I've been putting it off since November, but my laptop needed a "Windows do-over" from all the shit I installed, then un-installed and re-installed and crudded up. I kept putting it off because it's 18 months old and Im getting ready to sell it and get a new one while it still has a significant amount of warranty left. If I went through all the trouble of re-installing Windows NOW, I would just have to re-do it again when I sold the laptop.
Thursday I decided that this weekend I would bite the bullet, take the plunge, back up all my data and do it. I was out of commission last night so this morning I started the data consolidation between my laptop and desktop and moving stuff offline and finally did a Ghost image of the entire partition just in case.
I was ready to do the re-install. I wanted to use the built-in DSR thing which uses a version of Symantec Ghost re-branded as Dell System Restore. I couldn't remember the key-combination to launch it and finally found it on some message board or another as Ctrl-F11. I rebooted, waited for the BIOS screen to show up and pressed Ctrl-F11. Windows started booting. I poked it in the eye to hard-reset it (what do I care if I corrupt the Windows install at this point, right?) I tried it again, nothing. I tried Shift, Ctrl-Shift, Alt-Shift, Ctrl-Alt-Shift and nothing seeming to work. I was getting frustrated.
I went Googling to see if I was doing something wrong or maybe my partition had become corrupted or something, but I didn't think so. I read the directions very carefully. It said that once the BIOS screen shows up, you have about two seconds once the keyboard becomes active to press Ctrl-F11. Still nothing. Finally, just on a whim, I waited and on the NEXT screen, after the BIOS splash screen, I pressed Ctrl-F11 and suddenly it changed... it worked.
It was actually quite quick, it only took about four minutes to restore the partition compared to the 62 minutes it took to back it up first. I clicked the reboot button, it changed the MBR back to boot off the Windows partition and came up with the Dell Warranty/Service Tag screens, exactly how it came out of the box from the factory.
I stepped through the Windows Setup, named the computer, assigned an administrator password and that sorta sorta and then it came up to the desktop and opened the Start Menu. I saw the MSN Explorer icon on there along with Outlook Express and Windows Messenger, which I normally remove along with some other junk that comes with Windows. When I opened Add/Remove programs in the Control Panel, there was about two pages of shit that was pre-installed. Unlike the story that's getting a lot of press last week about the new Sony Vaio that had about 25% of the hard drive with crap and trial-ware, mine only had something called Photo Click. The rest of it was drivers, Dell System Restore, Intel PROSet wireless drivers or something. When I ordered this laptop, I specifically requested no crapware on it, and there was none on there. Still a lot of junk though. :)
SO, to avoid an hour or more of frustration, make sure you wait til you pass the Dell BIOS splash screen and it's on the SECOND screen before pressing Ctrl-F11 to get into the Dell System Restore partition.