Last week my friend came to me with his Acer Aspire. Apparently his room mate had formatted his machine and installed a pirated copy of Windows XP and had also forgotten the password for it.
My friend requested me to install the original copy of Windows Media Centre back on it and restore it to the original state. He was told that all the partitions have been deleted.
I could not find any easy way around it by his descriptions. Even if the rescue partition existed there was no easy way to get to it as the Bootloader had been changed. He wanted me to create the rescue disk from another Aspire system to be used on his machine. But the problem was the other machine had some kind of grudges towards blank disks. It would simply spit it out randomly.
So I popped in a Ubuntu Fiesty that I had recently ordered for free. After the GUI launched I started the Terminal.(I am a shell nerd)
I used fdisk [sudo fdisk /dev/hda] to identify the partition structure.(I wont explain any commands in detail here but that would be pretty easy to figure out even for a first timer) There were 3 partitions. Two FAT32s and 1 NTFS. The second FAT32 was marked as bootable. I figured out that the first definitely is the rescue partition, so i toggled the bootable flag on both the first and second partition. So effectively the first partition was made bootable.
Now I rebooted the machine and let it boot thru the hard disk. As I had hoped the rescue wizard started. I rejoiced and sarcastically teased my friend. "Look to save your Windows I am using Linux"
After the rescue wizard was completed it was time for the machine to reboot. But the machine rebooted back into the rescue mode. I guessed what was wrong and again used Ubuntu to toggle the bootable flag on the first two partitions.
The final reboot allowed the Windows partiton to start with the Windows final setup screens with the EULA and all.
Nevertheless Linux Saved Windows Day. :P