WINRE Location


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capair45
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Please see the attached image.  Is the partition immediately following the C\ partition where the WinRE data is preloaded?  If not, is the partition something Dell uses for trouble-shooting? 


Just curious...


Windows 10 Home (2004)
Macrium Reflect 7.2.5107
Windows Defender
Malwarebytes Premium 4.2


Edited 2 September 2020 9:07 PM by capair45
jphughan
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Yes, the partition after C appears to be your WinRE partition.  If you want to confirm, open an elevated Command Prompt and enter "reagentc /info" and check the partition number in the path.  The last partition on your disk appears to be a Dell factory state image.  It's strange that you have a small Diags partition on a GPT disk given that diagnostics are embedded into the UEFI firmware, and its location is also strange, since Microsoft's guidance is that the MSR partition (Partition 3 in your case) is supposed to be located immediately after the EFI partition (Partition 1 in your case).  The sizing is also a bit strange.  The default sizes for the EFI and MSR partitions these days are 100 MB and 16 MB, respectively -- except for 4Kn drives, where the EFI partition recommendation is 260 MB.  But 4Kn drives are still relatively rare.  The MSR partition recommendation used to be 128 MB, but Microsoft dropped it to 16 MB with Windows 10.  More detail here if you're curious.

capair45
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jphughan - 2 September 2020 10:15 PM
Yes, the partition after C appears to be your WinRE partition.  If you want to confirm, open an elevated Command Prompt and enter "reagentc /info" and check the partition number in the path.  The last partition on your disk appears to be a Dell factory state image.  It's strange that you have a small Diags partition on a GPT disk given that diagnostics are embedded into the UEFI firmware, and its location is also strange, since Microsoft's guidance is that the MSR partition (Partition 3 in your case) is supposed to be located immediately after the EFI partition (Partition 1 in your case).  The sizing is also a bit strange.  The default sizes for the EFI and MSR partitions these days are 100 MB and 16 MB, respectively -- except for 4Kn drives, where the EFI partition recommendation is 260 MB.  But 4Kn drives are still relatively rare.  The MSR partition recommendation used to be 128 MB, but Microsoft dropped it to 16 MB with Windows 10.  More detail here if you're curious.

It looks like Partition 7 contains WinRE.  Is that right?


Windows 10 Home (2004)
Macrium Reflect 7.2.5107
Windows Defender
Malwarebytes Premium 4.2


jphughan
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That's not what I would have expected.  I suppose it's possible that Dell set up their own WinRE environment on their factory image partition, possibly to incorporate whatever application would be used to restore that image if ever desired.  I've seen some Dell systems have yet another partition called SupportAssist, which (I believe) contains that image restore tool and possibly tools to allow remote access to a system even if its regular Windows environment is unbootable.  I suppose you could try forcing your system to boot into WinRE to see what it looks like, although if Dell did configure Windows to use a customized WinRE build, I'm not sure if Windows would update it as you installed Windows 10 feature releases.  Maybe it would if that's the "registered" WinRE path, though.  I'm not sure since I've never looked into it.  Whenever I get a system, I immediately wipe the disk and perform a clean install from unmodified Microsoft-sourced Windows installation media, so I only ever have the default partition layout plus a Data partition on systems where I want one.

capair45
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jphughan - 2 September 2020 10:27 PM
That's not what I would have expected.  I suppose it's possible that Dell set up their own WinRE environment on their factory image partition, possibly to incorporate whatever application would be used to restore that image if ever desired.  I've seen some Dell systems have yet another partition called SupportAssist, which (I believe) contains that image restore tool and possibly tools to allow remote access to a system even if its regular Windows environment is unbootable.  I suppose you could try forcing your system to boot into WinRE to see what it looks like, although if Dell did configure Windows to use a customized WinRE build, I'm not sure if Windows would update it as you installed Windows 10 feature releases.  Maybe it would if that's the "registered" WinRE path, though.  I'm not sure since I've never looked into it.  Whenever I get a system, I immediately wipe the disk and perform a clean install from unmodified Microsoft-sourced Windows installation media, so I only ever have the default partition layout plus a Data partition on systems where I want one.


I believe this DELL desktop was purchased from Amazon with Windows 8.1 installed.  At some point I used the entitlement (free) upgrade to Windows 10.  I can't explain the partition placement or partition sizes.  I have never attempted any moving or resizing operations. As far as I know, it's just as it was when it was loaded with the original Windows 10.

I did try booting into WinRE using Shift + Restart.  Looks exactly like the interface I would have expected.

If Partition 7 is indeed WinRE, I wonder what #6 is?


Windows 10 Home (2004)
Macrium Reflect 7.2.5107
Windows Defender
Malwarebytes Premium 4.2


Edited 2 September 2020 10:51 PM by capair45
jphughan
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I think I may have the answer.  Reflect seems to number partitions from left to right, whereas the Diskpart tool built into Windows -- and therefore possibly ReagentC -- seems to number partitions in the order in which they were created.  Those are often the same, but not always.  In the screenshot below, I created a virtual disk and created two partitions on it, then I shrank Partition 1 to create unallocated space between those two partitions, and finally created a new partition in that gap.  As you can see, Reflect numbers these partitions straight across from left to right, but Diskpart numbers them 1, 3, 2 -- in the order they were created.  So if that Windows Recovery partition was created (or deleted and recreated) after that factory image partition, which with Windows 10 feature updates is likely, then it's possible that the WinRE partition immediately after your C partition is in fact Partition 7 as far as Windows is concerned, even if Reflect calls it Partition 6.

