HP Recovery CD tricks

Saturday 16 September 2006 - Filed under Default

Who likes to pay to learn about secret options in tools you already purchased? That’s just what I did recently with HP and its recovery CDs. I present the information here so that nobody else has to pay for the secret options.

I recently had a problem using HP Recovery CDs to bring a computer back to the day it was purchased. This process is normally only used if Windows is severely damaged by a virus or hard drive failure. Therefore, you’re only using these CDs when there are no other options to fix a computer’s software state.

For the record, I was repairing an HP a730n and was met repeatedly with the error “Cannot recover file” while the initial copy operation was executing from CDs 2 through 8. I was given the option to abort, retry, or fail and usually retry would work if after a few attempts. Once I got to the end of the file copying, the recovery still failed as the copied files were attempted to be extracted. When I saw such files as cmd.exe and rundll32.dll failing, I knew the recovery was not going to work.

I then called HP and, after giving the model and serial number, was told the computer was out of warranty and that I could purchase phone support for 14 days for $45, 1 year for $99 or even 1 year of hardware replacement for $119 given that the computer is in good working order. Once I paid the $45 I was directed to a technical support rep.

He was quite helpful, telling me that the CDs need to be clean to avoid such errors(these were sparkling clean). As I started the recovery once again, I got to the first screen after CD 1 booted showing the choices: R for non-destructive recovery, F for full system recovery, or Q to quit. At this point I got my $45 dollars worth. There’s a secret option at this screen of using Ctrl-Backspace that gives 9 or 10 options to do a system recovery piece by piece.

The one he recommended was option 6, completely erase the hard drive including the recovery partition. He suspected that the recovery partition was corrupt and that the recovery CDs use that partition in some way. Doesn’t make sense to me but I think the secret option is useful and should be not secret anymore. That’s why I’m blogging it here. If you ever have to do an HP recovery and it doesn’t work, try Ctrl-Backspace on the first screen. It might just save you $45 or more.

2006-09-16  »  David Sterry

Talkback x 12

  1. Rick in CT
    26 December 2006 @ 10:31 pm

    I stumbled on your blog during my search for HP Recovery tips. Many of your postings sound very interesting. I also have Sun Rocket. I just completed my first year, with a few minor bumps in service, but overall, considering the great price, I love Sun Rocket.

    My question, is, I have a similar problem with HP Recovery posted at, and at

    Did the hidden option work for your HP Recovery problem?

    Thanks, Rick

  2. MR. G
    8 January 2007 @ 8:06 pm

    Thank you David! I was having the same problem and was just about to call HP.

  3. Marcel
    3 February 2007 @ 8:15 pm

    Thanks for this. Companies like HP just love ripping ppl off, and it’s nice of you to share the info.

  4. David
    4 February 2007 @ 6:11 am

    Thanks to each of you for your comments. I have a mind to write about another of my ideas which is to advocate that all customer service scripts be made available to the public. There’s no reason I can’t troubleshoot my own stuff without being on the phone for 2 hours with customer service.

  5. Felipe Alvarez
    23 February 2007 @ 3:45 am

    You can visit the following URL which outlines the “secret” of Ctrl+Backspace.

  6. Anonymous
    6 July 2007 @ 1:49 pm

    Is there a way to run HP Recovery without losing my Quicken files, uploaded videos, and Outlook emails downloaded off the server?

  7. Anonymous
    16 August 2007 @ 2:28 pm

    when i purchase my hp media center m200y, i forgot to make recovery disc,and my computer now is error. i do contact hp, but they asked me to pay about $35.and i dont want to pay it cause i paid my computer with a lot of money. could someone send me recovery disc. here i enclose some information
    Name : fernando sitorus
    Address : JL.H.Mahali No.50
    RT 01/04 Pondok Cina
    Depok 16424
    Cell : +62-21-81510324733
    Email :
    I will be thankfull

  8. Anonymous
    30 October 2007 @ 4:12 pm

    thanks for sharing it dave but i found that option and erased the hdd, but when it was complete i had exactly the same problem, the files wont copy from the cd. cal

  9. prralex
    25 December 2007 @ 7:17 pm

    god i’m so pissed. just to set this drive up
    what a pain in the ass. had to download winpe
    boot cd offa internet. install xp 2x just to
    get to this picture. But a freash formated
    partition for the stupid hp restore stuff
    to install back on. another 5 hour wait for
    stuff to find out or not if hacked.. sigh.
    and i manually formated instead of quick formated.
    another 15min of my life wasted. sigh. xp setup
    is excrutiating compared to 98. hurry up and
    wait all over again. hate to have to reboot in
    the middle of whatever just to do the thingymbober
    but progress. seems i just needed this winpe boot cd.
    sigh. hope i can get the boot menu to work the old
    ‘f10’ everyone is talking about. but still through
    it all is the feeling that it is all still immaculate
    and sitting there with 7gigs of junk software..
    doing nothing.. and i’m like mining it out by hand.

    lord o land o lifting.

    format 25 gigs the hard way. 66% now. god will
    it never end? well at least up to this point has
    been painless. 74% seems all i do is wayt for stuff
    to happyn. last 20% it seems to take forever. sigh.
    watching numbers tick off. seems to be the shortcut
    to instand self hypnosis.. as the mind starts grabbing
    onto anything it can find to offset the boring mind
    knumbing numbness of it all. at last 95%.. it’s almost
    over i think. damn you bill gates and you devotion to
    making us wait. shell a poker game in somehow someway..
    painfull to watch thesesseseseses longer and longer

    here we are again i think. 2:30am in the morning.. and i’m running the “hp pc system recovery” again. 20min of my life sigh. think it had a prob with the boot.ini etc. also ran bsupdater.. which popped off no prob .. so maybe.. just maybe i’ll be looking at a working copy of winxp hp style. god i hope it doesn’t get all picky about the boot image. sigh. gotta admit.. as a repair console this winpe.iso i found seems to fit the bill as in terms of its effectiveness. sigh. i just know this isn’t going to work in the end. sigh. i just know it. heh. but at least i got to watch a couple of neat progress bars go by. sigh.

    hmm. i did notice that i ran the recovery proggie from the i386 folder, not the minint folder. prob will work out ok anyway. sigh hope it boots. sigh.

    heh. here’s the next ‘something’. after creating an logical partition in a extended unpartitioned space.. didn’t know i had to set the primary partition to be the active one. sigh. maybe this is why it didn’t boot. i did this time. cross fingers.. that it works maybe. shrug. i dunno. not like i’m doing anything illegal here. it’s a $100 computer what do you want?

    oh wait. maybe i have to rehide the restore partition and swap somehow soas the logical drive becomes the boot drive. shake my head slowly at the outlook here. just don’t know if it will work or not. think it might not matter as if afore mentioned active partition thingy works out. and i did do the bootsectore restore as well. so maybe even the f10 thing might work. sigh if only. then maybe might be another 20min re restoring again!! sigh.

    and it only dumps out 5gigs of software when it is done. what a gype. 🙂 time is now 2:40 in the am. sigh. don’t seem to want to sleep much. guess i find this kinda stuff interesting. plus got cbc in the am christmas morning. so maybe a special time for me. like a power time or something. not quite sure .. what am i supposed to be feeling? am i happy? not really. just feel blocked migraine headachey. the ruff curled edges. grate against my sinuses. mostly on my right side of my face. like the world is pushing way to hard on me to succeed at what i will never understand or possibly comprehend. all i seem to stand for is ‘f”d over.
    heh. almost killed me that time. had to boot into puppy linux just to set the flag on the hidden hp recovery partition. this time when the computer booted up.. the ntfs partition that i had just added as a primary, not logical.. sigh. 3 time is the charm.. and right off the bat i knew i had won. 🙂 the recovery partition showed up as d:. which i knew i could hide later… but that gave me access to the recovery software yet again. and we are looking at just as long as the last time.. but at least now i had a receptive partition.. something that would hold the active boot load init.. straight from the first sector ala professional like. and i left me some 5 gig space for elive and maybe a mini puppy linux install dunno. see how i feel. maybe 4 and 1 gig’s apeice. hmmm. sounds right.

    gosh this feels so good. like a baseball sinking into mitt. a satisfied knowing of a good catch.


    it is officially 3:24am in the christmas am.

    ok… 3:42am.. and i’m gonna reboot this monkey!!
    wish me luck sigh…


    heh, ok, guess what. on reboot got a code purple alert. what ever that was. ran (oh yes .. again) xp home setup and was able to repair the installed partition.

    how to make the c:restore partition go back to d: (and later hide it). boot linux .. i used puppylinux. 2.15ced. fire up cfdisk /dev/hda.. change the type to 0x12 (compaq hidden partition).. reboot. heh. now that you can’t find it.. reboot linux. change it back to 0b (fat32) and reboot your winpe.iso.. voila! c: is now d:, and you are left with the secondary partition you created.

    .. i don’t think there are any excessive copy protection in effect other than locating a winpe.iso to fire up the recovery prog software. oh and of course the dance around not being able to make a logical drive a bootable partition. also very much fun to set up using diskpart. sigh.

    cross posted at:

  10. Anonymous
    11 March 2008 @ 6:45 am

    Hi there,

    I need some help with HP pavilion notebook.

    Recently I had crashed my HDD with Ubuntu Linux installation. After alot of struggle with several SW, I’ve been able to restore Windows using an old image created with Norton Ghost.

    However, I wish to restore my recovery partition which was erased. I had this partition cloned on a USB HDD but I don’t know how to restore it in a way it becomes bootable.

    I tried to copy it to a primary FAT32 partiotion and set it active but it still won’t boot.

    Is there a way to boot this partition so I can restore my computer to it’s original state?

    Thanks in advance,

  11. David
    11 March 2008 @ 6:54 am


    I would suggest ordering replacement CD/DVD from HP. Then you can use the trick mentioned in this article to access all the features of that disk. One of them is to recreate the recovery partition if I recall correctly. To be honest, you’re probably better off installing Fedora 8 or Ubuntu or OpenSUSE. Linux is better and any investment you make in it will pay you back tenfold.


  12. Aaron R
    27 April 2008 @ 9:05 am

    this worked on my gateway desktop gm5084, I will follow up if I have any sucess, I wonder why this is such a secret.

    aaron R