How to restore when partition structure is modified? (and how to stop Windows from doing this?)


How to restore when partition structure is modified? (and how to stop...
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JK
JK
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I'm finally deciding to restore my Windows 10 OS (because things have seemed "off" since a recent version upgrade; last straw was my %userprofile% directory suddenly became hidden).  However, I discovered that the Windows upgrade also has modified my partition structure, by carving out 684 MB from by C: partition to create a new recovery partition (I discovered this because Macrium Reflect created a Full image when I tried to generate one last Incremental before starting the restore).

Question 1: What is the correct procedure for restoring, when the partition structure no longer matches what was there when I created the image that I plan to restore from?  Do I first need to delete the unwanted recovery partition and expand my C: partition back to its original size?  I have no interest in keeping the recovery partition, because I assume I can use the Macrium Reflect rescue media instead.

Question 2: Any suggestions for how to prevent this from happening again in the future?  If Windows updates (which are frequent) can randomly shrink my C: partition, this will interfere with my ability to create incremental and differential images.  I read that new recovery partitions are created if existing recovery partitions are too small (in my case there was no prior recovery partition).  Thus, can I expand the size of the current recovery partition (to 1-2GB maybe) and move it to the end of the unallocated space on the disk, to prevent Windows updates from stealing space from the C: partition? (maybe starting to get too much off topic, but if I do move the recovery partition, would I also have to edit the BCD?)
Edited 18 June 2021 5:48 PM by JK
JK
JK
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I dug around found two old threads (1, 2) that describe the source of the problem and confirmed the effect I observed on the ability to create diffs & incrementals.  However, unless I read too quickly, I didn't see any solution to my two problems:

  1. How do I proceed with my system restore now?  (e.g., is it OK to delete the unwanted recovery partition -- which it seems can be done from within the Reflect restore process, or do I first need to do something like reagentc /disable?)
  2. Any advice for how to prevent future Windows updates from altering the C: partition size?
Thanks!
jphughan
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If you want to restore a source partition to replace a destination partition that is a different size and/or is not located in the same spot on the disk, then drag and drop each source partition you want to restore onto the destination partition you want to restore over.

I wouldn't bother deleting the Windows Recovery partition, because I don't know of a way to prevent Windows from creating it whenever you install a future Windows 10 feature release update, which would include resizing C if needed to add space to the Recovery partition.  And in some scenarios, including but maybe not limited to BitLocker on at least some systems, the Recovery partition may be necessary for booting.  I think on UEFI systems the necessary files to unlock a BitLockered Windows partition are stored on the EFI partition, but again even if you don't have a use for the Recovery partition, you're going to be fighting this battle constantly, at least unless Microsoft changes something.  And in fairness, the Recovery partition does have some useful functionality, such as being able to run System Restore or uninstall specific Windows updates.  So if you ever find yourself not having an especially recent Reflect backup, or potentially not wanting to roll back ALL contents of your C partition by using a Reflect restore, the tools available on the Windows Recovery partition may be useful to you.

Edited 18 June 2021 7:53 PM by jphughan
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Thank you.  To follow up, though, to prevent future Windows updates from resizing the C: partition, I am trying to figure out the best way to increase the size of the recovery partition (or whether this strategy would even work).

I started out with the following partition structure: ESP; MSR; C (200.00GB); D; Unused.

The Windows update changed it to: ESP; MSR; C (199.34GB); Recovery (684MB); D; Unused.

I want to change it to: ESP; MSR; C (200.00GB); Recovery (2GB); D; Unused.

(I would actually prefer to move the recovery partition to the end --after the Unused space-- but I'm afraid the next Windows update will not honor that location and instead create a new Recovery partition right between C & D; so I think the above arrangement is my best bet.) 

I do have AOMEI Partition Assistant, but can some of the above be accomplished in Macrium Reflect?  Does anybody have experience with moving partition locations (my scheme above moves the offset of D: to make room for the larger Recovery partition) using AOMEI Partition Assistant (or Reflect, if applicable)?  Is this a robust methods, or is it best to restore an image of D: into the repositioned partition if I want to ensure my data will not suffer any corruption, or unnecessary fragmentation, etc.?


jphughan
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I’ve done that with Reflect. A screenshot of your current layout is normally useful to provide for stuff like this, but basically you’d back up your Recovery partition, then delete it (use “delete partition override” in Diskpart), shrink C by the desired amount, create a new partition that fills the newly larger empty space (no need to format it), then restore the Recovery partition image backup onto that larger partition (use drag and drop).

Yes, Windows always creates a Recovery partition after your C drive. It assumes that that’s the one you’d want to shrink if needed. So if you put it at the end of the disk and every need a larger one, you’ll end up with a second one.
Edited 18 June 2021 10:17 PM by jphughan
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I think you already answered, but FWIW, here's my attempt at pasting the screenshot:



In my case, I want to expand both C: and the (unlabeled) recovery partition.  The part I am nervous about is shifting the offset of D: (my data partition).  The 6th partition ("Testing") is unimportant -- I plan to delete it.
jphughan
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If you want to extend both C and the Recovery partition, rather than taking space away from C to create more space for the Recovery partition, then if you were only to use Reflect, you'd have to delete both the Recovery partition and the D partition, extend C as desired, create a new unformatted partition for Recovery, restore the Recovery partition into that, and then restore D.  If you don't want to do that, then you'd have to use a live partition management tool such as AOMEI -- but Reflect won't do that.  It doesn't do partition management outside of a clone/restore operation.

JK
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If I change the location (offset) of the Recovery partition (either using Reflect, Windows Disk Management, or AOMEI), will the bootloader have any problems finding it at the new location?  When the recovery partition was created by the Windows upgrade, it also created a hidden system file C:\$WINRE_BACKUP_PARTITION.MARKER.  Does this file somehow point to the location (offset) of the Recovery partition, and if so, cold there be problems if I shift the start of the Recovery partition to the right?
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As far as i know, the Recovery partition is only identified by partition number, so as long as you don't reorder your partitions, I don't think the offset matters.  And in fact unlike MBR disks where bootloader code is stored in the first few sectors of the partition, GPT disks used by UEFI-based systems use bootloader files, which is why UEFI systems need to have support for the actual file system of the partition they're booting from.  The one thing I'd check after performing a restore is "ReagentC /info".  If that shows Windows RE as still enabled, you should be fine.  And if it doesn't, it would be fixable anyway.  You'd just temporarily assign the Recovery partition a drive letter (which can be done in AOMEI or Diskpart), then use ReagentC /setreimage to re-specify that Recovery partition as your WinRE partition, and from there you should be good

Edited 20 June 2021 4:18 PM by jphughan
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Thanks for the tip about ReagentC /info.  If I wanted a more rigorous test, how do I go about actually booting into the Recovery partition's WinRE OS (i.e., if I ever needed to use the Recovery partition, how does one do this)?  And if this requires reconfiguring the bootloader, how do I undo my changes after I conclude the test?
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