Sunday: 26.September.2004

DELL now includes back-up Ghost image in Concurrent DOS partition

Looks like da boyz at DELL have begun including a Ghost image with their latest computers (at least, with their laptops). See HERE. They used to provide a Restore CD, but you can only include so much data on a CD.

DELL is including the Ghost image at the very END of the hard drive, where hard drive performance is slowest (good idea). There they create a separate partition, which takes up ~3.5GBs. With hard drive capacities growing so large, even with laptop computers, allocating 3.5-GB of disk space to a Ghost image is no problem.

When viewed in Partition Magic, this partition shows up as: "CP/M, Concurrent DOS, CTOS" (Primary). See HERE. But this new partition creates a problem for those of us who like to create our own back-up images.


You see, hard drives are limited to 4 Primary partitions. Usually this is no problemo. Your regular NTFS partition, where Windows is installed (your C drive) counts as 1. DELL also includes a tiny 50-MB (not GB) Primary partition at the very BEGINNING of the drive, a long-standing practice with them. Here they load diagnostic and troubleshooting utilities that can help in the case you do something dumb with your computer. So, including the Ghost partition, that makes 3 Primary partitions, shipped with your new laptop.

Now, if you want to create your own back-up Ghost images, you may, like me, repartition you new hard drive, in order to shrink the original partition, and add a logical DOS drive or two (in an extended partition). But an extended partition, altho it may contain many logical DOS drives, still counts as 1 Primary. So, if you did this, like me, that would make 4 Primary partitions, which max'es us out.

Even this would normally be no problem, except that Ghost needs a free Primary (partition) slot available to do its job. If you try to create a back-up image without a free primary slot (located in the Master Boot Record), you'll get the following error message:

>>>> Unable to find a free MBR slot in the Virtual Partition DLL.
>>>> This is usually due to there being no free primary partition slots left on the boot disk.

To get around this, I simply deleted the CP/M, Concurrent DOS, CTOS partition (using PM8) where DELL had stored its 3.5-GB back-up Ghost image and stretched the last logical DOS drive to reclaim this extra 3.5-GB of newly "unused space", where I created my own back-up Ghost image (two of them, actually).

Kudos to da boyz at DELL for taking a page from the RAD manual. For those folks who don't create their own, a back-up Ghost image can be a lifesaver.

For a more in-depth look at the Dell Utility Partition, see Dan Goodell's article titled: Inside the Dell Utility Partition. It's excellent.


Update 19.january.2005

Here is a note I received on this subject, which some of you might find helpful:

You, sir, are a life saver! I just got a new Dell 8400, and as usual, installed PM8 to create a second partition to store some old DOS programs. That's when I found that 3.5GB partition at the end of the drive called "CM/P Concurrent DOS" and didn't have a clue what to do with it. I used Google and searched for Dell Concurrent DOS" and a link to your blog "DELL now includes back-up Ghost image in Concurrent DOS partition" appeared (Sunday: 26.September.2004,

Besides learning what that partition was (which will soon be deleted), I read further and learned a lot about Ghost. I just installed that too, and this is the first time I've used it. I really appreciate all the info you provide on your site about Ghost. Now that I've used it, I can't imagine why I ever used tape or that clunky NT Backup! In this new PC, I installed a removable hard drive system, and I'll use Ghost to back up to that drive nightly, and swap the drive cartridges weekly.

But now it's my turn to give you a little info! Like a good technogeek, I always test my backups to make sure I can restore from them. Not much point having a backup if you can't restore from it! I had no problem restoring with Ghost thru Windows. So, I tried booting from the Ghost CD to see what the recovery environment looked like. Once the recovery software finally loaded, I discovered it didn't recognize my C: drive! The D: drive (the removable hard drive) was there, but not the primary drive. So, I could get to my image files but didn't have anywhere to restore them to!

To make a very long story short, it turns out the Ghost recovery environment doesn't load drivers for RAID or SCSI controllers. RAID is an option for the Dell 8400, and even if you don't order it, the motherboard has an Intel RAID controller for the SATA channels, and Ghost doesn't recognize it. You have to manually load the drivers for the controller when the CD boots. The drivers are available from Dell's support site, or from their product recovery CD (downloading them was much easier than wading thru the CD).

When you boot from the Ghost CD and get to the "Loading Recovery..." message, immediately press F-6 (message is at bottom of screen) to load RAID/SCSI drivers. The loading will continue, and about half way thru, you'll get a screen with the option to press "S" to load RAID/SCSI drivers. Put the disk with the drivers in the A: drive and follow the prompts. You will probably get a message that says Windows already has the driver (assuming your system drive isn't toast) and asking if you want to use the Windows driver or the OEM driver on the disk. You must use the OEM driver on the disk. Ghost will not load the Windows driver. Press "S" a second time to force Ghost to use the OEM drivers, then continue with the recovery boot.

Note that the floppy must contain all of the OEM files. I tried just copying the driver files from the hard drive to the floppy, but that doesn't work. You need the full set of files from the original manufacturer. Also be aware that the disk contains drivers for two different configurations of the controller: RAID and AHCI. Select the one that applies to your setup. Unless you have a RAID setup, the correct choice is AHCI.

Thanks again for all the education you provided me. I hope the info above is helpful to you and your readers. You can post this in the forums if you like, but please omit my email.

David E. Ranck, President
Data Design & Development

Posted by Rad at September 26, 2004 12:37 PM


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that is to say, in order to run the Ghost under windows environment , we only allow 3 primary partitions?

Posted by: Ghost addict 2 at October 17, 2004 08:31 AM


Posted by: Monkey Boy at October 18, 2004 01:49 AM


I found your great site looking for reasons to partition disks on laptops (DELL Latitude), and did I land on a gold mine! I've spent close to 4 hours since landing, browsing the various articles...

I checked this point with our local DELL rep and he (It was new to him - he checked up) says that the partition has a DELL proprietary RESTORE image and not Norton Ghost image. It is a replacement of their Restore CD.

Posted by: Faiz at October 22, 2004 01:58 AM

Ah. That's good to know. I suspected the image would be proprietary, and not a la Norton Ghost. I was surprised to read on the Dell forums that it was a Norton Ghost image.

Many people use the term "Ghost image" as a generic term to indicate an image of any kind, no matter what particular utility makes it.

But it doesn't really matter what utility was used to create the Dell image. It syill consumes a primary partition, and if you use your own imaging utility (such as Norton Ghost), then you don't need the Dell image.

Thanks for commenting and the kind words.

Posted by: Rad1 at October 22, 2004 06:04 AM

It's actually a much better replacement than the Dell Restore CD, which contains only 650MB. The image contained on the Dell hard drive contains 3.5GB, much more complete data.

Posted by: Manny at October 22, 2004 06:28 AM