|It depends on what you want to restore, and whether or not you got a Recovery CD or DVD with the Dell. |
Name brand computer systems have two partitions on a single hard drive - a larger one you see as C:, and a smaller one used to back up all the software that came installed on the drive, often seen as D:, and called the Recovery partition or similar.
When you re-format C and run a normal Setup to install Windows, you are installing data only on the first partition.
If you had a regular XP CD, you could run Setup from scratch, but after Setup was finished, you will probably have to install drivers Windows doesn't have, available on the Dell site for your model, and you will have to install the main chipset drivers, available at the maker of the chipset's web site, and the bonus software that came with the Dell will no longer be there. You will have to Activate Windows yourself.
That's probably not what you want to do, and you probably don't have a regular XP CD.
Name brand system computers don't normally come with regular XP CDs. At best they may come with one Recovery CD, or one Recovery DVD. That CD or DVD may or may not have enough XP files on it that are normally on a regular Windows CD to repair Windows on its own - it may depend on the Recovery partition being intact as it was when you got the new computer.
If you want the Dell to be the way it was when you got it
- if the second Recovery partition on the hard drive is intact and undamaged, if you have a Recovery CD or DVD that came with the computer, or if you made one in Windows using a Dell supplied utility in Programs, the larger partition you see as C; can be restored to the way it was when you got the computer, using the data on the Recovery partition. If the Recovery partition is corrupted or not there, that procedure cannot work.
- If you got no Recovery CD or DVD with the computer, and you didn't make one in Windows using a Dell supplied utility in Programs, or if your Recovery partition has been corrupted or is no longer there, if you didn't make the set of Recovery CDs or DVD(s) you are supposed to make when Windows is running fine with the Dell supplied utility in Programs, you will have to order a Recovery CD set or Recovery DVD(s) from the Dell web site, and use that set of CDs or DVD(s) to restore the whole hard drive on your Dell. If it's the same situation as I had with a Compaq computer, the Recovery CD set or DVD(s) will cost you far less than an OEM XP Home CD, including shipping.
In any case, see the Dell site for how to go about restoring the Dell to the way it was!
If you restore your Dell computer the proper way, all the software that was on the computer when you got it will be there, you will not have to enter a Product Key, all the necessary drivers are already installed including those for the main chipset, and Windows is automatically Activated without you having to do anything.All you need to do is load Microsoft Updates and you're ready to go.