Windows Enterprise Desktop

Feb 4 2013   5:30PM GMT

Interesting Gotcha for Windows Recovery Disks

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Don’t ask me why — because I can’t answer that question — I chose to use one of my Centron 128 GB USB drives to build a recovery and repair boot-up disk this weekend. I used the Recovery Drive option on one of my Windows 8 machines. Here’s the crux of the matter: the disk partition for the repair medium gets formatted using FAT32, which limits the size of the resulting drive to 32 GB. Here’s a snapshot of the resulting drive from the Disk Management plug-in for the Windows Management Console (diskmgmt.msc):

An atypical USB flash drive problem: more real estate than a utility can use.

An atypical USB flash drive problem: more real estate than a utility can use.

Of course this isn’t a problem for USB flash drives of 32 GB or smaller, so probably the most important take-away for readers of this blog post is: don’t use UFD’s larger than 32 GB to build a Windows 8 Recovery Disk. If you do, you’ll find yourself in the same situation I found myself in after setting this up — namely, with a whole bunch of unallocated space on the resulting drive that remains inaccessible to that recovery disk itself.

The gotcha comes into play in that, unless you dig deep into the command-line diskpart.exe utility, you can’t clean up the drive that’s been set up using the built-in Windows 8 tool. Thus, for example, you can’t delete the bootable partition from what appears as the I: drive in the preceding screen capture. Even if you change its format from FAT32 to NTFS, diskmgmt still won’t let you extend or delete the resulting partition, either. The first time I cleaned things up, I turned to Paragon’s Hard Disk Manager to do the job, and instructed it to wipe the drive, then to create a single 119 GB partition (that’s the actual size of the drive, as reported in File Explorer and other native Windows utilities, as confirmed in the Disk Management screenshot above). But that took too long for my impatient self (the wipe drive is very thorough, to meet MilSpec data wiping standards, and took several hours to complete). The second time I found myself in this spot was when I created the screenshot that appears earlier in this post, after which I turned to diskpart for the ensuing clean-up. I started with the “list disk” command to ensure that I wanted to work on Disk 5 as shown above, then typed “select disk 5″ to turn the utility’s focus to that drive, then finally “clean” to wipe out all of its existing disk format info. At that point, using diskmgmt. msc I was able to define a new simple volume, and format the drive to NTFS, and name it Centon128.

Three quick commands in diskpart.exe, and you're done, done, done.

Three quick commands in diskpart.exe, and you’re done, done, done.

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