Featuring: WIM-images and Diskpart
When I first bought my netbook from Acer it came with the Windows 7 Starter Edition. Luckily for me I had an extra Home Premium license I could use. Problem was that the graphics driver needed was not available for download, and was not available through Windows. A fact I only discovered once I had re-installed windows. Another irritating thing I discovered was that the bundled software that was pre-installed with my windows starter edition, did not run anymore.
The solution? The hidden recovery partition.
Most new computers today comes with pre-installed Windows and bundled software. These licenses or programs does not come with an installation disk, package or user-manuals. Instead the setup files (or recovery disk) is stored in a hidden partition on your hard-drive, together with various extra drivers and tweak files. At the end of this article I will show you where to look for the files and how to retrieve them, but first lets unhide the partition. To unlock or get access to this hidden partition we need to unhide it. This can be achieved using the built-in DiskPart Tool. You can choose to get access to the disk on a one-time basis or permanently assigning a drive letter for it. In most cases you are able to assign a drive letter using the Windows Disk management tool. The Recovery Partition is normally set to have no drive letter by default. We can override this feature by using Diskpart.
Diskpart is a Command Line Utility which allows us to control every disk and partition on our system. We have shown you different uses for this tool on occasion, and this time we will use it to get access to the hidden partition. To make a hidden partition available we need to assign a drive letter, and this is how:
- Click Start-button and type
DISKPARTand press Enter.
- Click OK when the UAC prompt you
- In the Diskpart Dialogue Window, type:
list diskThis will show you a list of the disks installed on your computer.
Select Disk 0(where zero is the disk we want to use, if you have more that one disk you might want to try accessing one by one until you find the right one)
List Partition.You will see a list of all partitions on the drive, in my case there are two. One large and one small. The small one is the one we want to change. You can also identify the hidden partition by the fact that there are no drive letter assigned to it.
Select Partition 1(Where 1 represent your partition)
AssignIf successful you should get an Auto-run dialogue.
Exitto close the Diskpart Tool.
Hidden on reboot…
On some computers the partition will be hidden again on the next boot. This is due to a setting called “nodefaultdriveletter”, which tells windows that the partition is to be hidden by default. If you would like to keep the partition visible, you will have to change the setting.
- Open the Diskpart tool
Select Disk 0
Select Partition 1(Replace 1 with the corresponding letter)
Detail PartitionThis will display the settings for your partition. If the Type is set to 27 the partition is set as hidden.
- Try one of the following commands:
Set ID=07 OVERRIDE
attributes volume clear hidden
Assignto assign a drive letter.
Exitto close the Diskpart Tool.
The next time you boot your computer the partition will still be visible.
Looking through the Recovery Partition Folder
Now it’s time to do a bit of digging inside the Folders. The location of drivers and software will vary depending on your brand or computer type. In my case, everything I need is hidden inside the ACER-HQ1 folder. You will see many different folders containing everything from Windows Recovery or setup-files, drivers and the licensed software that came bundled with your computer. The content of these folders will most likely be WIM-files or images. The Windows Imaging Format (WIM) is a file-based disk image format (like ISO, RAR and ZIP). It was developed by Microsoft to deploy its latest Windows operating system releases, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, which use it as part of their standard installation procedure. It works equally well with older versions of Windows.
To access the contents the WIM-files you need a WIM capable reader. I suggest you use WinMount which works similar to WinRAR, but allow you to mount WIM-images temporarily.
Inside a WIM-image you will usually find 2 folders and a xml-file (it may vary). Usually the content you seek is within the folder named 1 (one). After mounting you might need to copy the contents to a new folder before installing the program or driver. Once you have done that, you can install the software as you please.
Bundled software licenses
In order to make sure you don’t install the bundled software onto other computers most setup files have a CMD-file attached to it. This is a scriptfile that will check the identity of your computer before allowing the setup to start. Delete this file to avoid it from running.
The serial is usually found inside an INI-file or a XML-file. And that should be all you need to know. Good Luck