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Anyone try to do Dell PC Recovery?

by lunaray / March 13, 2006 8:27 AM PST

I have a Dell Dimension 8400 and have been attempting to do a PC Recovery, which the Dell manual says you can access by hitting Cntl/F11 after starting the computer. This is supposed to restore the computer to the exact condition it was when it came from the factory. Unfortunately, I keep getting a keyboard failure message and it won't go into this screen. After a typically unsatisfactory session with a Dell hardware service person, who says this is a software issue and I need to pay 99 dollars to get help from a software technician, I figure I should go to the real source of help, CNET Forums. I can't figure out if this is a hardware or software issue, but if the machine is supposed to do this, it should do it without me having to pay more money.

Amyone have any experience doing this PC Recovery? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Dell PC Recovery
by billzhills / March 13, 2006 8:54 PM PST


Dell has followed in the footsteps of HP/Compaq by providing a recovery partition ...... Didn't know that till know.... Thanks


''''To use PC Restore:

1 Turn on the computer.
During the boot process, a blue bar with appears at the top of the screen.

2 Immediately upon seeing the blue bar, press <Ctrl><F11>.

If you do not press <Ctrl><F11> in time, let the computer finish restarting, and then restart the computer again.'''' page 57

Hope this helps


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Dell PC Recovery
by lunaray / March 14, 2006 10:30 PM PST
In reply to: Dell PC Recovery

Thanks for the reply, Bill. Unfortunately, I've attempted to do this about 30 times with no luck. In fact, the blue bar no longer appears when the computer starts up, just the Dell screen with the logo in the lower right hand corner. Sometimes I get a keyboard failure message with the option to go to the setup screen or continue booting. I'm tempted to just delete the partition holding the recovery files and format the drive, then reinstall XP from disk. I'll gain 15 gigs in the process and lose the headache.

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Dell PC Recovery
by billzhills / March 14, 2006 10:50 PM PST
In reply to: Dell PC Recovery

Missed the K/B failure.... Have you swaped K/Bs?

If this also fails inspect the M/B for damaged capactors. Your M/B may be failing and the K/B issue is the first indication.

Also unattach any component not needed for install. I've had failing optical devices, front USB/audio devices, PCI expansion cards create some really strange issues.



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How old is this Dell?
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / March 15, 2006 4:14 AM PST
In reply to: Dell PC Recovery

Dell computers shipped after Nov 2004 had the recovery partition and didn't always ship with the XP CD's.

But Dells shipped before Nov 2004 didn't always ship with a recovery partition. If you have the original Dell OEM XP disks, then it is likely you have no recovery partition, and should repair install, or re-install from the disk anyway.


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PS, that could be why you get the keyboard error
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / March 15, 2006 4:15 AM PST
In reply to: How old is this Dell?

if there is no F12 option available.


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PC Recovery
by lunaray / March 15, 2006 9:00 AM PST

The computer will be a year old next month. It definitely has the partition. Could the motherboard be failing already? Would a program such as Motherboard Monitor tell me this?

I've tried disconnecting everything but the keyboard and mouse. Another strange thing is that after I started trying to do this, the keyboard began to not work at times. I'll go into setup and the up/down keys work there, but when I boot up and have to put my password in, there's no response from the keyboard. I have to take it out of the round plug (sorry, don't know what it's called) and plug it into the USB. I've tried using the keyboard that came with the computer, but it only has the round plug, so it wouldn't work the few times I tried.

I found if I went into setup and clicked on "restore", it then works. This is not PC Restore, though. I believe it restores some settings to what they were when it was new, but doesn't change what's on the computer now.

Sorry this sounds so convoluted.

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by billzhills / March 15, 2006 8:44 PM PST
In reply to: PC Recovery

""I have to take it out of the round plug (sorry, don't know what it's called) and plug it into the USB"""

Statement here indicates that your K/B is USB and you are using an adaptor to convert it to PS/2. No response on boot would be normal as windows has not loaded the USB drivers nor is the conversion plug not known to be trouble free. Also hot swapping any device or port is not recommended unless it is UBS.

You state that your PS/2 K/B did not work. Have you tried another? I've had K/Bs fail in the middle of a job or will not be recognized by a system. Don't ask I don't know why, only it happens.

If you are using a USB K/B and not attempted to use another K/B, other than the one shipped with your system, we are banging or heads against the wall.

If the above is true then I don't think your M/B has issues, just gotta find a K/B that your system likes.


