Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dell Utility Partition Restoration

We have quite a number of Dell desktop and laptop systems deployed in our environment.

We use a number of imaging/cloning methods to manage them.

My personal favorite is Microsoft's ImageX software but Clonezilla and Novell’s ZEN Imaging are also popular.

When a Dell system leaves the factory, it contains a specialized partition that contains Dell diagnostic tools and utilities.  This can be accessed via the boot menu (F12) when booting a system.  These can come in handy for the sysadmin or desktop technician when trying to decide if the problem is hardware or software related.

However, if the system has been securely disk-wiped or images restored in some circumstances, that specialized Dell Utility partition can be destroyed.  The restored windows partition works just fine, and the Dell diagnostics are still listed in the boot menu but they are no longer actually there.

So what options do you have?

Option One – Rebuild it from Scratch

Recreating the Dell Utility Partition - Not for the feint of heart. Partition Table editing required!

Basically you have to create a new partition, make it active, copy the Dell Diagnostic program to it, add a reboot program, make your config.sys and autoexec.bat files, change the partition type, the set your Windows partition back to be the active partition.  Lots of work.

Option Two - Skip It and go with a Dell Utility Boot CD

Dell ships most all its systems with a boot-CD that can be used to bring up the system and then run the same diagnostics package elements from the CD instead.  Yes you are not putting it on the system, but for most folks, this will be the easiest solution.

Getting the Dell Diagnostics Utility -

If you look up your specific Dell system based on the Service Tag number, you will often find a number of additional downloads that will allow you to not only build your Dell Diagnostics Utility CD, but also packages to update the files on your Dell Utility partition if you so desire.

No software is know to exist in the wild (that I am aware of) to "automagically" create and restore that Dell Utility partition via point-and-click.  Option One is the only way I know of to put one back in service once a system has been set up.

Option Three - For ZENWorks Imaging Fans only

Novell Doc: Novell ZENworks 7.2 Linux Management Administration Guide - Using Dell Configuration Bundles - Help for ZENworks fans.

See Also

Dell - Support - Using the Dell™ MediaDirect Repair Utility to Fix a Corrupt Master Boot Record (MBR) in Microsoft Windows XP

Inside the Dell PC Restore Partition - Dan Goodell

What About Microsoft Vista? - Things are a bit different when dealing with Vista Dell systems.

How to Run the Hard Drive Disk Self Test (DST) on a Dell Computer -

Special thanks to the D-Man for hunting many of these solutions up for us!

Happy Dell Fixing!



cameronloc said...

I have recreated the Utility partition from scratch.It took many hours.I used the Dell Open Manage Deployment Toolkit to extract Drmk 8.0 Boot img.It takes alot of modified scripts to get the job done.At some point I will ghost the partition and put it up for download.
Any questions I will try to

sukeljuma said...

how would one get the address to get that img i would like to fix 12 dells back up

sukeljuma said...

how would i get a copy of the img you make i forgot to have reply sent to my email this 1 has it

Claus said...

@ sukeljuma - I don't use the Dell partition and we remove it from all our systems.

This was a post noting information regarding it for reference.

As noted in the post, you can attempt to rebuild it. If you have OEM Dell systems, they should have shipped with a Dell Diagnostic and Recovery disk. You should also have luck finding it on the support page for your specific dell system. It can take some time to hunt them down, but they are there.

I would recommend following the steps on this site: Using Dell's Tools to Build a Utility Partition as I had posted.

Unfortunately I don't have the Img file myself.

If I do need to run the Dell diagnostics, I just run it directly from the CD.


--Claus V.