Dell System Recovery With No CD

By Jeff Grundy

There are many reasons the Windows installation on a Dell PC can fail. Viruses, spyware, poorly designed software and corrupted device drivers can all cause Windows to produce errors that may render the operating system unusable. Sometimes, the only remedy to fixing major Windows problems is to reinstall the OS and start from scratch. Although some Dell server computers ship with a recovery CD/DVD, most Dell PCs do not come with discs. Therefore, you must restore the computer from a utility partition, which you can access when you start the PC.

Restoring a Dell Computer with Windows XP

Step 1

Turn off the computer and the restart it.

Step 2

Wait for the Dell logo splash screen to appear, then press the "Ctrl" and "F11" keys at the same time (do this quickly or you might have to start over).

Step 3

Click the "Restore" option when the "Dell PC Restore by Symantec" window appears. Alternatively, press the "Tab" key to highlight the "Restore" option and then press the "Enter" key.

Step 4

Click the "Confirm" option when the warning message about erasing all data on the computer appears.

Step 5

Wait for the utility to restore the operating system. In most cases, it will take about 10 minutes to complete the restore process.

Step 6

Click the "Finish" button when you see the "The system recovery process was successful." The computer software reverts to factory defaults and the system will reboot into Windows.

Windows 7 and Vista

Step 1

Turn off the computer and turn it back on again.

Step 2

Press the "F8" key a few times when you see the initial Dell logo splash screen.

Step 3

Wait for the Windows "Advanced Boot Options" menu to appear, then press the down-arrow key until the cursor covers the "Repair Your Computer" option. Press the "Enter" key.

Step 4

Click and select the language settings you want to use and then click the "Next" button.

Step 5

Enter the administrator user name and password if prompted to do so, then click the "OK" button.

Step 6

Click the "Dell Factory Image Restore" link on the next screen. After the new window appears, click the "Next" button.

Step 7

Select the "Yes, reformat hard drive and restore system software to factory condition" check box and then click the "Next" button.

Step 8

Wait for the restoration process to finish. Depending on the hardware configuration of your Dell computer, the restore process could take between 10 to 20 minutes.

Step 9

When prompted to do so, click the "Finish" button to restart the computer. The operating system and software will be reset to factory defaults.

Tips & Warnings

  • Back up important data files and documents to an external device, such as a USB flash drive or external hard drive. The Dell recovery process deletes all files on the computer not part of the original software configuration.