Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Hi All,

I'm hoping that someone can help me out. My understanding is that not all Inspiron systems were shipped with a restore feature or "Repair Your Computer" option in the "Advanced Boot Options" menu (after pressing <F8> prior to the Windows logo appearing on the screen). Unfortunately, my Dell Inspiron 531 does NOT have this restore feature.

The performance of my Dell PC (bought in 2007) is has declined significantly over the years even though I've preformed regular system maintenance, performance and Windows updates over the years. I have all my important files backed up on an external hard drive. So, I figured it just might be easier to start from scratch and restore my PC to it's original factory settings or wipe the hard drive clean and reinstall everything with the installation discs I received when I purchased my computer.

However, I'm not sure how to do either of these seeing as there's no Factory Restore Feature on my PC and I'm not sure if it's safe or possible to wipe the hard drive clean and begin anew.

Could anyone shed some light on my predicament? Any and all help would be MUCH appreciated!!

Many thanks in advance!


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14 Replies

Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Hi Heather,

As the PC restore is not working, the other option would be to reinstall the Windows using the Windows disc.

Sluggish performance of the system may be due to hardware or software issues. I would recommend you to test the hardware functionality of your system before reinstalling the Windows.

Try following steps:

1. Restart system.

2. Press F12 at Dell logo to get to ‘One Time Boot Menu’.

3. Press down arrow key to select ‘Boot to Utility Partition’ and press ‘Enter’.

4. Press the Tab key to highlight Test System and press ‘Enter’ to continue to 32-bit Diagnostics.

5. The Dell Diagnostics screen appears. It would list the four options given below:

a. Express Test.

b. Extended Test.

c. Custom Test.

d. Symptom Tree.

6. Please select Express Test and click on ‘Run Test’ to start the diagnostics.

If the tests complete without any error code, follow the steps listed below to reinstall Windows Vista:

Note: Disconnect all external peripherals (external drives, printer, webcam, iPod etc.) connected to the system.

1. Insert the Windows DVD in the CD/DVD drive and restart the computer.

2. Tap the F12 at Dell logo to access the ‘One Time Boot Menu’.

3. Press the ‘Down’ arrow key to highlight CD/DVD drive and press ‘Enter’.

4. When the message ‘Press any key to boot from CD’ appears, immediately press any key on keyboard.

5. Windows Vista Setup would load. After Vista Setup loads, confirm the Language, Time, Currency and Keyboard Method settings are correct then click Next.

6. On the Windows Vista Installation page, click Install Now.

7. Review the terms and click I accept the license terms to proceed.

8. On the 'Which type of installation do you want?' window, click Custom (advanced).

9. On the Where do you want to install Windows window, make sure the largest Primary Partition is selected then click ‘Next’. If the Primary partition has 0GB free, there should be a separate line for Unallocated Space. Select this unallocated space and click ‘Next’.

Note: Your computer will restart several times during installation.

10. When the Setup window appears, select a user name, password, and picture for your user account.

11. On the next couple of screens, use the default or recommended settings prompted and click Next until you see the Time & Date screen.

12. Click to select your time zone then click Next.

13. After the Thank You message appears, click Start.

Once the Windows have been reinstalled, you will need to install the drivers. Please open the link given below to download the latest drivers for your system:


On the Drivers and Downloads webpage, please enter the Service Tag of your system and click ‘Submit’. On the Drivers page, select the operating system installed on your computer. It would list the drivers for your system. Please download and install the drivers in following order:

1. Chipset Drivers.

2. Video Drivers.

3. Audio Drivers.

4. Network Drivers.

Once the drivers are installed, install the software applications.

Please reply if you have any questions.

Thanks and Regards,

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Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

For best results follow my wiki A Clean Install of Windows Vista.

Dr Philip Yip
Tech Enthusiast and Author of the Unofficial Dell Windows Reinstallation Guide

Windows FAQs and OEM Downloads

#IDoNotWorkFor Dell
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Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Hi GauraS!

I got as far as, "Press the ‘Down’ arrow key to highlight CD/DVD drive and press ‘Enter’". However, the next screen said:

No boot device available

SATA 0: installed

SATA 1: installed

SATA: 2: None

SATA 3: none

What does this mean and how can I fix it to prompt me to step #4?


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Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Hi Philip,

I got as far a step #3 in the Software & Operating Systems link you sent me. I think that I was even able to to accomplish step #5... But the rest was "all Greek to me"! Are there any easier directions to follow?

Many thanks,


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Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Step 4 is the standalone updates, just download and install them like the drivers. You will have Windows Vista 32 bit so you will need:

Service Pack 1 (x86) (select language)

Service Pack 2 (x86) (select language)

Internet Explorer 9 (x86) (English/Not sure if All)

Microsoft Security Essentials*

Microsoft Security Essentials Latest Definition (32 bit)*

Note the DVD may or may not have Service Pack 1, if there is no mention of Service Pack 1 on your DVD then download it. If it already has it then it is not required.

Ensure that they are install them once you are on the windows desktop and before the drivers. (Installing them at Step 9. just run the files, click next, next and restart when prompted).

Step 5. is the drivers.

Step 6. shouldn't be necessary for your system. Sometimes it is required.

Step 7. shouldn't be necessary for your system as it isn't a Media Direct system. The DBAN part is optional, it simply formats the drive better than the standard Windows format but you can ignore this.