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by lunaray / March 15, 2006 10:17 PM PST
In reply to: USB K/B?

This morning I tried Cntl/F11 again, and once again when the computer stopped booting I got the ''keyboard failure'' message. Then when I went back to booting the keyboard wouldn't respond, nor the mouse. I had to plug both of them into USB ports. Is it that the correct drivers are not loading for the PS/2 ports because I'm stopping the boot process? The reason I use the PS/2 ports is because my last Dell came with these adapters on the USB plugs of the keyboard and mouse. This computer came only with PS/2 plugs on them. What is the preferred method of connecting, PS/2 or USB?

I've been using a Logitech keyboard that has never given me a problem. Never even opened the Dell keyboard until these problems started, but the response is the same with it. I don't think the keyboard is the issue. The PC Recovery tool just doesn't seem to be working. The screen won't come up.

I'm glad you mentioned about hot swapping, as I have been plugging the keyboard and mouse in and out of the PS/2 and USB ports, since this problem started. Powering down before plugging into the PS/2 would advisable, then?

Thanks for the time you've been taking, Bill.

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Power down before swaping any
by billzhills / March 15, 2006 11:32 PM PST
In reply to: Keyboard

device that is not USB.

I use PS/2 K/Bs and mice. If the BIOS is not set properly the USB input devices may not work. As I said earlier I've had keyboards work on one system but not another or fail to work after they have been in use.

PS/2 drivers are hard wired into all motherboards and the O/S, so installing drivers is not needed on plain Jane k/bs.

If your error message occurs when accessing the recover partition then ''yes'' that partition may be damaged. Pull out your recovery disks and re-install from the disks.

The k/b failing to respond after re-boot ......
Possibility that the system may not be totally shuting down before re-start. If you are shutting down the system and then re-starting w/o k/b issues then this would be true.


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More on keyboard - usb
by netbob30 / March 17, 2006 12:51 AM PST

Had a similar problem on an older PC. Bought a wireless Logitech since it comes with a USB install disk. That solved the problem. And by the way, USB ports are not interchangeable. One will be the primary port. This fact can cause problems on a laptop with add-ons. Remnants of MSDOS linger on.....

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Bye Bye Restore Partition
by lunaray / March 16, 2006 9:52 PM PST
In reply to: Dell PC Recovery

Well, I just deleted the PC Restore partition. This weekend I'll format the drive and reinstall XP from disk. Hopefully, headaches will be kept to a minimum. Thanks again to those who responded.

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Driver Downloads
by bickster / March 17, 2006 5:29 AM PST

Make sure you download all the drivers you need off of the dell site before you restore your pc unless you have a backup pc. Good Luck

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by lunaray / March 17, 2006 9:26 AM PST
In reply to: Driver Downloads


I do have a back up XP disk that I burned from a file Dell includes. Are there other drivers that wouldn't be present on the disk that I should download? In fact, for the last week I've been running on a reinstall from this disk, seemingly with no problems. The reason I want to format the drive is that all my old documents are still taking up memory on the drive, although they are inaccessable.

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I am having the same problem!
by pacheco21 / January 9, 2010 12:15 PM PST
In reply to: Driver Downloads

Mine is due to Malware that has infected my computer and has taken over the DOS and hijacked the internet explorer programs, even Mozilla is effected. You might have a malware problem as well. Mine to is the same Dell as yours.

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boot Dell into recovery partition
by Christine Wholeben / December 20, 2008 12:31 PM PST
In reply to: Dell PC Recovery

I called Dell twice and was told different things each time - and neither one was correct! Finally I found the correct answer on CNet. Thank you, CNet!!
What worked was, when you turn on the computer on, as soon as the Dell splash screen comes on, press CTRL and F11 until the computer beeps at you. Then you can release them. It takes you to the hidden recovery partition.

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Fixing Cntrl+F11 on Dells
by scott_789 / March 18, 2006 2:38 PM PST

Although I don't think this information has anything to do with the keyboard failure message that Lunaray described, I though I'd post this for those running into this thread in the future --

I wrote about what I learned about the Dell PC Restore and fixing it at:

I did try to make a bootable CD to run the MBR fix as per the instructions at:

...and it didn't work. I had to make the CD bootable using a CD burning application that can make bootable Cd's, like Nero or whatever. (I used CDBurnerXP, or DeepBurner may work.)

