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Manually Access Dell Laptop Factory Recovery Image

October 30th, 2011 No comments

I recently purchased a new Dell XPS laptop. When I was trying installing and uninstalling some software I messed up the system. So I wanted to restore the laptop to the factory settings. The Dell XPS laptop came with a hidden partition used for recover. However, for some reason, I couldn’t find “Restore PC to Factory Settings” option in “Advanced Boot Options” during the bootup. I know the factory recovery image is still there because I didn’t mess with the hidden recovery partition. I thought there must be a way to access and use that factory recovery image to restore the laptop to the factory settings. I was right but it took me a long time doing research. And I finally figured out how to do it.

Here are the things needed for my method to work:

  • Dell factory restore partition untouched. This means the factory recovery image is still there and in a good shape. If you have deleted the restore partition then you need find other methods to restore your system.
  • A tool called ImageX. We will use this tool to deploy the Dell factory recovery image to restore the laptop. ImageX can be found in Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) which can be downloaded from Microsoft website. See this O’Reilly article for more information on ImageX.
  • A bootable CD/DVD that can boot into a Win32 pre-installation environment. Note that a pure DOS bootdisk won’t work here since pure DOS cannot access NTFS partitions. I built a BartPE bootable CD for this. I also put the ImageX tool that I obtained from WAIK on this bootable CD.

Once you have the above-mentioned items, start your laptop and boot it from the BartPE CD. When you are in the BartPE environment, run Command Prompt. Locate the file name factory.wim on the recovery partition. Make a note of the drive letter and path to that file. On my XPS laptop it is located in D:\Dell\Image\Factory.wim. Now change to the directory where ImageX is and type this command:

ImageX /apply d:\dell\image\factory.wim 1 c:\

Wait for the command to finish (it takes about 25 ~ 30 minutes). Once done, reboot your laptop from its hard drive. The laptop should have been restored to its factory settings and you are good to go.

References

  1. Post by JackShack in this Dell forum thread: Want to do a recovery.
  2. Restoring from restore partition without Ctrl+F11 nor restore disks.
  3. Free, Bootable Disaster Recovery in Vista.
  4. Bart’s Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) bootable live windows CD/DVD.
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