Sometimes referred to as the recovery partition and restore partition, the hidden partition is a special section set aside on OEM computer hard drives. Manufacturer's like Acer, ASUS, Dell, eMachine, HP (Compaq), and IBM computers use this section of memory to hold the information used to restore your computer back to its factory settings. This feature is especially useful because it does not require the operating system's CD or DVD.
Hidden partitions are accessed either through a pre-installed Windows application or by pressing a specific key combination as the computer boots up. If your computer didn't come with a hidden partition or its been deleted, the only way to restore your computer is with a Windows CD. However, a boot disc only installs Windows and no additional software or drivers.
Accessing the hidden partition by manufacturer
Before proceeding, make sure any USB devices and drives are disconnected and that the optical disc tray is empty. Then, select your manufacturer from the list below and press the appropriate key or key combination repeatedly until your machine enters the hidden partition's menu.
- Alt+F10 - This key combination will access Acer disk-to-disk (D2D) recovery partition. Note: you may need to enable the D2D option in BIOS setup. See: How to enter and exit the BIOS or CMOS setup.
- F9 - Access ASUS EEE PC hidden partition.
- F10 or F11 - Access the Compaq (Hewlett Packard) recovery partition.
- Ctrl+F11 or F8 - Access Dell computers' DSR (Dell System Restore partition).
- F11 or Alt+F10 - Access eMachine option to restore a backup copy.
- F11 - Access Gateway hidden restore partition.
- F11 - Access Lenovo hidden recovery partition.
- F10 - Access Sony hidden restore partition.
- 0 (zero key) or F8 - Access Toshiba hidden partition.
Non-destructive, or full system restore?
If your computer has a non-destructive system restore option (or something similarly named), we suggest trying it first. A non-destructive system restore may resolve Windows related problems without erasing your files, such as family photos. If you must use a full system restore, save anything you do not want to be erased, as this process eradicates everything except for the basic operating system.