Step 8. follow through, you will have the same screens as shown. I have put some options in the guide. However just follow the following screens exactly. 

Insert the DVD you have created or Dell reinstallation DVD or the bootable USB flash stick. Also insert the SATA Drivers USB stick if applicable. Power down your computer. Hold F12 while powering up your computer (at the Dell BIOs screen).

Select boot from CD/DVD.

Press any key when prompted such as "h" when it says Press any Key to boot from CD/DVD.

You will get a black screen that says "Windows is Starting Files" then one that says Microsoft Corporation. These should disappear pretty quickly. Next one that says Starting Windows

You will then be prompted for your language, time and currency format and keyboard settings. Mine are all set to U.K. as shown below, amend for your preference.

Select Install Now.

Accept the license terms

Next select Custom (Advanced).

Ensure that "Hide drivers that are not compatible with hardware on this computer is ticked" (it should be set like this by default). Select all the drivers listed and then click next. It will take you back to this screen. Select "Drive Options".

This will reveal the drive options. Click the largest partition and select format. Leave smaller ones alone.

You will then a screen telling you the progress of the install.

It will run through with the install:

Type in your "username". Next type in your password, retype it and leave yourself a hint. Alternatively just select next (to have no password - not recommended but optional).

Now name the computer, by default the PC name will be "username-PC" but you can change this as desired. Next you will get the Windows Update options, I generally select Use recommended settings.

Then select your time and date settings.

Set up Network settings and or connect to a wireless network. Note you may not get this or be able to do this if the wireless and/or ethernet drivers are not installed. You may ignore this step and connect later.

Finally the setup will Finalise.

When you first login, Vista may assess your hardware after this which will take a few minutes.

Step 9. just install the standalone updates as mentioned above.

The service pack 1 is critical. Service Pack 2 is major.

Step 10. Install the drivers.

Step 11. shouldn't be necessary with the Dell disk.

Step 12. is just a check also.

Step 13. and 14. are just reinstalling your programs.

Step 15. should be unnecessary if you have backed up everything and selected format in step 8.






Dr Philip Yip
Tech Enthusiast and Author of the Unofficial Dell Windows Reinstallation Guide

Windows FAQs and OEM Downloads

#IDoNotWorkFor Dell
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Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Many thanks to each of you who responded to my plea for help with regards to my illiterate attempt at a factory restore!! NATAKUC4, your step-by-step visual directions were especially helpful! Smiley Happy

This whole trial and error process was quite an educational experience for me! And for those of you who are trying to accomplish the same feat, if I can do it you can do it too!! Smiley Happy

So... I finally made it through the restore process, downloaded the drivers and SP1 for Vista... However, I was a bit thrown off when I tried to download SP2 a few times and continuously got the response, "the data is invalid"... Thank goodness for this forum, because I found the solution in another thread, which basically said to be patient and let Windows Update work its magic!! Well, after over 100++ updates, SP2 was finally available for me to download!! Yeah! Smiley Happy

So, I'm happy and proud to say that my computer is up-to-date and working better than it has in years!! Apparently, my PC was stuck in the stone ages!! Who knew that I could "pin" the sites that I visit the most via the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox?!? Lol... "Not I", says the Newbie!! Smiley Wink

Once again, MANY thanks for all the help and guidance that I received!!

I'm going to attempt to add some "tags", so that others who might experience similar issues will come upon the greatly appreciated help that was given to me!! Smiley Happy

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Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Glad you are up and running. Smiley Happy

If you feel like it there is a thread Has the Forum helped you? where you can write about your overall experience on the forum.

Dr Philip Yip
Tech Enthusiast and Author of the Unofficial Dell Windows Reinstallation Guide

Windows FAQs and OEM Downloads

#IDoNotWorkFor Dell
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Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Hey guys, my mother's Dell Inspiron 531 just crashed and I'm trying to help her recover.  I've found this step-by-step process very helpful.  However, when I follow the instructions I can't make it past the "Where do you want to install Windows" prompt.  "Disk 0 Unallocated Space" does not show up as an option.  And when I search for drivers, even with the Drivers CD that came with the computer in the drive, noting will show up.  I can't get any further than this step.  I've tested all of the hardware with the system tests you've suggested, and they all passed the tests.

Can you tell me how I might get around this?

I know this is an older thread so I'm hoping someone will still see my plea for help!

Thanks in advance,


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Re: Dell Inspiron 531 Factory Image Restore in Windows Vista

Hi clwhite,

I see that the hard drive is not getting detected during the operating system installation. Dell Inspiron 531 can be configured with RAID. We will need to disable RAID in the system so that during the installation the hard drive is detected. Please follow the steps below to disable RAID in the system.

  1. Turn on or restart the computer.
  2. Immediately at the Dell logo screen, starting tapping the <F2> key once a second until the BIOS screen pops up.
  3. Press the left and right-arrow keys to highlight the ‘Advanced’ tab.
  4. Press the up and down-arrow keys to highlight ‘SATA Controller’ and change it to ‘SATA-1+2’then press <Enter>.
  5. Press the up and down-arrow keys to highlight ‘Serial-ATA Configuration’ and then press <Enter>.
  6. Press the up and down-arrow keys to highlight RAID Enabled and then press <Enter> and disable it.
  7. Press <F10> and then press <Enter> to exit System Setup and resume the process of installation.

Please let me know if this helps.

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