Using the PC Restore is a fairly fast and relatively easy way to reinstall an OS. but after doing it a couple of times, I too elected to reinstall WinXP from scratch to get rid of all that pre-installed stuff that Dell thought I should have!

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IMP:Take the Backup up of DATA before performing PC restore
by t20gb / March 18, 2006 8:46 PM PST

1)Shutdown computer--disconnect it with every cable it is connected to(even power cable)---Press power botton on tower and keep it pressed for 5 sec.
2)Reconnect only Power cable, keyboard, mouse and monitor to the computer. Power on the computer and keep hitting(tapping) F2. On BIOS screen using down arrow key come to ''ON BOARD DEVICES'' push Enter. Third option will be USB-Controller(Pust Enter on it), Default option for this is ''ON''--Change it to ''NO BOOT''. Hit Escape key--SAVE & EXIT. Computer will restart. Let it boot to windows. shut down properly using the start button on desktop.
3)Restart the computer back. Press and hold down ''CTRL'' key(do not release it) and then start tapping F11 key---This will take you to PC Restore screen---follow the steps.
Note : This will not work if you have already formatted HDD and reinstalled Operating System.
===Do reply back if your problem is solved or remains unresolved===

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Dell System Recovery.
by gabriel720 / November 22, 2008 9:29 AM PST

Tried it.Does not work.When I press the ctrl and f11 key it alway follow throught with the reboot.Is there another solution.I have a dell XPS400.

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Problems not over
by lunaray / March 18, 2006 10:53 PM PST

Well, I deleted both partitions, formatted the hd and reinstalled Windows. However, after selecting the default number of mb's to format, there were 8 mb left. I wasn't sure if I should add this to the number to be formatted so I left it alone. After reinstalling everything, when I restart the computer it now goes to a black screen and has Windows XP listed twice and asks which os I want to boot. If I select the second one it says there was a hardware configuration problem.

Not only that, but I still have the same number of gigs as when the restore partition was still there. 149 gigs (145 available) out of a 160 gig drive.

I don't know if I should reinstall again, and add the 8 mb to the total amount to be formatted. What happened to the other 21 gigs? Does this make any sense to anyone?

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this may help...
by scott_789 / March 19, 2006 6:21 AM PST
In reply to: Problems not over

I'm not sure how you deleted your Restore Partition but if you didn't do it before re-installing windows then in the Windows XP install setup screen(s) you should have seen the listing of the:

Dell Utility Partition (FAT file system -- 30 to 60 mb)
--(it may say ''Unknown'' before it)

C: partition (NTFS Windows XP currently installed)

Dell Restore Partion (FAT32 -- it would likely say ''Unknown'' before it)

For example (I don't remember exactly):

Unknown Partition (FAT16) ------- xxxx MB (xxxx MB free)
C: Partition (NTSF) ------- xxxx MB (xxxx MB free)
Unknown Partition (FAT32) ------- xxxx MB (xxxx MB free)

refer to:
and scroll down to: ''5. Choose an installation partition''

(Did you see something different after deleting the Restore Partition ahead of time?)

Anyway, after you delete the existing partition(s) you have to create a new partition out of what is left before you format and install. You may not have done that which resulted in the 21gig discrepancy.

As for the Windows XP ''dual-boot'' problem, after reading what Dan Goodell had to say I think the Utility Partition may be the culprit.

...again, it may have something to do with not creating the partition before formatting. (if you did partition and just didn't say so then nevermind!)

As for the extra 8mb's, I'd include them.

BTW: I personally wondered what the difference was between the ''Quick Format'' and the regular one. I found out that the regular one scans the disk while (or before) formatting, where the quick format doesn't.

I got some other info from:

another note: I found out that if you want to create an extended partition (i.e. a ''D:'' for storage) during Windows XP setup you have to create a partition for it but not format it until Windows is installed and then format it through Windows. I learned that the hard way!

I'm kind of an in-between intermediate\advanced user so you may want to wait to see what others have to say.
No matter what, good luck!

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re:this may help
by lunaray / March 19, 2006 7:13 AM PST
In reply to: this may help...


Thanks for the tips and links. It's a lot to remember and absorb, as I'm more of an intermediate user.

Dell offers an option to delete the restore, which I did after much frustration trying to get it to work. It only deletes the data, obviously, the partition is still there. During XP install and format, there were two partitions listed and I deleted both of them. There were definitely not 3 listed. I assumed the full 160 gigs would then be available to format and the available space was something like 156xxx mb. That seemed right. However, after I chose that default amount it came back and said there were another 8mb, which I figured was not that much so I should leave it alone. Yet, after formatting there was still only 149 gigs, with 145 available. What happened to the other 21 gigs, I still can't figure out.

