Rescue and Recovery

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Rescue and Recovery

Rescue and Recovery version 3.0 consists of a bootable partition containing various system recovery tools, including full recovery of the preinstalled Windows XP partition. It can be activated by pressing the ThinkPad, Access IBM or ThinkVantage Button during system boot. It contains a FAT filesystem (labeled "IBM_SERVICE"), and has partition type 0x12 ("Compaq diagnostics" in fdisk).

As opposed to a Hidden Protected Area Recovery partitions are ordinary partitions, accessible through the partition table. As they are ordinary partitions they are accessible by ordinary partitioning tools. They should be dealt carefully with.

Proper MBR

ATTENTION!
Tinkering with the default MBR and the Rescue & Recovery partition puts risk to your system. It can result in rendering the system completely unusable and severe data loss. You follow any instructions described here on your own risk.

Consideration 6 of the Readme states:

"The Master Boot Record (MBR) must be configured properly for the Rescue and Recovery application to function properly. When possible, the Rescue and Recovery application attempts to ensure the proper configuration of the MBR. This can only occur if the Rescue and Recovery application is installed after other applications that requires the MBR."

Apparently, the MBR is not "configured properly" if LILO or GRUB has been installed in it as the following is the case:

  • the default MBR seems to ignore the active bit and always boots the first partition instead
  • the default MBR contains code to catch a press of the appropriate button during bootup and boot the R&R partition in that case
  • before booting the R&R, the default MBR changes its partition type to 0x0b, otherwise it changes it to 0x12 (to hide it from Windows)
  • the R&R software assumes that the first partition contains Windows
  • the R&R partition needs to be of type 0x0b (FAT32) for the R&R software to work

Since neither LILO nor GRUB can catch the press of the button (an undocumented mechanism anyway) it is not possible to invoke Rescue and Recovery by pressing the appropriate button during system boot, once LILO or GRUB have altered the MBR for their boot procedure.

The IBM provides a program to manage the R&R MBR. It is located in C:\Program Files\IBM ThinkVantage\Common\BMGR. It can select the partition to boot, and also allows for rewriting the R&R MBR if it was overwritten.

GRUB in the MBR

You can, however, boot the Rescue and Recovery partition from within a GRUB residing in your MBR. However if you leave its partition's type to 0x12 (Compaq diagnostics), this will result in an error message "c000021a, Fatal System Error" if you try to boot it. To avoid that and to make sure the recovery partition always is of the right type, add a line to change the partition type to 0x0b to the recovery partition's entry in your /boot/grub/menu.lst. Assuming your recovery partition is the second partition, it should look like this:

 title           IBM Rescue and Recovery
 root            (hd0,1)
 parttype        (hd0,1) 0x0b
 unhide          (hd0,1)
 chainloader     +1

We also add an unhide line here because we are going to hide the recovery partition on every boot of Windows, so we need to unhide it, when the recovery partition is booted. This is because if we don't hide the partition when booting Windows, it would be visible and accessable there and that's not what we want. So, assuming that Windows is on the first partition, the Windows entry should now look like this:

 title           Windows
 root            (hd0,0)
 hide            (hd0,1)
 chainloader     +1

Now you should be able to boot the R&R partition from within GRUB, residing in your MBR.

GRUB in a partitions boot sector

A way to have your Access IBM button still functional on bootup, is to create a separate /boot partition, install GRUB to that partition and make it active.

NOTE!
If the above finding is true that the MBR ignores the active bit, that partition has to be the first one. In most recent Linux distributions - for example Ubuntu - it is not easy to create /boot as first partition and shrink Windows partition. In such case Windows XP bootloader can be used to boot Windows and Linux, preserving Access IBM functionality. See below.
  • In the BIOS, set the IBM Predesktop Area to 'Secure'.
  • Boot your Linux distribution's installation CD.
  • Follow the instructions and go through the regular installation process.
  • Create a primary partition for /boot (the other stuff can go into the extended partitions) and when the time comes to install GRUB, make sure you install it into the boot sector of the boot partition.
  • Set this partition as active. Leave the MBR alone.

Using NTLDR to boot Linux

It is possible to use Windows XP bootloader to boot also Linux installed on separate partition. This allows to preserve Access IBM functionality (as MBR is not modified), Windows XP (booted via its native bootloader) and Linux (booted from its own partition by Windows XP bootloader). A quick & dirty howto, regarding applying this procedure to Ubuntu Dapper Drake installation can be found here.

Older versions of Rescue and Recovery

Some Thinkpads (e.g., T23 and T30) do not come with a Recovery CD, but also do not support the Hidden Protected Area. These ThinkPads have an older version of Rescue and Recovery preloaded on the hard disk to implement the factory recovery function. Most of the comments above also apply to the older versions, with the following differences:

  • The recovery partition type is 0x1c, hidden FAT32, (or 0xc when unhidden).
  • The boot manager program is in C:\IBMTOOLS\RECOVERY and only runs in a 16-bit DOS environment
  • The IBM Predesktop area runs atop of Windows 98 (command-line) instead of WinPE

External Sources

Models featuring this technology

RedHat8.0, GRUB, and Win2k on T21

  • Have T21 with Win2k. No restore CD available; HD has restore partition accessed by F11 at boot.
  • Used RH80 install CD to access linux fdisk, and repartitioned; shortened the win2k partition, created partitions for linux and linux swap between win2k and restore, then aborted RH80 install.
  • Used F11 on boot to access restore partition, restored win2k in the shortened first partition.
  • Installed RH80 from CD set, including GRUB for boot manager.
  • Now find F11 option gone; no access to win2k restore partition!
  • Modify /boot/grub/grub.conf as suggested above; actually:
 title Red Hat Linux (2.4.18-14)
   parttype (hd0,2) 0x83
   root (hd0,2)
   kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.4.18-14 ro root=LABEL=/ hdc=ide-scsi
   initrd /boot/initrd-2.4.18-14.img
 title Win2k
   hide (hd0,1)
   rootnoverify (hd0,0)
   chainloader +1
 title Win2k Restore
   unhide (hd0,1)
   rootnoverify (hd0,1)
   chainloader +1
  • Finally, to remove 'cannot find command.com' error when booting to restore partition, used fdisk to modify partition table, making that partition bootable (*):
   Disk /dev/hda: 240 heads, 63 sectors, 3876 cylinders
   Units = cylinders of 15120 * 512 bytes
      Device Boot    Start       End    Blocks   Id  System
   /dev/hda1             1      3000  22679968+   c  Win95 FAT32 (LBA)
   /dev/hda2   *      3744      3875    997920   1c  Hidden Win95 FAT32 (LBA)
   /dev/hda3          3001      3663   5012280   83  Linux
   /dev/hda4          3664      3743    604800   82  Linux swap
  • During this tinkering, Linux and restore partitions began appearing as E: and F: in win2k. Stopped mounting of these during win2k boot by: control panel > admin tasks > computer mgt > storage > disk mgt. In detail (right) screen, highlight E: drive; right click > change drive letter/path. Remove drive letter. Likewise F: