Technology Project: Cleanly format and restore Compaq Presario C500 laptop

Took a bit of researching through Google to find the best method to simply erase all the adware, malware, and other random junk accumulated on a laptop over 5 years of usage and restore it back to the stock factory condition.
Turns out, Compaq/HP have a recovery partition on the machine but it is not marked as active and therefore not visible to the bios as a bootable partition. Once the partition is visible and bootable it can be accessed through the boot menu, F11.
The quickest way I was able to toggle the status on the partition was with the directions below, found here:

While in windows, START > Control Panel > Administrative tools or
START > run > compmgmt.msc and press enter.
Open Disk management
Locate the recovery partition (usually smaller and at the end of the disk).
Right click on the partition and mark partition as Active.

Reboot and press F11. This should now boot the recovery partition and restore the Compaq Laptop.
This worked for me on a Compaq Presario C500.

Good luck!

If everything works, or if there are issues, feel free to leave a comment below for others to benefit!

45 Comments on “Technology Project: Cleanly format and restore Compaq Presario C500 laptop

  1. Holy cow! You posted something!

    The whole “active” thing to make it a bootable recovery partition, I have never heard of that. Like mine has hidden partitions and in linux, it shows all 5 partitions. But I can get into recovery if I wanted to.

    If I ever run into your problem, I will know what to do.

  2. Thanks. I also have a C500 to clean up. You were the first Google hit on “restore compaq laptop from recovery partition” and it worked perfectly. I said “No” to backing up files and recover to recovery point.

  3. Thanks for the feedback. Glad everything went smoothly and the steps in the post were helpful!

  4. I’ve never heard of this error, “BOOTMGR is missing”. The directions do not change or modified any program data, only make visible what the manufacturer made hidden. If unhiding the recovery partition results in the message, “BOOTMGR is missing”, this would seem to indicate the recovery partition was removed. I would advise against removing the recovery partition.

  5. I have done everything but after rebooting I now have a blue screen, have pressed f11 but nothing appears to be happening. What am I doing wrong?

  6. My only suggestion would be to press F11 sooner or find if there is a different key that needs to be pressed on your specific Compaq model.
    The only other thought that comes to mind is perhaps the blue screen is a poor way of showing that something has been corrupted or not working properly on the recovery partition, but this doesn’t assist much in resolving the issue.
    Hopefully others who have experienced this issue can leave feedback to assist. Thanks!

  7. thank you soo much this worked on my compaq presario cq57. I do habe a question…evenafter reseting the laptop isnt there still the old files on there somewhere? How do i get rid of those?

  8. Hi cynthia,
    The reformat should erase all documents leaving the laptop completely clean.
    As a side note, for those who might be curious, there are some more advanced tools that can perform multiple erases that work to prevent more industrial grade recovery techniques, but that is beyond the scope of this posting.
    Thanks for your positive feedback and glad my blog post was able to help!

  9. Make sure your computer is on the ‘c’ partition first. If not, then you end up switching it to c when you want to switch it to the system reserved partition and you end up with a message that says, “BOOTMGR is missing Press ctrl, alt, del to restart” and your computer won’t work. Oh, and good luck finding an article on how to fix it!

  10. I am going to try this – but don’t you need to back up your system prior to reboot and then restore it after reboot in order for computer to work?

  11. Hi Sara,

    If you want to retain your documents, photos and other personal files, yes, those will need to be backed up prior and then restored after. Thanks for mentioning this!

  12. No because the laptop is shipped to the customer with the operating system backed up in the restore partition. Running the restore operation is restoring the operating system from the restore partition.

  13. Oh ok great, making sure, thank you. The only problem I’m having then is that it won’t give me the option to mark the c partition active. That option is covered in gray šŸ™

  14. Can you help me with a problem compaq45-805TU. I have been trying to find a soloution to this gone through the normal stuff, f2 f11 when I press f11 system recovery it splashes up the logo for a second and then appears to be doing something in the background, then throws up dos screen saying error there is a software error on the hard drive. I cant afford to buy the recovery disk, its my daughter in-laws computer and I have had it three weeks and getting nowhere fast, she has no money so Im looking for anysoloutions I canfind at this point. Its killing me I have never in my life of computers amstrad days to now had a problem like this. Remind me not to buy a compaq. And it even throws up an un happy face saying there was a problem.
    Im stuck. I cant get into windows or anything else I havetried. She did know she needed to make a backup copy was updating to windows 8.1 when it crashed HELP desperately need help.

  15. Hi Brian,
    There are generally only two sources of the software required for recovering Windows. The recovery partition, which my blog post talks about using and the recovery disk. Some manufacturers would ship the recovery disk with the device and others would allow the user to create their own recovery disk while booted in Windows. Without a working recovery partition, which does happen, and without a recovery disk, I’m not sure of a way to recover the manufacturer provided version of Windows.
    A more general solution could be to separately purchase a copy of Windows, which will come with the media to install.
    Hope that helps and best of luck!

  16. Hi joey my name is Jason I need help to wipe my Compaq Presario cq57 to it factory settings can u help I have no recovery disc please help thankyou.

