"disc one got to 100% and a popup appeared asking if i wanted to view files or run info.exe - HUH??"

I know this one. The recovery disk creator has a software bug. Even today the software authors leave such bugs to confound the owners.

Since you tried and failed to create the restore media it is now a Warranty Issue. Call Dell and ask for the restore media FREE of charge since they left a bug in the restore media creation software.
Bob