A Dell Recovery Disk is a packaged CD that comes with every new Dell desktop or laptop computer. Don't be mislead by the word "recovery," however. This disk only helps you "recover" your factory settings for the computer and the Windows operating system; it won't restore your familiar hard drive contents or allow you to change your Windows Vista or 7 entry passwords. Using a Dell Recovery Disk means starting over and returning the computer to the way it was the day of purchase.
Insert the Dell Recovery Disk in the CD or DVD drive while the computer is turned off. You can pop open the drive by inserting the end of a paper clip into the small hole on the front of the drive. Apply slight pressure to push the release button located inside the hole, and the drive door opens.
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Boot the computer. In most cases, the computer senses the presence of the disk and immediately start the installation process. If the on-screen messages tell you the computer can't boot from this disk, or if the computer keeps booting to your old Windows desktop, you need to reset the boot order in your BIOS so the machine boots first from the CD, not the hard drive. You can enter your BIOS to set the boot order by pressing "F1," "F2" or "Delete" when your computer first begins to boot up. Make your changes, save them and then reboot.
Respond to the introductory questions that may pop up on the screen. In most cases, you are asked if you want to run the Dell Recovery program. Answer "Yes" or press "Enter" to continue with the recovery process. Be aware that in most cases the contents of your hard drive will be overwritten if you continue.
Monitor the progress of the reinstallation and answer any questions that may be posed to you during the process. The Dell Recovery Disk usually reinstalls Windows and then reinstalls any device drivers needed to fully operate the computer, including the Ethernet card, the monitor, the sound card and other drivers.
Remove the Dell Recovery Disk when prompted to do so by the program and then reboot. You may need to finish some recovery steps, such as activating or validating your copy of Microsoft Windows again when the computer is able to make an Internet connection. Once that hurdle is cleared, you can reinstall your software programs and any archived files you've saved on other media, such as CDs and flash drives.
Save and protect your Dell Recovery Disk. You can’t use another recovery disk intended for another make and model of machine. If you lose or damage your recovery disk, you can usually purchase a replacement disk from Dell.