Inside the Dell PC Restore Partition

An Exploration by Dan Goodell
Windows 7 - Manual Restore from Dell Factory Image

Try this method if the automated Factory Restore procedure does not work. If the factory-installed Dell Backup and Recovery Manager is missing or damaged, it may be possible to manually restore the factory image using Microsoft's ImageX utility. The procedure that follows assumes you have a copy of imagex.exe and you still have a Dell Recovery partition with a factory image on it. The factory image is located at c:\Dell\Image\factory.wim.

Restoring the Factory Image will erase any user-installed programs and user data. Before proceeding, make sure you backup any user data you want to save (documents, pictures, music, etc.) and make sure you have the installation media to reinstall user programs.

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Screen 1:

Before starting, copy the imagex.exe file to a USB flash drive and insert the flash drive into a USB port on the computer.

Turn the computer on and follow the first four steps here until you get to the System Recovery Options screen.

Screen 2:

This is the main System Recovery Options menu.

We will use the "Command Prompt" option to perform the factory image restore. However, to avoid accidentally overwriting the wrong partition, it is very important to make sure you know which drive letters the Recovery Environment has assigned to the Recovery partition, the OS partition, and the flash drive. The next few steps are to identify those drive letters.

To check the drive letters, select the "System Image Recovery" option.

(Note: this option is for restoring images made with Microsoft Backup, so it won't find the Dell factory image. However, this is the only menu option that lets us explore the drive letter assignments.)

Screen 3:

As anticipated, a Microsoft system image is not found.

Click [Cancel] to close the alert window and continue.

Screen 4:

Click [Next] to proceed to the next window.

Screen 5:

Click the [Advanced..] button.

Screen 6:

Click "Install a driver" to continue.

(Note: we are not going to install a driver, but the other two options, "Search.." and "Cancel", will not let us continue.)

Screen 7:

Click the [OK] button to continue.

Screen 8:

In the left pane of the "Open" dialog box, click "Computer".

The right pane will show the drives and the drive letters that have been assigned by the booted Recovery Environment. (Note: your computer may show different drive labels or sizes than shown in this example.)

On a Dell-configured hard disk, the main Windows-7 OS partition should be identified as drive D: with the label "OS", and the Recovery partition should be identified as drive C: with the label "RECOVERY". If you have readjusted the partition layout, you may have different labels or drive letters.

Also note the drive letter of your flash drive. (In this example it is the G: drive.)

You may double-click any drive letter icon to study the files and folders in each partition. Explore the RECOVERY partition to make sure it actually has a factory image on it. The factory image will be named factory.wim and will be in the /Dell/Image folder of the RECOVERY partition.

(Note: you must have a factory.wim image file. If you don't, there is no point continuing as you have nothing from which to restore.)

Once you are satisfied that you know the drive letters of the Recovery partition and the OS partition we are going to overwrite, press "Cancel" until you return to the System Recovery Options menu (screen 2).

Screen 9:

From the System Recovery Options menu, select the "Command Prompt" option. The following instructions assume the flash drive (as determined in screen 8) is drive G:, the Recovery partition is drive C:, the Windows-7 OS partition to be overwritten is D:.

At the command prompt, type the following command:
  g:\imagex  /apply  c:\dell\image\factory.wim  1  d:\  
When you press the [Enter] key, the ImageX utility will begin overwriting the D: partition with the contents of the factory.wim image.

(Tip: these drive letter assignments apply only in the Recovery Environment. When the OS partition is later booted it will reassign the drive letters and the OS partition will become C:.)

Complete the process of restoring the factory image. The process will reformat the OS partition and restore it to the state it was in when shipped from the factory.

Reboot and the computer should boot into Windows 7.

Use windows Update to install any Windows updates that were released after the factory ship date.

Reinstall any user-installed programs, and restore backed up user data.

author: Dan Goodell

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