Good PC Samaritans Needed
October 7, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Need some help/advice with nuking a laptop harddrive, partitioning, & reinstalling the XP operating system - experience with doing so on Dell systems a plus.

My daughter has succeeded in getting a virus on her laptop, a 2007 vintage Dell Vostro 1500 running Windows XP Home Edition SP2. Her antivirus software is ZoneAlarm, which when I ran it (if important to the question at hand) detected the following:


Path: C:\Documents and Settings\Katie\ApplicationData\Sun\Java\Deployment\Cache\6.0\39\42e38267-2b3fb7b0

ZoneAlarm quarantined the Trojan, but it appears that its dirty work has been done. It has changed my user privileges from Administrator to limited, as well as various other security settings in order to protect itself. Trying to repair widows in Setup using the OS reinstallation disk provided when purchased doesn’t seem to have helped. This comes on the heels of similar issues in the past that took me loading SpyBot, Ad-Adware & Malwarebytes to resolve.

At this point we’d both prefer to just scrub the drive and start from scratch by formatting it and reinstalling the software we want/need. It has been a while since I last went through this process and could use some advice.

FYI, I have the following provided on CDs when the computer was purchased:
1. Operating System Windows XP Home Edition, SP2 reinstallation CD;
2. Dell Drivers & Utilities Already Installed CD
3. Dell Media Direct 3.3 on Vostro 1500 Computers CD (more on this later)

I have also used my desktop PC to go to Dell Technical Support and, using the laptop Service Tag #, gotten to and downloaded all the obvious driver updates that may be needed.

So, to reinstallation of the XP Operating System:

When booting up Windows using the OS CD and getting into Windows Setup, after loading files and starting windows, I’ll get the screen asking if I want to (a) set up Windows now (press R), or (b) Repair Windows XP. After hitting R to set up Windows, the next screen is the License Agreement - press F8 to agree.

That brings me to the PARTITION Page where I am offered the following options:

• To set up windows on selected item, press ENTER
• To create a partition in unpartitioned space, press C
• To delete the selected partition, Press D

Below that it shows the following partitions:
114471 MB Disk 0 @ Id 0 on Bus 0 on atapi (MBR)

-: Partition 1 [FAT] 78 MB {70 MB free}
C: Partition 2 {NTFS} 111835MB { 84894 MB free}
E: Partition 3 [FAT 32} 2557 MB {977 MB free}____________________________________________________________________________________

From reading responses to some similar questions, I am aware that another, possibly hidden, partition was installed by Dell to assist them in restoring computer setup to original state during warranty tech support calls. Not sure if this is the same as the E: MediaDirect [FAT32] partition above or not. '

Q1: If my intent is to reformat the drive and start over, I assume that I should delete all of the above Partitions (instead of just the NFTS where the current OS resides) & will be offered the option later to reformat & reinstall new partitions. Is this correct?

Q2: If so, is the process of setting up the new partitions fairly automatic & goof-free, or is it a manual process where I’ll have to specify how many, for what, size, etc? If the latter, will I choose from a pick list or do I need to know ahead of time what to enter? Any advice there?

Q3: If for some reason I should not delete all partitions, should I just keep Partition 1? Is there any reason to keep Partition 3 or should I delete it (we’re long past the warranty period, if that affects your answer)?

The “Dell Media Direct 3.3 on Vostro 1500 Computers CD” mentioned in #3 above states, “Use this media before you install your operating system.” Is it used to set up the above partitions?

Q4: Do I really need to install this, or is it recommended & if so, what does it do? If I should reinstall it, how does doing so before installing the operating system work? Are you supposed to remove the XP CD mid OS-installation after setting partitions and insert the Media Direct CD & then reboot on CD? Or do you start the whole process by booting to the Dell Media Direct CD as your 1st step, after which you boot up on the OS CD?

Thanks for any help and advice. I’ve done this before on my desktops, but it’s been quite a while and never on a laptop, so I’m a little rusty.
posted by Pressed Rat to Computers & Internet (2 answers total)
Delete all the partitions on the primary drive. The OS install will automatically create the proper ones for you, you don't get a choice on how big/small to make them. There is no reason to keep any of the partitions since you're doing a wipe and restore - the Partition #3 is (usually) where the vendor sticks the system restore stuff.
If you don't use the Media Direct, iirc, you'll get the stock Windows XP os, and no #3 partition, and yes, do you do it first, *but* I've never bothered. It's been about a year since I've had to mess with a Dell laptop.
Worse-case: you install the OS and find you need to start over with the media disk - you'll waste a few hours waiting.

Future tip: back up early and back up often. Disk imaging after a full OS reinstall is your friend!
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:27 PM on October 7, 2010

Q1: yes
Q2: automatic
Q3: n/a
Q4: Here's a link to some media direct information. Based on what it says there, I wouldn't bother with it, unless you think you want the features that it provides. But, my guess is that you probably never used them.

If you wanted to use the media direct software, you'd boot with that disc prior to beginning the Windows re-installation. My guess is that Media Direct set up those partitions to begin with.

I just fixed up a Dell laptop and didn't even have the recovery CD, so I had to download all of the drivers from the web myself. Here's a link to the drivers and download page for yours.

If you want to make a disk image of your computer and have a spare USB hard drive lying around, I recommend CloneZilla. It's not the most pretty software, or the most user friendly, but it is free. :)
posted by reddot at 2:03 PM on October 7, 2010

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