I am trying to wipe and re-install Windows XP Home using a Windows XP SP3 OEM CD that my son bought for when he rebuilt his computer, but before I proceed I need to know a few things.
First, I should explain my ultimate goal when this is complete. It is first to fix an issue I'm having with my printer drivers. After Windows Restore failed to resolve the issue after updating Windows XP, I was advised that wiping the computer and then updating it prior to installing the printer and printer drivers would solve this issue, however that is not my only reason. The other reason is I want to clear a lot of the un-necessary junk that is on my computer, such as what is left of Norton Internet Security suit after I uninstalled it, as well as a lot of the un-necessary programs Dell installed on my system before I recieved it.
I understand that with my Dell, the OS is stored in my hard drive and I can return my computer to it's original operating state using Dell PC Restore by Symantec. However, my main question is will this restore it with Nortan Internet Suit and all the un-necessary programs I want to get rid of, or will it restore only Windows XP as if I had installed it myself using a retailer bought version of Windows XP Home?
If the restore will keep all the excess things I do not need, will I still be able to install Windows XP Home with my son's OEM CD and use the product key that shipped with my Dell computer to validate it?
You have a mix of technical and administrative troubles. I will begin with the technical.
If you use the PC Restore that was shipped with the computer, the only hard drive that can be restored is either the original drive delivered by Dell or a clone of that drive. PC Restore has a special Master Boot Record that enables the process that copies the back up image to the C: drive, and the only way you have it is if you have the original drive or its clone.
If you use PC Restore, since it is an image of the original drive delivered by Dell, you will restore all software that was pre-installed by Dell. If the Norton software was a part of that pre-installation, yes, it will be restored along with all of the other trial software Dell shipped with the computer.
Now for the admin problems. A Windows XP w/SP3 CD should be capable of partitioning and formatting your computer. One problem, however; you have indicated that this CD is not a Dell reinstallation CD. The only Windows installation CDs that will automatically activate on a Dell is a CD that was shipped from Dell having the Dell label on it. A commercially purchased Windows installation CD will not work with the system locked preinstallation (SLP) code in the Dell BIOS, so it cannot be automatically activated. That means you must either activate on-line or by telephone. Regrettably, Microsoft will not allow OEM COA product codes to be activated on-line. This has been the case for many years now. They will also not normally provide someone with an OEM product code with a key over the telephone, since they expect OEMs who use SLP to handle their own activations. Although I've never tried activating an OEM code over the phone, I have seen posts on this forum in which the poster stated that the OEM product code would not even be accepted by Windows setup.
A commercially purchased CD has its own COA with product code attached to the packaging. Assuming that your son is still using the product code that shipped with your Windows XP w/SP-3, you cannot use that code a second time to activate Windows on your Dell unless you wish to disable the activation on your son's machine. I don't believe, therefore, that using the Windows XP w/SP-3 CD is a viable option for you. You should have received a Windows installation CD with your Dell that will automatically activate, however. It might not have SP-3, but it will automatically activate and you can then update the installation to SP-3 afterward.
If you do not have a Windows installation CD for some reason you can ask Dell for one. If you live in the U.S., this is a pretty simple task. Fill out this form: Dell Replacement CD. If you live outside the U.S., you need to call Tech Support for your region and ask for the CD.