Useful info about recovery partitions, Dell and other
Whether Dell or another brand, most all computers today come with recovery partitions to save the manufacturers from including another 10 cent item in the package with a system. Also because Steveie Ballmer prefers it that way.
So you get the system and the first thing you are supposed to do is create some recovery DVDs to someday restore the system back to its factory state. But most unwashed computer buyers never do this.
The recovery partition follows a format standardized by Micro$oft. So my good experience yesterday with a cheap crappy Toshiba and an even cheaper and crappier Toshiba hard drive should work for Dell and other systems, too.
The Toshiba hard drive showed a few hundred reallocated sectors in its SMART data, so the owner could see that the drive was failing. Nevertheless, I tried to clone the drive to a brand new one using Clonezilla. Clonezilla did the best it could, successfully copying two of the three partitions on the system. Not the boot partition, which was simply too hosed to clone, but the RECOVERY partition. So I had a new drive with a recovery partition on it.
What next? Run a utility to unhide the recovery partition and set it as the active partition. Then try to boot the system. This worked. The system booted up to the Toshiba recovery partition and I was able to restore the system back to its factory settings, about 1000x easier than installing Win 7 from scratch and getting/adding all the Toshiba drivers. Because this particular crappy Toshiba had the wonderful AMD 1.3GHz dual core CPU, recovery took a couple of hours, but I did not care because it ran perfectly well all by itself and I could go away and do other things. Last step was to install iTunes and copy 2+GB of iTunes music from the not-yet-failed but really crappy Toshiba hard drive.
You might think I am not favorable to Toshiba laptops. You are right. Hope this helps someone else in a similar bind... Ben Myers