Re-install Win 7 With No DVD and Replace Laptop Auto Recovery Partition

I have an Acer 4520 laptop from 2008 that came with Vista originally, installed in the 10GB hidden D2D recovery partition.

I have used Win7 64 instead for the last 4 years as Vista was generally slow and awful as everyone knows, and we got Win7 cheap as college students, so I had wiped the original Vista recovery files.

Recently I had to wipe the Win7 install under virus suspicion, but then found out my DVD reader had packed up, with the usual corrupt ATAPI Model info showing in the BIOS:

I bought a cheap replacement off Ebay, but the problem remained, indicating the controller, not the player is bad (the player may have caused the fault initially).

The BIOS may unfreeze with a removal of the CMOS battery, (the reset to BIOS defaults does not fix it with the new drive) but not worth risking permanent damage to the laptop in the dismantle process.

Now what? I don't have an external USB DVD reader, and you can't copy the install files from a Win7 install disk and boot from a floppy as DOS can't read an NTFS partition and Win7 won't install from DOS anyway. Options:

  1. You could use a bootable USB stick like my 8GB Sandisk that is formatted as a DVD, with the the Win7 install files copied to it, but I had a new Linux install on that I didn't want to lose.
  2. You could setup a linux box as a PXE boot server – time consuming and needs research.
  3. You could setup a Win 20xx server – if you have one – and use RIS/WIM imaging etc. No thanks…
  4. Replace the D2D recovery partition of the laptop with the Win7 install files using Linux. Possible? With Linux – easy!

It requires a linux install on a bootable USB drive to run on the laptop (I already have that, good!), so the laptop SATA drive can be re-partitioned with Gparted and made bootable in the manage flags menu, or use cfdisk or fdisk.

**NOTE! If you had a grub install on the drive you may have to create a NEW DOS partition first! If not, you could go through the process below and find you only boot to a broken GRUB menu and the Win setup won't start even if the partition containing the install files is made bootable using the set flags option!

Delete the whole drive, then added a 10GB partition at the beginning of the drive (seen after the event):

cfdisk /dev/sdb

The partition sdb1 is then formatted with NTFS (is ntfs-3g installed?).

apt-get install ntfs-3g

mkfs.ntfs /dev/sdb1

Now, the files from the Win7 install DVD are a copied to this partition. I have an .iso file of this Win 7 DVD on my network already, so it just needs to be mounted to see the files, either on the linux system or using Clonedrive on another PC:

To mount a .iso on a linux system, make a new suitably named directory (/7)and use the loop cmd:

mount –o loop /Win7.iso /7

ls –als /7

Now, copy all these files to the new NTFS bootable partition after mounting it somewhere:

mount –t ntfs /dev/sdb1 /mnt/

Now copy the DVD install files to the 10GB partition:

cp –vr /7/* /mnt/

Once copied, check they are there – note I'm showing this after the successful re-install so the extra files are from the working Win7 install;

Now these files are copied, the system was shutdown, so all linux drives removed then booted into BIOS (F2) and the D2D Recovery option enabled (even though this should boot to the only new bootable partition anyway): 

This will now boot to the install process for Win7. When complete you will get menu options as below. Also should you ever have to delete the C: drive windows install in future, you will have the install partition available again so not need a DVD, but you may just have to set it as bootable again, as Windows will remove this flag during it's install obviously as it makes the C: partition bootable instead.

I use gparted as the easiest linux GUI program for this. I have re-instated numerous Win PCs and laptops using this method. See below.

The EMS menu is Emergency Management Services:

If your are unfortunate enough to have a laptop that wants recovery DVDs to be made ONLY, and the process is corrupt (e.g. makes only 2 of 4 DVDs), you can boot to a Mint USB stick for example, then use Gparted to delete the Win install partition (if you want, virii etc.) or remove it's bootable flag and make the recovery partition bootable instead, as below.

When you reboot the laptop, its only option is to boot to the Recovery partition as the example above, so you should be able to get it back to factory defaults that way.

I did this with an Asus X3DC laptop and it started as when newly bought.

Right click the recovery partition to set the flags: