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Creating a Dell diagnostic partition on a bare hard drive

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Anonymous
March 15, 2005 3:34:28 AM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

Yes, you can create a Dell diagnostic partition on a bare hard drive. Or at
least I can. Or I did, and I can do it again, sometimes.

First, I tried with a pair of Dell Latitude notebooks, a C810 and a C840. The
user's guides give a clue that it is not possible, because they tell you to run
the diagnostics from either floppy or CD-ROM. No mention at all of diagnostic
partitions. The basic problem here is that the notebooks' BIOS does not give
enough menu choices for the F12 key boot menu. The choice to boot the
diagnostics is missing on these models.

However, I did succeed with a Dell Precision 360 for which one of my clients
wanted a larger hard disk than originally installed. Here's what I did using a
Windows 98 boot disk, RANISH partition editor, a CD burner on another system, a
download of the appropriate diagnostics from the Dell web site, and my own bare
hands.

1. Create a primary DOS partition on the drive using FDISK. I picked a
partition size of 40MB, but if you want to put more stuff in this partition,
make it larger.
2. Reboot, and format the partition to boot up Windows 98 with the command
FORMAT C: /S
3. Burn a CD with the unzipped diagnostics for your model of Dell computer.
Add a reboot command plus any other software you want on the partition.
4. Copy the contents of the CD to the C: drive of your target system. You can
organize the diagnostic partition with folders (directories) if you'd like.
5. Using the Win 98 EDIT command, create an AUTOEXEC.BAT text file something
like:
echo off
delldiags
reboot
and save the file as C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT . The three commands shown here assume
that both the Dell diagnostics and the reboot command are in the root directory
of the C: drive.
6. Reboot the system and make sure this all works, because it is a pain in the
ass to go back and fix it up. But it can be done. If you don't like what you
see, fix it now and test again before changing the partition type.
7. Run the RANISH partition editor (or PTEDIT), change the partition type to
0xDE (that's hexadecimal DE), make the partition NOT bootable, and save the new
partition sector.
8. Install your favorite operating system.
9. Now when you press the F12 key to see the boot options, one of them should be
menu choice #8 to access the diagnostic partition.

A couple of comments:

The tools to do this are pretty simple, but it really does help to know DOS
commands. More important than the tools, get things done in the right order.

The Ranish partition editor is an old-style DOS menu-based editor, but it does
work well. PTEDIT has a Windows look-and-feel, but it is downright crippled if
you don't load up a DOS-based mouse driver before using it... Ben Myers
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 3:34:29 AM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

On Tue, 15 Mar 2005 00:34:28 GMT, ben_myers_spam_me_not @ charter.net
(Ben Myers) wrote:

>Yes, you can create a Dell diagnostic partition on a bare hard drive. Or at
>least I can. Or I did, and I can do it again, sometimes.
>
>


Isn't all this about the same thing as setting up a dual boot
situation and putting into the first partition, the files you want to
run? And instead of fdisk, I think Partition Magic is preferred now
but thats assuming cost isn't an issue.

I too started in dos and agree that even nowadays it helps to remember
the old days. Frankly I'm a bit rusty in some of the old dos things I
did (low levels, high levels, batch programming, etc..) but it's good
to have started in dos and them moved into windows. I've seen people
who just started in windows and when in trouble, have no clue what to
do outside windows.
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 5:38:04 AM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

<ben_myers_spam_me_not @ charter.net (Ben Myers)> wrote:
> The Ranish partition editor is an old-style DOS menu-based editor,
> but it does work well. PTEDIT has a Windows look-and-feel, but it
> is downright crippled if you don't load up a DOS-based mouse driver
> before using it... Ben Myers

Oh, yeah--I forgot to mention that. My autoexec.bat always loads a DOS
mouse driver, so I tend to forget what it's like trying to use ptedit
without a mouse. <blush>
Related resources
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 8:10:47 AM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

It's a little different than a straight dual boot. The partition type is not
standard. The dual boot depends on the system BIOS recognizing the non-standard
partition type. To do it absolutely right, the diagnostic partition must be
created before the operating system partition... Ben Myers

On Mon, 14 Mar 2005 22:12:34 -0600, Patrick wrote:

>On Tue, 15 Mar 2005 00:34:28 GMT, ben_myers_spam_me_not @ charter.net
>(Ben Myers) wrote:
>
>>Yes, you can create a Dell diagnostic partition on a bare hard drive. Or at
>>least I can. Or I did, and I can do it again, sometimes.
>>
>>
>
>
>Isn't all this about the same thing as setting up a dual boot
>situation and putting into the first partition, the files you want to
>run? And instead of fdisk, I think Partition Magic is preferred now
>but thats assuming cost isn't an issue.
>
>I too started in dos and agree that even nowadays it helps to remember
>the old days. Frankly I'm a bit rusty in some of the old dos things I
>did (low levels, high levels, batch programming, etc..) but it's good
>to have started in dos and them moved into windows. I've seen people
>who just started in windows and when in trouble, have no clue what to
>do outside windows.
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 8:10:48 AM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

On Tue, 15 Mar 2005 05:10:47 GMT, ben_myers_spam_me_not @ charter.net
(Ben Myers) wrote:

>It's a little different than a straight dual boot. The partition type is not
>standard. The dual boot depends on the system BIOS recognizing the non-standard
>partition type. To do it absolutely right, the diagnostic partition must be
>created before the operating system partition... Ben Myers
>


Is this non-standard partition a hidden partition?
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 12:44:35 PM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

Ben Myers wrote:
> It's a little different than a straight dual boot. The partition type is not
> standard. The dual boot depends on the system BIOS recognizing the non-standard
> partition type. To do it absolutely right, the diagnostic partition must be
> created before the operating system partition... Ben Myers
>

Although it wouldn't have suited Ben's purpose (setting up the system
like it is from the factory), it's fairly simple procedure if you go the
dual boot route. Simply create a DOS partition, copy all the recovery
files there, and use a boot loader like Grub to access the partition
(instead of booting with F12). Assuming the partition is on the primary
master first partition, the grub entry is simply:

title Dell Utility
rootnoverify (hd0,0)
chainloader +1
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 1:53:44 PM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

<Patrick> wrote:
> Isn't all this about the same thing as setting up a dual boot situation
....
>
> > It's a little different than a straight dual boot. The partition type
> > is not standard. The dual boot depends on the system BIOS
> > recognizing the non-standard partition type.
>
> Is this non-standard partition a hidden partition?

Essentially, yeah, it's a kind of dualboot (though not that dopey scheme
Microsoft calls a dualboot). But instead of using an external boot manager,
the boot menu is built into the bios, and unlike an external boot manager
the user has no control over the bios boot menu. The built-in menu is
already there in the bios, intended for Dell's special purpose. Ben is just
trying to restore Dell's special purpose so the menu option isn't orphaned.
(I'm the one who is co-opting it for additional purposes.)

Note it's the partition table indicator that's non-standard, not the actual
partition itself (which is a standard FAT16 partition). The non-standard
partition-type indicator in the partition table has the effect of making the
partition "hidden" to normal operating systems in other partitions. That's
no different than how standard boot managers or partition managers (like
PartitionMagic) hide a partition--they just change the partition-type
indicator in the partition table to a non-standard value (though by now
they've standardized what non-standard values they use <g>). The partition
itself is never altered, only the partition table. Any non-standard value
will effectively hide a partition, but Dell has chosen to use 0xDE because
nobody else uses it, and thus they can customize their bios to look for it.
Dell does this deliberately so it doesn't interfere with the main OS when
Windows boots normally.

Note that "hidden" has always been something of a misnomer--a better term is
"disguised". Even when standard boot managers or partition managers (like
PartitionMagic) "hide" a partition, that doesn't make it invisible to
Windows--Windows knows it's there, but the non-standard partition-type
indicator fools Windows into not trying to read or use it. Look at a hidden
partition in XP's Disk Management snap-in and it will be there, but it will
be listed as "(Unknown Partition)" and won't have a drive letter.
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 1:53:45 PM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

On Tue, 15 Mar 2005 10:53:44 GMT, "dg1261" <dgREMOVE-THIS1261@cs.com>
wrote:

>
><Patrick> wrote:
>> Isn't all this about the same thing as setting up a dual boot situation
>...
>>
>> > It's a little different than a straight dual boot. The partition type
>> > is not standard. The dual boot depends on the system BIOS
>> > recognizing the non-standard partition type.
>>
>> Is this non-standard partition a hidden partition?
>
>Essentially, yeah, it's a kind of dualboot (though not that dopey scheme
>Microsoft calls a dualboot). But instead of using an external boot manager,
>the boot menu is built into the bios, and unlike an external boot manager
>the user has no control over the bios boot menu. The built-in menu is
>already there in the bios, intended for Dell's special purpose. Ben is just
>trying to restore Dell's special purpose so the menu option isn't orphaned.
>(I'm the one who is co-opting it for additional purposes.)
>
>Note it's the partition table indicator that's non-standard, not the actual
>partition itself (which is a standard FAT16 partition). The non-standard
>partition-type indicator in the partition table has the effect of making the
>partition "hidden" to normal operating systems in other partitions. That's
>no different than how standard boot managers or partition managers (like
>PartitionMagic) hide a partition--they just change the partition-type
>indicator in the partition table to a non-standard value (though by now
>they've standardized what non-standard values they use <g>). The partition
>itself is never altered, only the partition table. Any non-standard value
>will effectively hide a partition, but Dell has chosen to use 0xDE because
>nobody else uses it, and thus they can customize their bios to look for it.
>Dell does this deliberately so it doesn't interfere with the main OS when
>Windows boots normally.
>
>Note that "hidden" has always been something of a misnomer--a better term is
>"disguised". Even when standard boot managers or partition managers (like
>PartitionMagic) "hide" a partition, that doesn't make it invisible to
>Windows--Windows knows it's there, but the non-standard partition-type
>indicator fools Windows into not trying to read or use it. Look at a hidden
>partition in XP's Disk Management snap-in and it will be there, but it will
>be listed as "(Unknown Partition)" and won't have a drive letter.
>
>


The only reason I brought up the dual boot question was because a long
time ago, I had set up some pc's that way (not currently tho) but I
never had a need for hidden partitions. Maybe it's not a bad idea to
do it again with a hidden partition with certain handy utils built in
to a menu. Others would rather just carry these handy utils on a cd
instead. But Ben had a good question or idea to consider even if we
don't do it Dell's way.

BTW, I haven't seen such a nice well written description / explanation
like this in a long time. Even tho I knew most (not all) of what
you're saying, I couldn't have explained it as well as you. Are you a
writer by chance?? Thanks for taking the time to explain it so well.
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 2:28:19 PM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

Patrick wrote:

>ben_myers_spam_me_not @ charter.net (Ben Myers) wrote:

>>Yes, you can create a Dell diagnostic partition on a bare hard drive. Or at
>>least I can. Or I did, and I can do it again, sometimes.

[Snip dual-boot stuff]

>I too started in dos and agree that even nowadays it helps to remember
>the old days. Frankly I'm a bit rusty in some of the old dos things I
>did (low levels, high levels, batch programming, etc..) but it's good
>to have started in dos and them moved into windows. I've seen people
>who just started in windows and when in trouble, have no clue what to
>do outside windows.

I have loved this delightful jaunt down memory lane to the BADD,
even if I did get a tad crabby with Brad Licastese [sorry, Brad].
Thanks, Ben, for starting us off on the journey.
--
OJ III
[Email to Yahoo address may be burned before reading.
Lower and crunch the sig and you'll net me at comcast.]
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 4:02:56 PM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

The partition is hidden only in the sense that it has a partition type which is
not recognized by Micro$oft operating systems. So it does not get assigned a
drive letter. Not sure how Linux would treat it... Ben Myers

On Tue, 15 Mar 2005 00:09:12 -0600, Patrick wrote:

>On Tue, 15 Mar 2005 05:10:47 GMT, ben_myers_spam_me_not @ charter.net
>(Ben Myers) wrote:
>
>>It's a little different than a straight dual boot. The partition type is not
>>standard. The dual boot depends on the system BIOS recognizing the non-standard
>>partition type. To do it absolutely right, the diagnostic partition must be
>>created before the operating system partition... Ben Myers
>>
>
>
>Is this non-standard partition a hidden partition?
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 9:38:19 PM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