(In another strange and potentially confusion-inducing difference, Reflect starts its disk numbering at 1, even though Windows starts it at 0, so Disk 2 in Reflect is Disk 1 in Windows.  But it's not just Reflect that's guilty of this type of behavior.  Windows isn't consistent within itself.  It starts disk numbering at 0, but partition numbering at 1.  And Disk Management hides the MSR partition on GPT disks entirely.  I seem to remember that Diskpart used to do that as well, although on my Win10 2004 system, Diskpart does include it in the output of "list partition" for such disks.)

Screenshot:


capair45
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jphughan - 2 September 2020 11:09 PM
I think I may have the answer.  Reflect seems to number partitions from left to right, whereas the Diskpart tool built into Windows -- and therefore possibly ReagentC -- seems to number partitions in the order in which they were created.  Those are often the same, but not always.  In the screenshot below, I created a virtual disk and created two partitions on it, then I shrank Partition 1 to create unallocated space between those two partitions, and finally created a new partition in that gap.  As you can see, Reflect numbers these partitions straight across from left to right, but Diskpart numbers them 1, 3, 2 -- in the order they were created.  So if that Windows Recovery partition was created (or deleted and recreated) after that factory image partition, which with Windows 10 feature updates is likely, then it's possible that the WinRE partition immediately after your C partition is in fact Partition 7 as far as Windows is concerned, even if Reflect calls it Partition 6.

(In another strange and potentially confusion-inducing difference, Reflect starts its disk numbering at 1, even though Windows starts it at 0, so Disk 2 in Reflect is Disk 1 in Windows.  But it's not just Reflect that's guilty of this type of behavior.  Windows isn't consistent within itself.  It starts disk numbering at 0, but partition numbering at 1.  And Disk Management hides the MSR partition on GPT disks entirely.  I seem to remember that Diskpart used to do that as well, although on my Win10 2004 system, Diskpart does include it in the output of "list partition" for such disks.)

Screenshot:

You may very well be right regarding Reflect numbering and DiskPart numbering.  Your test would seem to confirm that.
I knew about the disk numbering confusion but looks like I've carried it one step further.

For kicks, I booted up my Windows 10 2004 DELL laptop and took a couple screenshots.  To add to the confusion, Reflect shows Partition 4 clearly as WinRE Tools but reagent shows partition 6 as where WinRE calls home.  This was also an 8.1 (then 10) machine with Windows 10 feature update 2004 completed a few weeks ago.  Maybe the same numbering issue as my DELL desktop.






Windows 10 Home (2004)
Macrium Reflect 7.2.5107
Windows Defender
Malwarebytes Premium 4.2


Edited 2 September 2020 11:37 PM by capair45
jphughan
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That’s a very strange layout. From Windows 7 (maybe even Vista?) through Win10 1909, the default partition layout for a clean install was to place the Recovery partition at the beginning of the disk, before the EFI and MSR partitions on UEFI systems. Starting with Win10 2004, the default became to place it after the Windows partition, since that’s where Win10 was creating new larger partitions when needed anyway. I’ve never seen a system that placed it directly BEFORE the Windows partition but AFTER the EFI and MSR partitions. But that layout could certainly be achieved manually, so maybe Dell did that for a while.

The twist here is that I can’t think of a scenario where that Recovery partition would be Partition 6 in order of creation. When a partition is shrunk, the freed up space is made available at the end, meaning to the right of it. So there’s no plausible scenario where enough space to create that Recovery partition in that location was automatically created after the fact. The only consistent factor here is that ReagentC on both of your systems points to a partition number that Reflect assigns to that Dell PBR partition. So maybe that is in fact the location of the active WinRE file. I didn’t actually test whether ReagentC numbers partitions by position or in order of creation because creating the conditions to have that disparity on a WinRE partition would involve more setup.
capair45
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Last question:  When booting into WinRE (shift-restart), is there any way to tell which partition WinRE is actually booting from?
As always, thanks for being here for everyone and giving so much of your time to help.


Windows 10 Home (2004)
Macrium Reflect 7.2.5107
Windows Defender
Malwarebytes Premium 4.2


jphughan
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Happy to help!  I don't think there's a way to do that, since a booted WinRE WIM is actually running from a RAM-hosted virtual disk that contains the extracted contents of the WIM file it booted from.  So it's not actually running from any particular partition at that point.  (This incidentally is why it's possible to boot into Rescue Media and then disconnect the flash drive or remove the disc you booted from, which can be handy when dealing with systems that only have a single USB port or when you need to use that optical drive to restore from a backup stored on optical media.)

One way you might be able to rule out one partition or the other as a possibility would be to assign each of those partitions a drive letter using Diskpart, then set Windows Explorer to show hidden files and NOT hide "protected operating system files", and finally launch a file browser like Explorer++ as administrator so that you can browse those folders without encountering permissions errors.  Then use that to browse those two partitions.  If one of them does NOT contain a \Recovery\WindowsRE folder path, then it can't be the WinRE partition because the ReagentC output clearly identifies that as the folder path.  If both of them contain that path and a WinRE.wim file in that folder, then I suppose one option would be to temporarily rename the WinRE.wim file on one of the partitions and see if WinRE breaks.  If it does, then that was your WinRE location. Smile

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