I feel your pain having just been through some frustrations
A couple weeks ago I was stuck with a laptop of my sons (Gateway), with no WinXP CD, just a recovery partition and some CDs with drivers/utilities that the Geek Squad made him several years ago (thank God for those!) Then I had to work on the hubby's laptop (Dell) -- I finally had the guts to delete the Recovery partition (which was already whittled to next to nothing).
Some loose stream of conscience thoughts for you... I may not be able to do much to help, but since there is some thoughts stuck in my head from the trauma two weeks ago, maybe one of them will ding a bell and help you
Also, hopefully the gang who has been in here helping and reinforcements will all jump in for you -- I just KNOW you can do this
Now to figure out how!
I see that my new friend (if he will permit) Caperdog has hopped in and reiterated one for you...
Do you have a read/write DVD in that machine? I just tried to do some bootable CDs which were too big for CD, I put them on DVD and I was able to boot from them. SO...if you end up needing this idea, that might be helpful...
Next, is this a desktop or laptop? Which model? Either way, make sure to copy off the drive all folders containing drivers, i.e. there might be a C:\drivers folder. Whatever... I would make sure to have a pencil and paper, copy where you get the folders from (just in case that becomes important), and grab every single folder containing Dell junk, be they on the Windows drive or the recovery partition (can you see that partition?) Get ALL of it, drivers etc. If you can't see what is on the recovery partition, perhaps someone can quickly get you to how to see it. I have Partition Magic and "think" that I booted to that, then unhid the recovery partition, making sure to keep the partition that was active as active. I was then able to boot into my Windows CD and see what was on that recovery partition to copy it elsewhere. In my reinstall work, I DID find that I was constantly perusing varying back up folders looking for drivers, software, etc. -- I was glad to have them. If you want to reinstall certain things AFTER you get your new Windows on the drive, you will want to have those install files somewhere at hand. Once you can see that recovery partition, copy EVERYTHING off to a backup CD or thumb drive or something.
Oh...question, are you intending to format the drive and install that new Windows? If so...I'm wondering something, and maybe someone in here could confirm it.
IF you intend to format that drive, then my guess is that an alternative would be to just blow away the partition that your Windows is on, then reformat it with NTFS (if that is what it was and/or what you want), THEN use a bootable install CD (if you have managed to build one -- in case you didn't, more thoughts on that in a moment). MAKE sure to back up your precious stuff OR EVERYTHING before you delete partitions -- you can always dig through the backups later if you missed backing up anything (do I hear piles of CDs or thumbdrives clicking?) Oh, I back up actual files (drag and drop), I don't use the Windows backup for this.
I'm "fairly sure" that AFTER you delete that Windows partition -- you can rebuild it formatting it to anything you want and putting any version of any OS on it. IF this is the case, and I believe it is, THEN trying to use the original WinXP (i.e. without SP2) shouldn't stop you (if you've managed to create a bootable install CD from that version of WinXP). Clear as mud?
If I were doing this, I think that I would format it with NTFS using anything other than a Windows CD to do so -- I would do this JUST to make sure there was no WinXP version glitch later on (I don't know if the thing you use to format it NTFS makes a difference.) I used Partition Magic to blow away the partition and then rebuild it and format it NTFS, but I see there are some nice freebee programs out there that partition etc.
SO... Let's just pretend that you get EVERYTHING copied onto CDs or thumb drives (safely, maybe even 2 copies each in case something corrupts in the copy.) Let's say you are able to make a bootable install CD, or borrow one...