Ben Myers wrote:

> Not sure how Linux would treat it... Ben Myers
>
It's mountable just like any FAT or FAT32 partition; assuming it's on
your primary hdd's first partition (and the drive is PATA):
mkdir /mnt/dell
mount -t vfat /dev/hda1 /mnt/dell

If you want it to mount during boot, add to your /etc/fstab:
/dev/hda1 /mnt/dell vfat defaults,user 0 0

If you'd like to boot directly to it, add the fillowing lines to grub:
title Dell Utility
rootnoverify (hd0,0)
chainloader +1
Anonymous
March 16, 2005 2:00:06 AM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

<Patrick> wrote:
> The only reason I brought up the dual boot question was because
> a long time ago, I had set up some pc's that way (not currently tho)
> but I never had a need for hidden partitions. Maybe it's not a bad
> idea to do it again with a hidden partition with certain handy utils
> built in to a menu. Others would rather just carry these handy
> utils on a cd instead. But Ben had a good question or idea to
> consider even if we don't do it Dell's way.

I'm an avid proponent of multibooting, as one can guess from my webpage at
www.goodells.net/multibooting. I've also setup all my kids' computers to
dualboot with partitions hidden from each other. One boot partition is
where they do their real work (schoolwork, email, dtp projects, etc.), while
the other is where they do their Kazaa and similar risky stuff. This way
the inevitable viruses and other junk don't bring down the entire computer.
Every few months or so we can wipe the Kazaa partition and restore it from a
clean backup image, all without compromising their trusted partition. Note
the Dell diagnostic partition wouldn't be suitable to dualboot a full-blown
Windows partition like this because of FAT16 limitations, though it's ideal
for a utility partition.

> BTW, . . . Are you a writer by chance??

Not really. Though I did spend several years developing and teaching
training classes (each class was 3-6 months long) for the Social Security
Administration--hence my bemusement at the wildly off-topic Social Security
threads in this newsgroup right now. That, plus a decade of coaching youth
soccer/baseball/softball (3 kids, all grown now) has given me lots of
practice in rephrasing concepts for different audiences.
Anonymous
March 16, 2005 8:13:49 PM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

dg1261 wrote:
> <Patrick> wrote:
>
>>The only reason I brought up the dual boot question was because
>>a long time ago, I had set up some pc's that way (not currently tho)
>>but I never had a need for hidden partitions. Maybe it's not a bad
>>idea to do it again with a hidden partition with certain handy utils
>>built in to a menu. Others would rather just carry these handy
>>utils on a cd instead. But Ben had a good question or idea to
>>consider even if we don't do it Dell's way.
>
>
> I'm an avid proponent of multibooting, as one can guess from my webpage at
> www.goodells.net/multibooting. I've also setup all my kids' computers to
> dualboot with partitions hidden from each other. One boot partition is
> where they do their real work (schoolwork, email, dtp projects, etc.), while
> the other is where they do their Kazaa and similar risky stuff. This way
> the inevitable viruses and other junk don't bring down the entire computer.
> Every few months or so we can wipe the Kazaa partition and restore it from a
> clean backup image, all without compromising their trusted partition. Note
> the Dell diagnostic partition wouldn't be suitable to dualboot a full-blown
> Windows partition like this because of FAT16 limitations, though it's ideal
> for a utility partition.
>
>
>>BTW, . . . Are you a writer by chance??
>
>
> Not really. Though I did spend several years developing and teaching
> training classes (each class was 3-6 months long) for the Social Security
> Administration--hence my bemusement at the wildly off-topic Social Security
> threads in this newsgroup right now. That, plus a decade of coaching youth
> soccer/baseball/softball (3 kids, all grown now) has given me lots of
> practice in rephrasing concepts for different audiences.
>
>
I noticed you mentioned you put Partition Magic in your boot menu, I was
curious what the licensing for PM is? Are you alowed to use it on
multiple computers, or are you suppose to buy a seperate license for
each PC?
Anonymous
March 16, 2005 11:53:02 PM

Archived from groups: alt.sys.pc-clone.dell (More info?)

