I just received my brand new Lenovo ThinkPad X280. I will be installing Arch Linux on it. I will not ever be using Windows. Is there any value in keeping any of the existing disk partitions?

At some date in the future (e.g., when I sell the laptop) I would like to restore the disk to the factory default state with the original Windows 10 it came with. Will keeping some of the existing partitions make that process easier?

Here are the partitions I show on this brand new system:


sda            8:0    0 119.2G  0 disk  
├─sda1         8:1    0   260M  0 part  
├─sda2         8:2    0    16M  0 part  
├─sda3         8:3    0   118G  0 part  
└─sda4         8:4    0  1000M  0 part

gdisk /dev/sda

Number  Start (sector)    End (sector)  Size       Code  Name
1            2048          534527   260.0 MiB   EF00  EFI system partition
2          534528          567295   16.0 MiB    0C01  Microsoft reserved ...
3          567296       248020991   118.0 GiB   0700  Basic data partition
4       248020992       250068991   1000.0 MiB  2700  Basic data partition

For example, if I blow away partition 3 and use that space to make my new Linux partitions, but I keep partitions 1, 2 and 4, will those partitions somehow enable me to restore the original system? If not, is there any value in keeping them at all?

  • 1
    The fact you are installing Linux is inconsequential. As the question is worded as it is, this is a question about Windows. Besides being primary opinion based per our FAQ. I strongly suspect you already know the answer to this question, and I do not also understand why asking it here.As the old adage says, when in doubt, make backups. Jun 12 '18 at 7:23
  • Rui is absolutely right, MountainX. Your question is opinion based and as such is a better fix for a different forum. The best thing you can do is backup ALL the partitions along with the partition layout information (the output of gdisk you showed), then you'll have what you need to restore everything as it was. You can use a tool like partclone to backup only used blocks, if you want to save some time a storage space. Jun 12 '18 at 11:17
  • Take the advice from Lenovo and create a restore disk before destroying all the partitions. The restore disk will then recreate the factory layout when used.
    – eyoung100
    Jun 13 '18 at 4:25

The presence of EFI system partition (ESP) indicates this laptop has UEFI, and the disk has a GPT partition table instead of traditional MBR. If you want to use native UEFI boot method, ESP is a required item: UEFI bootloaders for Linux will install in there too. However, you can delete the ESP and let the Linux distribution installer recreate it.

Currently, most new x86 systems will have both UEFI and a compatibility layer for legacy-style boot methods. When installing an operating system, there is one thing you should be aware of: you should take care to boot the OS installer using the same style you wish the installed OS to eventually use (either legacy or UEFI). If an installation media is bootable in both legacy and UEFI styles, you may see two options for it in the BIOS boot menus to represent the two possible boot methods.

Your partition #4 is probably the Windows recovery partition, which will be recreated if you let Windows 10 to completely repartition your disk on install. Partition #2 is reserved by Microsoft to aid in partition type conversions (either to Dynamic Disk or maybe the future WinFS). If you are not going to use Windows, there will be no point in keeping them.

Bottom line: if you delete partition #1 and make an UEFI-style installation, the installer will recreate partition #1 for you (possibly with slightly different size). Partitions #2, #3 and #4 look like they are part of Windows 10 default layout for UEFI and will be automatically recreated if/when you reinstall Windows.

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