Lenovo X41 Recovery CDs not booting? Check the partitions

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I have a Lenovo X41 Tablet PC that I had installed Ubuntu onto. I recently decided to re-install the original Windows software, so I ordered the CDs from Lenovo and broke out an external CD drive. However, when I put in the Rescue and Recovery CD and booted the machine, I ended up with a blank black screen and nothing else. What gives? I updated the BIOS and the embedded controller firmwares, but to no avail. The computer would boot up the CD, a brief message about examining the setup would fly by, then a blank screen. I figured this was a problem with the recovery CDs, because my Ubuntu live CD booted right up.

As it turns out, Lenovo recovery CDs are very picky about their hard drive setup. They need to copy files to disk for a variety of tasks, so if you’re using up all the partitions, then the CDs will stop booting, but give you no other errors.

I had previously installed Linux on the machine, so my partition tables were in a state the machine didn’t really understand. What I needed to do was trash the existing partitions, and flush out the boot record.

Easy enough — I fired up the Ubuntu live CD, and launched the partition editor in System -> Administration. I had to turn off the swap space, by right-clicking on it in the partition editor, and selecting “swapoff”. By default, Ubuntu live CDs will scan your drives for partitions marked as swap space, and use it, so you have to turn off this usage to delete the partitions. I ran through and deleted all the partitions, and applied the changes.

I next had to clear out the master boot record, but I could do that right from the live CD. After doing that, I rebooted with the Lenovo Rescue and Recovery CD and said a little prayer.

Once I had done these steps, the recovery CD started right up. I’m surprised Lenovo doesn’t give more details on this in their support knowledge base.