"Nicholas Andrade" <sdnick484@nospam.yahoo.com> wrote:
> I noticed you mentioned you put Partition Magic in your boot
> menu, I was curious what the licensing for PM is? Are you
> alowed to use it on multiple computers, or are you suppose
> to buy a seperate license for each PC?

The Dimension 4600 I setup with the customized Dell Utility partition was
for a company with their own copy of PartitionMagic.
November 28, 2008 12:32:59 PM

Mmm, UBCD will have all the tools to work with this.

I blew up my mbr screwing with Ubuntu, running it live -boink- using the partitioning tool. Everything on my boot disk was marked unallocated. (Oh', what backups?)

Used testdisk on the Ubuntu rescue remix cd available with a little giggling, and got all my data back. Testdisk was successful for me. But I've lost the diag partition in my dumbness. It's now revealed as the FAT it is, and of course useless to run inside the XP gui.

Repairing the mbr disabled the F12> diag partition boot.

Deeper search- using testdisk found a third fat partition that is perhaps a boot loader for the diag part. I played with testdisk again, but the first good boot with XP auto-started chkdisk, to clean up "dirty data".

Another tool id-ed (perhaps) the same code as a bios of some flavor. sheesh. And I never saved it. XP's recovery console seems to have wiped any sign of it, with the fixboot and fixmbr commands. Aother run of testdisk found nothing on a short run of the -deeper search- option.

I want to reload the Dell restore disk and whatever it takes to get the F12 functionality back and copy, or at least look at the mbr code, if it works.

Templates/ or ideas for the .bat file suggestion in this thread can be located on the Dell utilities cd.
Anonymous
March 4, 2009 3:34:17 PM

On a bare hard drive all you need is the Dell Diagnostic disk.
1. Boot from the Dell Diagnostic disk
2. Then quit to Dos.
3.Type the following in the command prompt. (note each line is followed by [Enter] key)
cd\diags\insp32
dir
4. Note the name of the directory that starts A#### (ex. A1257) remember the ####
5. Type the following in the command prompt. (note each line is followed by [Enter] key)
cd\upc32\uptools\
mkup 1257
6. Run the utility. Repeat steps 1-5
7. Your done!
August 4, 2012 9:22:24 AM

Create or restore the Diagnostics partition on a Dell computer

1. Download the latest Diagnostics Utility from the 'Drivers & Downloads' section of the Dell computer onto whose HDD you aim to create or restore the Dell diagnostic partition

2. Run it and click onto 'Update Existing Diagnostic Partition'. If the Installer succeeds, reboot and try to boot into the updated Diag Partition via F12/ Run Diagnostics.
---------------------------
If that didn't work:

3. Insert a blank flash drive into one of the computer's USB ports

4. Run the Diagnostics Utility again and click onto 'Install to a USB Flash Drive'. Choose the flash drive and install to it.

5. Test-boot from the USB flash drive

6. With your favorite partition clone tool, clone the partition from USB to the 1st partition of the HDD. The partition measures usually 40MB.

7. Change the partition ID to DE (0xDE). That function is usually under 'Advanced" or 'Modify" in the partition utilities.

Also make sure it is not flagged active on the HDD. If it is, set it inactive.

Recommended: change the volume label to 'DellUtility' (one word, w/o space).

8. Reboot your Dell pressing the F12 key and boot into the Diagnostics Utility

For convenience and easier deployment, here's images of the partition in three popular formats: Symantec Image Deploy Center (recommended)/ HDClone 4/ Paragon Harddisk Manager.

EDIT 2012-08-15: the HD of one of my Dells crashed so I did a restore on a bare drive just for testing, and look-a-there: of the three above-mentioned utils, ONLY the ancient Symantec Image Deploy Center was able to deliver a HD w. a (via F12) bootable Diags partition .. HDClone 4.11 and PHDM 12 ((10.0.19.15808 - 2012-06-07) failed utterly, no matter which settings I chose for the to-be restored partition .. You can (amongst other sources) find Symantec Image Deploy Center on old versions of Hiren's Boot CD (DOS section) or on Proteus' Restored Editions (DOS/ Restored).

When you use any of the images, make sure to afterwards update the partition by running the latest Utility for that particular Dell computer!
!