Problem. Some Dell computers do not ship with the software and operating system CDs or DVDs required to restore the computer to its original state. Instead, for these computers, it is necessary to use the Dell System Restore. A piece of paper comes with the Dell that explains that if the system crashes, it is necessary to use the Dell System Restore to recover it. The piece of paper instructs the computer owner to click on the owners manual icon on the desktop to learn more. Of course, since the computer is crashed, there is no way to click on the owners manual icon. The instruction sheet from Dell leaves out a simple, but very important detail; how to use or access the system restore feature. When the computer is turned on, in the upper right hand corner, information is displayed regarding startup options. Pressing F2 will enter Setup. Pressing F12 will enter the boot menu that offers a variety of startup options. Dell System Restore is not listed as one of the startup options and no information is displayed.

Solution. The Dell System Restore is started by pressing and holding the CTRL key and (while continuing to press and hold down the CTRL key) pressing the F11 key. This needs to be done when the computer is starting up. It may be necessary to press the F11 key several times during startup. A complete system restore will erase all data and programs from the hard drive. The software used by Dell is the Symantec Ghost utility program (Version 8.3). It may be that the computer came equipped with Symantec Norton Ghost 10.0 version software. This software offers additional features. For example, it makes periodic backups of your system so it can be restored to an earlier state.

Hard Drive Partitions. For a Dell Dimension E310 with a hard drive of about 76 GB, about 50 GB will be available for Windows, Programs, and user files. There will be another partition on the drive of about 20GB that holds all of the system recovery files including the system image. There may be another smaller partition that contains standard Dell utility software. Deleting these partitions and cleaning off the drive entirely will remove the ability to perform diagnostic tests or restore the system image.

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* The above information is based on work performed on a Dell Dimension E310.

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