootable? Is that how the OKR button button works? - that is, when that button is pressed, code in the BIOS (?) modify the boot drive to point to this drive and in a similiar fashion to the recovery discs loads up the Vista-like OS and launch the OKR software from the drive. This is only speculation on my part - only the Lenovo engineers can confirm this. Anyway, the only thing of interest to me at this point is the factory image files. I want to know whether I can use these files from another external hard disc or recovery disc to restore my C: partition to the factory default. The advantage of this is that the files are NOT on the netbook's hard disc and if that disc fails, I can always restore a pristine copy of Windows XP Home to a new hard disc. At the moment, there is no way to do this - you would have to start Windows and only then make a backup and recovery disc. I have to conduct some tests on how to do this later - for the moment I copied all the factory image files to my external hard disk (the factory.wsi file, the factory0000.DSI file and all the factory.000 to factory.046 files).

Another interesting fact was discovered (accidentally, in fact) - if you do not hide the formerly hidden partition the OKR button will NOT work - all it does is start the normal Windows XP Home - just as if you had pressed the on/off button on the netbook. I had to use ptedit32 to set the 3rd partition to type 12 (you have to enter this number manually since the tye list do not have this number) and save the change, restart and press the OKR button - which now works. Very sneaky, Lenovo!

Restoring Acronis image to new HD

Recall that I had made an image of the brand-new unused hard disc using Acronis Home 11 as soon as I unpack my brand new Lenovo Ideapad S10-2 netbook. Well it is time to test whether I can restore that to a brand new hard disk of the same make and size (in my case a Western Digital Scorpio Blue 2.5" SATA hard disk of 160 GB capacity). Booting the netbook from the Acronis CD, I restore the image and then re-booted. The expected first run process for Windows XP appeared, proving that the C: partition restoration worked. When the system was set up and the Windows desktop appeared, I used Windows Explorer to check for partition D: - it was there with the expected contents. Running ptedit32.exe, I un-hide the hidden partition and checked the contents - which was OK. After re-hiding the partition, I launched the OKR in Windows to see whether it works - it did.

I then shut down the netbook and then pressed the OKR button to check whether the system will work from the new hard disc. I was disappointed to discover that it did not - all it did was a normal boot into Windows - same as if I had used the on/off button. Why it did not work is something I need to determine later but for the moment I know for sure that I can re-create the original system onto a new hard disk of the same make and size BUT the OKR button will NOT work anymore.

I then ran the same restore from Acronis image on a larger hard disk (320 GB in this case) while maintaining the same partition sizes. Results were similiar to the previous test. Partitions were created correctly, system will boot up into Windows BUT the OKR button will no longer work. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

In summary - in a catastrophic netbook hard disc failure, it is possible to restore a previously made image file (created by Acronis or other imager) onto a new hard disk. All partitions will be re-created including the hidden one. However, the OKR button will no longer work - rendering the OKR restore functions useless. Of course this system restoration can only be done if a image of the netbook's hard disk was made previously. Otherwise, the user can only resort to restoring a working C: partition on a new hard drive from the recovery discs, if they were made previously. If they were not made, then there is nothing the user can do expect contact Lenovo for help.

I find this situation quite distressing - if my hard drive crash but I can restore a working system on a new hard drive from the recovery disc, I will end up with the ability to create backups (via OKR within windows) but absolutely no way to restore it since the OKR button no longer function. Lenovo need to fix this somehow.

Stay tuned...


  1. Do you have any experience or knowledge about using the windows recovery console from the windows xp installation disk on the s10-2? I installed ubuntu remix 9.10 to dual boot with windows xp, and the grub boot loader is now used to boot either ubuntu or windows xp. I wanted to reinstall the windows xp boot loader by using the windows xp recovery console to rewrite the master boot record with the windows xp boot loader. I successfully installed the windows xp recovery console on the hard disk from the windows install cdrom so that the windows recovery console is now an option when windows xp boots, but when I choose the recovery console an error message "a read error has occurred" occurs, and the machine must be rebooted without ever running the windows recovery console. If I try to run the windows recovery console from from the windows xp install cdrom, the windows recovery console does not completely load and reports that no hard drives are present. Do you have any insight as to why this occurs. Thanks. I have enjoyed your blog about the s10-2, especially the sections about the hard drive partitions. Thanks.

  2. Merlin,

    Actually you SHOULD run the recovery console from the windows XP CDROM and while in the console run the 'fdisk /mbr' command. At least this is what I do whenever I want to wipe out Grub bootloader on a hard disk. If you get errors using the recovery console - then maybe (I'm guessing) there is something wrong with the CDROM itself.

    BTW, Lenovo does not supply a Windows XP CDROM with the S10-2 netbook, so I assume you are using a retail version of XP Home. I an not sure whether this will work with the S10-2.

    Worse come to worse, you may have to re-install Windows XP using the OneKey recovery system - just remember to backup you data first!

  3. the okr button on my s10-2 is not working... i was trying to restore my s10-2 to factory settings but was surprised that it would only boot to windows.... i haven't done anything with its partition now i'm stuck with a virus infested netbook....