Windows 7, Lenovo laptop, and System Image

  br1anstorm 13:42 03 Feb 2019

I have just acquired a refurbished Lenovo ThinkPad T430 laptop. It has Windows 7 Professional installed. I plan to set up dual-booting with Linux Mint. But I have come across a slightly odd problem and would welcome advice.

Here are the clues:

1) before making any changes, when Win7 alone was on the computer, I noticed that on initial boot up the Windows boot menu-screen flashed up very briefly with two options - 'Boot to Windows', or 'Restore the original Windows Image'. The latter choice came with a warning note at the bottom of the menu screen that this would erase all existing data. In any case the delay default must be about 2 secs, because it then boots up by default into Win7. Comment: I have other computers with Win7 installed and have never seen this menu appear on booting any of them;

2) when I looked at the hard drive partitions, I noticed that there were already three primary partitions on the hard drive: 100MB System Reserved, 13GB Recovery, and the main Win7 partition (which I was aiming to shrink to make room for Linux);

3) while running the Mint installer, I noticed that on the screen offering the usual options (install alongside, replace existing OS, or 'something else'), the first option said there were "multiple OSs already on the system". Comment: I thought that a bit odd, but assumed that maybe it was seeing the existing Recovery partition as containing a duplicate, or image, of the Win7 OS. I went ahead and completed the Linux install;

4) I use EasyBCD to manage dual-booting. It works well on my other laptop. Normally, the Windows boot menu (MBR) comes up, modified by EasyBCD to offer Win7 or Linux Mint. Choosing the latter takes you on to the Linux bootloader (GRUB) from which you boot Mint. Simple....normally!

5) this however did not happen. On reboot, the first screen fleetingly offered was still unchanged as at (1): the same Windows boot menu for 2 secs, offering only 'Boot into Windows', or 'Restore Original Windows Image'. No sign of Linux, and no way to boot into Mint.

I'd like to know why EasyBCD evidently didn't manage to modify the MBR to link to Mint's Grub and enable me to boot into it. (The EasyBCD forum is not very active - I get no response there). I'm wondering if the Win7 Recovery arrangements are part of a Lenovo configuration which has already modified the MBR to offer a System Restore image. Has anyone else encountered this?

If it is not part of a standard Lenovo arrangement, what is causing the initial boot menu with the 'Boot into Windows' or 'Restore Original System Image' options to appear fleetingly, and how can I modify that?

  lotvic 10:43 04 Feb 2019

It may be the 'ThinkVantage software' that is used for recovery support.lenovo.com click here

That may be of use, I note it also says "Turn on the computer, upon "ThinkPad" or "LENOVO" logo, press F12 key to enter Boot Menu"

  br1anstorm 16:48 04 Feb 2019

Thanks, lotvic. My thinking was on similar lines to yours. I have had a look at the Lenovo support site you linked to. In general, the process which Lenovo's ThinkVantage Recovery tool offers seems to be very close to the stock Windows 'system restore' or 'system repair'. Basically the procedure is to create repair disk(s) and save it/them to external drive, USB stick or CD/DVD; then when needed, go to F12 during start up, find the boot menu, and choose to boot from the drive where you have saved the repair disk(s).

That's fine. If or when I ever needed to restore after a crash or similar problem, that's what I would do. What puzzles me is that every time I boot this Lenovo laptop up - normally - the very first thing that appears is this Boot Menu screen (looks like a BIOS screen, no fancy logos) with the two options listed: Boot into Windows, or Restore Original System Image. If I do nothing it vanishes within 2 seconds (!!) and Win7 boots up. If I toggle the two options using the up/down arrows, this keeps the menu on screen, and I have to make a choice.

On no other Win7 system, and on no other computer (but this is my first experience of Lenovo), have I ever seen a Boot menu like this at the start of every normal boot-up. It seems unnecessary.

I haven't dared to choose the 'Restore Image' option just to see what happens next, because the warning is that selecting this will wipe the hard drive! I just wonder whether the next screen would say "insert repair/restore disk" or whether it would go ahead and restore the system to default settings from an image already stored somewhere in the [hidden] recovery partition.

The other clue which points to something odd is that although the machine only has Win7 on it, when i try to install a Linux OS, the installer tells me there are "multiple other OSs" already installed, and do I want to install Linux alongside them or to replace them....

So how is the Linux installer seeing "multiple OSs"? Makes me think there must be a system image in the Recovery folder, and that the Recovery tool has also modiified the BCD (Windows bootloader) to cause this unusual boot menu to appear every time.

I wonder if there is any expert in the Lenovo ThinkVantage recovery process who can shed any light on exactly how it works and whether it does mess with the bootloader.

  lotvic 15:41 05 Feb 2019

It could be a setting in Bios. I recommend getting to know your laptop before doing anything major. The following links are to pcsupport.lenovo.com

ThinkPad T430 click here

To enter BIOS via function key (Fn) click here Windows 7: Power on your system. Press F1 at Lenovo or ThinkPad/ThinkCentre/Lenovo logo during bootup. Note: For some selected models, instead of pressing F1, continuously press Enter during powering on until a Startup Interrupt Menu displays

  br1anstorm 18:55 05 Feb 2019

Thanks again lotvic. I have searched extensively through the Lenovo support web pages, and on other forums. I have also looked at, and explored, the BIOS on my laptop as far as I can. The problem is, I don't know exactly what I'm looking for, or where to find it.

Logic suggests that there is a setting - somewhere - which tells the laptop to show this Boot menu screen with its two options (Boot into Windows or Restore Original System Image) as the very first display before it goes on into the "normal" sequence of booting up from the hard drive into Win7. That setting obviously also has the 2 or 3 sec timeout, which is why the menu appears only briefly. But I do not see anything in the BIOS which relates to this.

I can choose - from the relevant BIOS settings - to boot from a USB or other external drive (for example to run a Live session of a Linux OS). When I do so, of course the mysterious Boot into Windows/Restore Original Image menu screen does not appear. [I can actually look at the files in the Win7 partition when running a Linux Live session - but I don't know what I ought to be looking for...]

This suggests to me that the mysterious menu screen is written into the Windows BCD. I don't have the expertise to find, explore and analyse the BCD entries, never mind modify or edit them. I'm hoping someone else might be able to provide a guide on how to do this - if indeed my interpretation is correct.

  lotvic 00:10 06 Feb 2019

The timings and the boot menu that you say shows for about 2 seconds, I think that is controlled via System Configuration.
Have a look via msconfig to see what boot op systems are listed and the Timeout box.

  1. Windows key + R
  2. type msconfig in the run box and click on OK
  3. click on the 'Boot' tab
  br1anstorm 16:36 07 Feb 2019

Thanks again lotvic - you may be on to something there. I'm actually away from that computer for a while, but will check when I get back and post again if I find a way forward .... or indeed if I don't!

  br1anstorm 19:28 15 Feb 2019

Well I'm back on the case, and sadly no further forward. Checking msconfig> Boot tab reveals no useful clues. The Boot tab list only Windows 7 (as I rather expected) and the timeout is 20 seconds.

So neither of these bits of information sheds any light on how and why a "Boot menu" screen (with the choice of booting into Windows or selecting a system restore image) appears for only 2 or 3 seconds before the actual boot-up of Win7 begins.

Any more bright ideas, anyone?

  lotvic 18:57 16 Feb 2019

Nothing more at mo', I'll post if I find any info that may be of help.

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