I also wondered what the difference was between Quick Format and the regular, but I don't know what you mean by scans the disk. However, I guess since I've already done a regular format, if I reformat I can use the Quick Format.

It seems I'll have to go back and do it all again to see if there was a step I missed. Do you know if it's possible to take it to the point where you need to delete the partition, and cancel the process without going through with it, or is it too late at that point?

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you should see the option ''F3=Quit''
by scott_789 / March 19, 2006 9:44 AM PST
In reply to: re:this may help

I scrolled down through the screenshots at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows: Upgrading to Windows XP ... and at that step where you delete the partition (5. Choose an installation partition), there appears to be the option to quit setup -- ''F3=Quit''.

When you explained it again, that 8mg's you mentioned seems strange. Could've that been the original Master Boot Record and Windows left it alone after you didn't include it in the format? (explaining the strange ''dual-boot''?)

If you do it again, after deleting the partition(s), create a new partition out of what's there before the format and install.

there's also this thread in the Dell forum that provides a link to a utility that wipes the HD clean, which I admit is a little extreme.

If you can currently boot into Windows (the first one listed, I guess) then you can see how the drive is currently set up by going to Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > Administrative Tools > Computer Management and under ''Storage'' click on ''Disk Management''. That may provide some clue for the missing 21 gb's.

To be honest, at this point I'm interested in what any experts may have to say about this! Hopefully there'll be a little more input.

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by lunaray / March 19, 2006 11:16 AM PST

Now that I see the F3=Quit option on Paul Thurrott's site, I remember it. Being the first time I've done a disk format, there were a lot of screens and I'd forgotten about it. Also, I checked out the DBAN program, but under the FAQ's it says it doesn't wipe the ''host protected area'' because some vendors use the HPA instead of providing rescue media. That seems to indicate that the Dell PC Restore partition is a HPA, and wouldn't be wiped by DBAN. The thing that puzzles me is why Dell would provide a means of deleting the restore data from within Windows. If it doesn't free up the allocated space, why bother?

Nothing under Disk Management about the missing gigs, but your comments and links are providing a lot of information I wasn't clear on. Thanks.

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Problems not over
by billzhills / March 19, 2006 11:02 PM PST
In reply to: Problems not over


What you are seeing may be correct on drive and partitioning sizes, if Dell is following in the footsteps of HP/Compaq. Meaning they are using an application similar to Ghost which performs a sector by sector image of the HD. That image is restored, partitions included, when you do a destrictive Restore. Windows repair just restores XPs kernal operation files.

Seeing a listing of two O/Ss is not. This indicates that XP was installed twice on two different partitions or the same partition which cannot be as you deleted both partitions.

Question .... How did you delete the partitions?
See Toni's post on formating a drive. Retired also has a post on the procedure that I have failed to bookmark.

Also see
the section ''Marketing'' capacity versus true capacity. The last section....
''Fortunately, this is no longer an issue today. Since modern drives are always low-level formatted at the factory, it would be extremely weird to state their sizes in terms of unformatted capacity, and manufacturers have stopped doing this. In fact, there usually isn't any easy way to find out the unformatted capacity of new drives! So to take another example from our friends at Seagate, the ST-315330A, the ''15330'' refers to the drive's approximate formatted capacity, 15,364 MB (15.4 GB).''

Binary vs. Decimal Capacity Measurements

Also the 21 gig may be a hidden partition for Dells Diagnostic software, Sectors that have been marked bad, BIOS/O/S limitation, all factors that I ignore porvided the O/S works correctly and the drive has passed a fitness test.

SO to re-install or not...
If you can live with what you have .... NO
If you can't, then yes


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Re:problems not over
by lunaray / March 20, 2006 5:56 AM PST
In reply to: Problems not over

Bill, I booted from the XP install disk I burned from the file Dell includes, and deleted the partitions from a screen there. There were 2 listed and I deleted both of them and was presented with a number of mb to use for the partition which I assumed was the total number available. However, after I chose that number it said there were 8 mb left. Since it was such a small amount, I thought it would be best not to add it to the total.

Someone else stated there were 2 Dell partitions, one for the Dell Utility software and one for the PC Restore. Is it possible that the utility/diagnostic partition is hidden such that it wouldn't show up during a formatting? It doesn't seem feasable, in my limited understanding. In any case, something is obviously wrong, as I'm being presented with 2 Windows XP choices to boot from.

