Dell computers ship with a drive partition containing recovery data, allowing you to reset your computer to factory settings. Over the years, Dell has used a variety of different recovery tools. On some Windows Vista computers, you can manually locate and use the factory image file using Microsoft's ImageX tool instead of using Dell's recovery program, but later systems use encrypted files, making this impossible.

Recovery File Location

Dell systems use an extra partition, usually set as the "D" drive, to store recovery data. This data resides on the same physical hard drive as your "C" drive. Regardless of your system, all data on the recovery partition is used for storing and using factory information. If you have a Dell with Windows Vista, one file in particular stores the actual disk image for your computer. You can find it at D:\dell\image\factory.wim.

Using Recovery Data

If you need to restore your PC, you should use the recovery program included by Dell. This program varies by age and model of your computer. If you can boot into Windows, look for "Dell Backup and Recovery" or "Dell DataSafe Local Backup 2.0" in your Start menu or Start screen. If you can't boot, press "F8" while the computer starts and pick "Repair My Computer" to start recovery. If you need to use the Factory.wim file to restore manually on a computer running Vista, open a command prompt from the recovery menu, browse to D:\Tools and type "imagex /apply d:\dell\image\factory.wim 1 c:\" without quotes.