Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thinkpad Rescue & Recovery, and free disk space

While researching a "Rescue and Recovery does not have enough disk space to perform the requested operation" error message that has been unexpectedly popping up on my Lenovo Thinkpad T60 from time to time, I found that on at least some Thinkpad laptops, 20 GB or more of “unaccounted for” of hard disk space – space that is reported as “in use” by the Windows, but which apparently no files are actually using -- can be reclaimed by deleting backups made by the Thinkpad “Rescue & Recovery” utility, or by uninstalling the utility altogether. Information on this is available in a post on Charles J. Keeme's blog (which incidentally, as of this morning, was somewhat surprisingly the only Google result for that error message).

Disclaimer: Make sure you have a sound alternative backup strategy in place before you fiddle with the Rescue & Recovery utility! You may also first want to make a set of OS recovery CDs if you haven’t already and you don’t have other means to restore your machine to its factory default state, as the restore data for some Thinkpads is apparently stored as part of the Rescue & Recovery backup data, not on CDs that came with the machine.

The ability to reclaim this disk space that was being used by Rescue & Recovery was a pretty big deal to me, as my current work machine is a Thinkpad T60 that came with only a 50.7 GB hard drive. This morning, despite having relatively few applications installed and very little in the way of multimedia files (music/photos) on the machine, I had only 9.57GB of free space. After uninstalling the Rescue & Recovery utility, I’m up to 29.9 GB of space – Rescue & Recovery was consuming fully 40% of the capacity of my limited hard disk storage!

(In my case, my Thinkpad is my work machine, and my setup is such that my code and work data are backed up on the corporate LAN, and I can rely on the corporate IT department to help me out should the machine experience some kind of hardware failure that would require me to need to reinstall Windows, so I was happy make the tradeoff of tripling my available free disk space in exchange for the (for me) mostly-redundant backup capability that Rescue & Recovery afforded.)


  1. Jon, is that Rescue and Recovery a standard windows thing, or something specific with the Thinkpads? I have always struggled with disk space on my laptop (although I recently popped a 100GB HD in there, so hopefully won't again for a while). When I was strapped at <40GB I regularly had less than 3 GB available, but I don't recall ever seeing the error message, so I wonder if I was just using too much space :o


  2. Chris, Rescue and Recovery is a utility specific to Thinkpads, provided by IBM/Lenovo. Here's a Lenovo page with info on the utility:

    Dell or other vendors might provide some similar utility, though; I'm not sure!

    One commenter on that Charles J. Keeme blog post mentioned checking how much space files on your C: drive are actually using by opening an Explorer window to your C: drive, selecting all of the files and folders there (Ctrl-A), then doing right-click | Properties. The properties will take a minute or two to add up the space consumed by files on the drive, and then show you the total.

    I just tried that on my machine (post-R&R uninstall), and interestingly, Explorer only reports a total of 15.2 GB of space consumed by files on the drive, whereas the Properties window for the C: drive itself reports 20.8 GB of used space. I'm not sure what accounts for that 5GB-and-change differential; it looks like I have some more investigating to do!

  3. Hi Jon.
    I have a X61Tablet which was prealoaded with Vista Business Edition. I decided to downgrade to XP Tablet. Before that, i was very interested to see where my 145Gb was gone (from a total of 160Gb). Well, around 45Gb was on R&R and another 6 is on the hidden prealoaded partition. I made a clean install and now I plan to regain that 6 Gb from "hidden" partition.
    The full story here:

  4. I ordered all my thinkpad rescue and recovery cds from

    You get genuine recovery cds and dvds for just $24.99

    If you called IBM you might end up paying atleast $55.00

    Besides recovery cds are available for almost all the models

  5. The newest versions of R&R (certified for the T60 and available for Download for Free!) @ > In fact, most Thinkvantage software functions with most IBM machines and is free to download.

    Segue back to initial sentence - allows you to tell the backup how many versions of incremental backups you wish to have - it then reuses the space used by the oldest 'incremental'.
    Remember that the first R&R backup is a base - contains everything and while compressed is a complete image of what's on your harddrive. Subsequent backups are incremental, only containing changes from the last backup. The new default is 5 incrementals - more than I really need - I only use three.
    The other thing to keep in mind is when one or more of the incrementals are deleted (you can do it manually from the ADVANCED menu option, the reason it takes a little time, it needs to rebuild the incremental AFTER the one deleted so it contains the composite of both Delta's - that's also how it maintains it's integrity.
    And Finally, at least once a year, I do a complete backup to CD, or copy a full base to USB so I have another version somewhere. Then, I delete ALL of my backups, and start fresh with a brand new BASE, and subsequent incrementals. At least I know I don't have the need to go back a couple of years and restore a file or two. Why? Because I save everything, anyway. I utilize that 'packrat' strategy of archive. It's easier to keep everything and manage backups then to try to save a MG here and there and then have to have a way to know which archive might have the specific file I need (at my age, complexity is not a good thing - so KISS is my motto - Keep it simple, stupid!

    Hope someone finds this helpful