By the way my drive is ST316023AS, which should give me 160gb. My backup drive is ST3120026A, which would be 120gb. Under Disk Management, the capacity of the drives is listed as 149gb and 112gb, respectively. Considering all things, could this be the correct number of available gigs (149) for a 160gb drive?

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Two XP installs
by billzhills / March 20, 2006 10:06 PM PST
In reply to: Re:problems not over


Starting with the 8 MB, I'll call this normal as I've seen it on every drive I have installed.

The file that Dell provides is a recovery disk. I can only relate it to the HP/Compaq recovery disks I have used. The recovery disk provided by HP/Compaq offer two options, Windows Repair or Destructive Restore.

Windows Repair does just that, repairs Windows. The Destructive Restore returns the system to the factory state. This includes partitions and applications, anything you have added in applications, settings, files are destroyed. So after the install you will see partitions. One for XP, applications and files. the other contains the recovery files.

You indicate you have two drives. It is possible that the installed of Xp was placed on the slave drive. Go here

''''This is a sample of the above Boot.ini file with a previous installation of Windows 2000 on a separate partition.
[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(1)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS=''Windows XP Professional'' /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT=''Windows 2000 Professional'' /fastdetect''''

You need to look at your BOOT.ini file at the bold and underlined items. This will tell you on which drive and partition XP is installed on.

Correct drive size... possible... their are a lot of factors that may prevent a system from seeing all of a drive. If it is not the system the internal structure, meaning partition table, may be incorrect. I've had a few drives do this. Using a disk wipe application (writes 1&0s to a drive) cures this issue if it is not the system.

At this point if all this is gettng too deep un-attach your slave drive, wipe the drive and re-install XP. After install attach your slave; pull your files off wipe and format the drive.....(Wipe the slave with the primary drive un-attached, format in Windows)

After drive wipe and re-install your drives are not showing the correct size then it is your system that is not able to see all of the drive, not something to sweat over, just part of owning a computer.


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re:Two XP installs
by lunaray / March 21, 2006 10:18 AM PST
In reply to: Two XP installs

Bill, I should have clarified that I don't use two drives on an ongoing basis. My spare drive was not in the computer when I formatted and reinstalled the operating system. I backed up to the drive and put it in just to get a few things back on the system. It's an older drive and has different connections than the new SATA drive. I mentioned it only to compare the so called "size" of the drives with the available memory listed in Disk Management.

The disk wipe may be the way to go. Someone else had suggested DBAN, or your link to Active@KillDisk may be usefull. I noticed under the User's Manual, Common Questions/How is the data erased, it says that it cleans Fat32 drives. Does it matter if the drive is formatted to NTFS? Also, would I then be able to boot to the Windows disk to partition and format, rather than use FDISK and FORMAT? (suggestions at the end of Chapter 4 of the manual.)

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Disk Wipe
by billzhills / March 22, 2006 1:03 AM PST
In reply to: re:Two XP installs

FAT or NTFS does not matter. The utility I provided writes 1s & 0s to the drive destroying all data on the drive.

The Dells recovery disk will partition and format the drive. Provided Dells recovery disk operates the same as E-machine or Compaq/Hp. The Dell's recovery disks I have not seen.

E machine uses 1 or 2 disks and Ghost. Ghost creates an image of the drive sector by sector and performs a destructive restore only.

Compaq/Hp uses 6 to 7 disks allowing repair of Windows or a destructive restore.

Size of the drives listed to reality....

Too many factors to say what is going on. Use Disk Wipe, if you get the same results then something is preventing the BIOS from seeing all of the drive. As HDs are temporary storage and if my system works properly I just ignore the discrepency.


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Some more info...
by eoghanmcdonnell / October 15, 2009 9:23 AM PDT

Even though this thread has been inactive, I have an answer to this problem and perhaps others might find this useful. I also have a Dell Dimension 8400 and had the exact same problems.

Luckily I found this neat little program, DSRFIX. Search for it and follow the instructions given, its not very complicated but does require that you boot into DOS. It fixed my PC Restore function and now my system runs as it should after the restore.

Anyway, maybe this is all very old news to you tech guys..

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dell partition recovery software
by eddieh36 / March 15, 2010 11:24 AM PDT

i will email you the software if you have broadband 1.50 mb

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