Why is it so hard to find any way to order factory restore disks. I have seen posts relating to this same issue in the forums. I repair computers for a living and have used other manufacturers website and they make it easy to order recovery disks that includes the factory installed OS and all programs and drivers that a system shipped with initially. With Dell, they seem to make it difficlt, if not impossible to support their computers. If this is the way Dell treats it's customers, I will do my best to reduce the number of customers they have. As you can imagine, I am often asked to recommend computers when people are interested in purchasing one. If this is the kind of support Dell offers, I will keep that in mind when someone asks me for a computer purchase recommendation.
Dell has never had Factory Restore Disks, only Reinstallation disks with the operating system and device drivers. Dell has just started a new Media Reduction policy for non business systems. New computers have a program to allow the user to make their own recovery disks and Dell will usually supply the operating system disks to the original owner if needed. The Restore Partition is included on new computers for reinstalling to original factory settings. Read more HERE.
Please give more information Aelkins66. What is the model of your Dell? What version of Windows XP, Vista or 7? Is your COA legible?
For Windows XP is harder to get the media however see A Clean Install of Windows XP.
In addition since you are in the US you may fill out this form Request Backup Discs for US Customers Only and use the discs in conjunction to the Clean Install of Windows Wikies I have above.
The best thing for most people to do, when they buy a computer is to perform a backup as a priority, which is a feature/ability of Windows7 itself. Then if you have some problem in future, just restore using the backup disks you made (you do remember where you put the discs don't you).
When, and if the computer changes hands, the likely hood that these and other disk get misplaced is high. And though recovery discs make a resellers job easier, they are not always a problem free solution either. There's no guarantee. In my case, HP support still doesn't know why the HP System Recovery disks for my computer won't work. The number of times they have come out is impressive on teh one hand and depressing on the other. And still no solution.
As for me, i prefer an MS OS install disk, apps disks and a drivers disk for the system. Then i'm in full control of an install and can choose to not include all the customizations, etc, that the manufacturer sometimes loads on the system. Dell allows this by providing an OS install disk, apps disks and driver disks. HP takes a different path that has its plus' and minuses. Each to his own really.
However, it seems to me, the OPs gripe is from a provider perspective that wants a simple approach to restore a system to it's original configuration either to solve a customers issue (at least effort to himself) or to restore a unit for resale (at least effort to himself). And fair enough. It's just a pity that his last comment comes across that he'll make recommendations to his customers based on reducing his workload rather than on the system reliability, quality, features, price, etc.