Restoring Dell's Recovery MBR in order to restore Windows XP and older
After we decided to reinstall Windows XP on my mother's computer, I had told her the best way was to use the Dell recovery partition which only takes 10 minutes and restores Windows back to how it was when it was shipped, but all of the other apps that came with it. We had left the Dell recovery partitions intact, but we had dual-booted her with Ubuntu a few years ago which was on another drive.
So, after quite a few attempts to push Ctrl-F11 to enter Dell's recovery mode that didn't work, I did a bit of digging and realized that we had replaced Dell's custom MBR when we installed Ubuntu. This custom MBR captures the Ctrl-F11, switches some partition flags around, and boots into a small utility partition on the front of the drive that presents a menu to restore the recovery partition onto the drive.
So, after some reading about changing the partition flags myself, and trying to run the recovery executable myself, I ran across the web site listed below which described how Dell's recovery process worked and included a utility that he wrote himself to fix/restore the Dell MBR. Downloaded the utility, burned a provided ISO to boot into a DOS like mode, ran the utiltity in analysis mode which confirmed the MBR was gone but other partitions were intact, reran the utility with the fix switch, rebooted, pressed Ctrl-F11, and it worked. A couple minutes later, my mother was restoring her drive.
The link to the site is :