Saturday, July 2, 2011

XPS 15z: Factory reset, recovery and partitions

Updated on Feb 2nd 2012:

Dell XPS 15z from factory ships with the following partitions (as in the order data written from the disc beginning to end)
  • A hidden OEM partition of 102 MB (less than 1 MB used)
  • A hidden recovery partition of around 15 GB (~ 8 GB used; contain the factory image of the Windows installation)
  • Windows installed into C: drive

Once the XPS 15z system is booted up and configured for the first time, there is an option to burn recovery disc(s) with Dell DataSafe Local Backup basic edition. You do not need these discs to reset the laptop to the factory setting as long as you do not format the entire hard disc thus erasing the recovery partitions. Even if you do not plan to clean format the entire hard disc, this "recovery disc burning exercise" might becomes handy in one scenario; a catastrophic hard disc failure. The factory image saved into the HDD recovery partition could be permanently lost in such an unfortunate event. So better burn them and keep it somewhere in the shelf. If you use normal DVD's, you would need two DVD's to make the usable recovery disc set.(Total ~8GB) Remember to not to stop the burning in one disc. If you have a dual layer DVD, you can burn into one single disk. It's a pity that Dell does not ship a system recovery disc to the customers, which would cost them only a tiniest of tiny fraction of the money customers spend on the laptop purchase. But I assume it may not be the economic reason behind it. Now what does that small OEM partition do? That 102 MB Dell OEM hidden partition contains the Dell diagnostics utilities/tools. These software is available from the boot through keyboard F12.

How to reset XPS 15z to original fresh factory install state?

I wanted to test the Dell factory restore options and this is how I tried and tested it.

  • Keep pressing F8 continuously on boot and you should see a ‘Repair Windows’ option along with many other options like Safe mode etc. 
  • If you chose that, ‘Windows is loading files..’ progress bar will be shown followed with ‘Starting Windows’ animation. 
  • Then you select the keyboard, login with the username/password and at the end you should see the Windows advanced repair options. 
  • At the bottom, you can see the Dell Datasafe Backup. Click that and you’ll enter into the software options. You can see a factory image there.
  • Follow the simple instructions and you can restore the laptop to factory fresh state.

In certain abnormal cases (when the recovery environment is messed-up), the process could be different. This happened to me once.

When you press F8 on boot, a scanning window with a message "Your computer was unable to start" will appear

"Attempting repairs" took some 10 minutes.

Startup repair cannot repair automatically

Don't send

Advanced options

Login to admin by selecting keyboard (US) and then dropdown menu to select your username > password > login

Last option> Dell DataSafe Restore and Emergency Backup

Restore my system > Factory image (with the date)

This will format C drive and reinstall the factory image from the hidden 15 GB recovery partition.

This took 20 minutes

This link might be helpful
Restoring Your Dell Computer to Original Factory Installation with Dell DataSafe Local Backup 2.0 | Dell


  1. 20 min is not too bad I guess!

    That brings my chat session with Dell Tech...I was planning to upgrade to Win 7 'Prof'...but I believe that will void warranty...which would mean that.. bring it back to factory setting (so this 20 min) and then send for support!!

  2. I didn't know upgrading windows would void warranty. If it is true, that is ridiculous. But ya, restoring the factory installed OS state is damn easy. So no problem.

  3. We (the company I work for) have just bought a new XPS 15z. We found there was an option to get the re-installation disks (OS on one, drivers and apps on the other) when we bought the laptop, so we did that. I think it only installs Windows (I presume the DataSafe option does the same), so you won't get the diagnostic or recovery partitions anyway if the whole disk fails.

    Our new laptop has a slightly larger Recovery partition (~20GB), and some free space areas, and an 8GB partition at the end which doesn't seem to have a filesystem on it. I want to split the C: drive into a C: and D: drive (using Parted Magic), so I will have to remove this strange partition. Wish me luck! We have had many Dell PCs over the years and I've never seen a partition like this.

    Another thing - the boot flag is set on the Recovery partition, so I presume the Dell MBR does some tricky stuff to start the C: drive, or the Recovery partition boots the C: drive.


    Geoff, Hastings, NZ

    1. I would recommend to get a couple of DVD burned as Dell datasafe backup. Factory image is saved in the recovery partition (as two split 'Factory.WIM', 'Factory1.WIM' files of 4GB each) and it contains all the drivers, programs etc pre-installed.

      Ya. recovery partition contain 'bootmgr' and BCD file also. It's safe to be that way. The active partition should be the recovery partition for this to work. In the boot sequence when you power-on laptop, the BIOS looks for a bootable device, finds HDD, looks at MBR, looks for active partition and 'bootmgr' contained in it, bootmgr gets bcd entries, BCD points to C drive and finally the OS loads with winload.exe.

  4. well there lots of options out there try searching for the terms Dell® XPS 15z Factory Restore or Dell XPS 15Z restore disk, pretty obvious there are lots of companies licensed to resell a re installation of the operating system.. no point in me giving you a link i guess... man i loved the old day of the net when you could just show people where the information is.. but hey what do i know... have fun guys.. oh the words EZ93 may help l8rz