And for a rant... I "buy" my dang OS either on my Dells, or with a CD included (I always buy those extra with my machines now, $10 bucks is little to pay for the headache savings later.) I really take issue with MS with this piracy deal -- I'm no dang pirate, I bought the dang OS -- it came with the computer, paid for. So... Personally, if I was in a fix, I wouldn't feel bad at all in borrowing someone else's install CD. The one issue for me would be to make sure that I could validate it with "my" numbers. If you have the sticker with your numbers that's good. IF someone can tell you how to pull your numbers out of your registry or wherever it might be hidden, that's good. I didn't bother with either of the latter, I am not 100% sure how I just did this on one of the machines I worked on (I think my son's Gateway), but at one point I did follow something I saw in the following and I DID get validated okay:http://unattended.msfn.org/unattended.xp/v...web/29/#oembios
I made sure to copy those OEM files to a back up drive (I was networked for my work on his machine) BEFORE blowing away my son's partitions (everything including his recovery partition). Here were the filenames:
When I redid my son's machine using my Windows XP CD, I believe I used the info from the above page AND the replacement of those files after I installed. At one point, I got stuck and used the following page to get me over the hump -- the guy's tip worked for me! http://www.command-tab.com/2007/03/17/wind...inutes-or-less/
Now then... I don't know WHY you are wanting to reinstall Windows, but I can surely guess
I do it intermittently for a clean start. IF you don't care about the Dell extras... OH that reminds me, I would go to the Dell website, login to "my account" (hope you have one) and download ALL of the updated drivers and software for YOUR machine. Back it up to another media, CD, stick whatever. Having those things on hand for clean new work is a nice deal. I find that I am able to install the Windows, get a few really relevant drivers and bits of software in, then I can work more easily and carefully on rebuilding my machine's software load. My son's machine was a nightmare, as it needed some SATA drivers that were NOT on my CD (heck I didn't even know for "SATA"), when I was trying to make a crippled bootable install CD (no thanks to the Dell Windows CD with all the gluck on it that I had to work from), I had to figure out how to incorporate those SATA drivers, and the wireless network drivers into his bootable install CD. I DID find those drivers on his C drive AND on his Recovery Partition. SO...make sure that you know WHAT drivers you need for your hard drive and the basics, controller and so on...get them backed up on something so that you can install them. Again, I am a dodo with this -- but I just kept learning and cludging along. Sorry if you know alot of this stuff -- better I type it while I'm thinking of it, in case you don't know it.
Finally... and in a nutshell... I knew that I could afford to take my machines to the Geeks somewhere to get me back in business if I bombed, I don't know if you have that grace. If you do, well...all you can do is cover as many exits as you can and then go for it. Go to the Geeks eventually if you can't do the thang...
If it helps any, I did this:
1. made a crippled bootable WinXP install CD using something I found on the web at 100 pages that I looked at, made sure it worked on the machine. It was crippled in that it only installed the basics (no Media Center, no software), I was NOT able to get that dang OEM CD into BartPE exactly...all sorts of piddly glitchy things I had to maneuver BUT finally...I had something.
2. I had my WinXP SP2 Dell CD (remember I was working on a Gateway at one time, a Dell at another, so my thoughts are jumbled.)
3. I deleted all partitions, then repartitioned and formatted as NTFS with Partition Magic (I run dual boots, and have C, D, E, F, and G partitions with C and G being primaries with WinXP on each).
BTW, I wonder if you delete the Windows partition and then rebuild it and format to NTFS if someone might have an idea on how you could use the recovery partition to completely reinstall your Windows using the junk on that recovery partition? I might almost bet that you could, but I didn't want all the junk so didn't look into it very hard. Once you got that installed, you could dejunk and update... It would still be a fresh install.
4. I used my Dell CD to install fresh. Maybe you could use a borrowed install CD (better if it is just a plain MS CD, not with all the Dell garbage on it, i.e. not a WinXP CD from Dell). Once you are installed, you can get your validation situation squared away.
IF you can't borrow a CD, maybe someone would let you make an install CD from theirs, and you could put your OEMbios files into that install CD. OR maybe there is an OEM store locally and you could buy a cheap Windows install CD?
OH, I found this fellows page REALLLLLY helpful:http://www.maximumpc.com/print/168
This page helped too:http://www.howtohaven.com/system/createwin...setupdisk.shtml
I had to put bits and pieces of info together to get things accomplished.
Well... Don't know if any of the above will help you in anyway...but that's my thoughts for now. I'd like to see you happily get reinstalled and out of your frustration.