  17. Hi Jason,
    One point of clarification is that the factory settings are contain in the recovery disc or partition provided from the factory. In a prior comment, I answered a similar question. “There are generally only two sources of the software required for recovering Windows. The recovery partition, which my blog post talks about using and the recovery disk. Some manufacturers would ship the recovery disk with the device and others would allow the user to create their own recovery disk while booted in Windows. Without a working recovery partition, which does happen, and without a recovery disk, Iā€™m not sure of a way to recover the manufacturer provided version of Windows.
    A more general solution could be to separately purchase a copy of Windows, which will come with the media to install.” The separate copy of Windows will usually not contain identical factory settings as each manufacturer provides drivers and other bundled software, but should contain similar default settings.
    Hope that helps and best of luck!

  18. Hi guys my daughter inlaws compaq win64 8 was giving me hell after about a months i gave in and rand support, even though the warranty was well dead 2 years ago.
    I searched everywhere, then as i said i gave in called support wondering how much we would have to pay out for software win and possibly a hard drive. I told them what i did and the support assistant blew me away, she said yep we can fix that, and replace hard drive and windows back to original, now I live in Perth so i dont know if this applies everywhere, i said so howmuch is the total and can i do any of it myself to save on money. The support tech says what do you mean its free!!!!!!!,
    Stumped i said the warranty was well over ans she said that doesnt matter!!!!!! I was dazed at that point I tried asking alot of questions but she did not really want to answer. I asked howthis was going to work she gave me a phone number to call to arrange for them to pick it up from my house take it back and repair it and then deliver to my front door as good as new. Im still not sure why that happened but i was very happy, and no they didint get an exsteded warranty. Im still unsure the reason because she was being tight lipped. But its working with new hdd and software as well as pickup and delivery. It was great.

  19. I’m having trouble with my compaq presario CQ 57and the boot manager is inaccessible its saying windows failed to start so I’m wondering what can I do to be able to use my computer again

  20. Is this possible to do with a Compaq Presario CQ57 notebook through a set of command prompts if windows is not working? I am using Windows 7.

  21. Hi Bill,

    I’m not familiar with the CQ57 model and don’t know whether or not the recovery partition is hidden and setting the partition to active makes it bootable. Assuming that is the issue, the recovery partition needs to be set to active and then it will boot, I see two potential solutions when “windows is not working”.
    1) Use the safe mode of windows or boot via a custom recovery drive (CD/DVD/USB stick), which could have Windows or Linux. Setting a partition as active is a universal command that can be executed through Windows or Linux.
    2) Specifically from the Windows command prompt, setting a partition as active should be possible with the utility fdisk.
    Hope that helps and best of luck!


  22. hi is the screen meant to go black with the “f11…system recovery” in the bottom left corner? if so how long does
    it stay like it?

  23. Hey I found this after searching factory restore of my Compaq c500. When I click the ‘mark partition as Active’ a message pops up that says ‘Only mark partition as active if it contains a functioning OS. If the partition lacks an OS, marking it active might cause your computer to stop working.’ Does this recovery partition include the operating system? I don’t want my computer to stop working. Advice or comments? Thank you in advance.

  24. Hi Milo, from memory (~4 yrs ago), I do think the recovery management system qualifies as a “bootable” operating system, which is compatible with the Active flag. If others have more recent experience, feel free to share! Thanks!

  25. OMG it worked!!! I had a huuuuge Trojan horse on my laptop and my laptop was working so bad, couldn’t do anything with it anymore. Thank you SO much!

  26. Brilliant, just rescued my C500 from a failed Win7 install thanks to your advice above.

    The recovery partition does indeed contain the full Vista operating system and puts the laptop back as ‘factory fresh’. I just couldn’t access it through the usual HP recovery from the start menu. It does then take a while to download and install all the windows updates etc but all working again – many thanks.

  27. You… You are a saint. I could not find a way to restore my computer, but this worked beautifully. U da real MVP.

  28. YOU ARE THE BEST! After 10 Googles on the subject with NO remedies, you cracked it! Thank You my good man, thank you!

  29. Hay Joey, Is there a way to check the recovery partition first to know it is complete and fully functional first. Many things have been deleted and altered maybe even hiden files. Thanks

  30. The recovery partition is usually hidden so that the contents can’t be easily altered. The only method I’m aware is to check that the partition is free from disk errors. Attempting to boot the partition might be the best method to check that everything is working.
    Let us know if you discover anything else! Best of luck!

  31. Hi thanks got a brand new old stock c500 at $12.00 its new i carnt believe it …..but it was missing the touch thankyou back to vista soo kind its now factory incredible AGAIN THANKS TOM NORFOLK….

  32. Hello! Compaq presario c500. Updated vista,now my mouse is frozen. I’m tab keying my way through the internet right now. Any pointers for doing this sans mouse?

  33. I have a Compaq Presario Premium c500 running Vista. Awhile back, I made a CD copy of the recovery partition(using multiple CDs actually). Suddenly, after doing a restart following an update of a software program I trust, I got the error “loadkey error 999 (STHIVE=0)”. I can get to the Windows Startup Screen, and sometimes the Advanced Startup screen if I do a forced shutdown and then hit F8 when I restart it. My question is, as nothing on these two screens seem to take me anywhere but back to this “loadkey error” how would I interject the Vista recovery CDs to try to recover a working Vista computer? Do I just put in the first disk and let it run? Will it run on its own without my being in a specific screen? All is good with saying run a recovery disk, but there are no instructions about how to do this.

  34. The question seems to be specifically around the process of using a recovery disk. The recovery disk process for Windows is fairly standard with minor variations for each OEM. The options will most likely be to either erase everything and re-install or for Windows to attempt to recover the current installation.

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