Reformatting a Dell hard drive

I have a semi-old Dell Inspiron that I would like to reformat and reinstall Windows on. It seems to have a hidden partition with Windows on it, so that after I format and install Windows, I end up with two copies of Windows (when the PC boots up, it shows a menu asking which OS to start, and both choices are Windows XP Home). I’m just using the Windows XP disc to format the drive, and it’s apparently not seeing this hidden partition. How can I really format this thing so I can start fresh? This is a laptop, so taking out the hard drive and putting it in another PC isn’t really an option.

Actually, if that hidden partition is some kind of Dell sneaky ghost image that they use to restore the system back to factory spec, that’d be fine too. The goal is just to get the system back to the way it was out of the factory, whether by installing Windows or just ghosting it back. But I don’t know how to do that.

Looks like there was something called PC Restore, but I messed it up when I formatted the drive and redid the partitions. Now apparently it’s still there, but can’t be used, but Windows still wants to boot to it.

I got the same select OS problem with duplicate entires for Windows when reformatting my own Inspiron.

I thought it was something odd as you suggest, but I believe it is a harmless bug, not evidence of a hidden recovery partition, thought it may be caused by Dell’s original setup not being properly nuked by a standard Windows XP Home repartitioning. This is because I found that it did not matter which of the two entries I selected to boot: it was always obviously the same OS that loaded.

You can get rid of by bringing up your system properties, selecting the Advanced tab, then Startup and Recovery, and setting the default to one or the other.

It’s like marrying twins, only to find out that all along it was just a clever individual bilking you for money and love.

If you’re talking about completely wiping the drive then that may be annoying. You’ll need to run fdisk (which was an old MS utility) or an equivalent. This will let you delete the partitions on the drive and create a new one. When I need to do this I literally boot with an old Win98 boot disk that had the utility (at least I think that’s what I did the last time. I may be getting confused).

There’s got to be a free utility to do the same thing from the Linux world too…otherwise there’s a Symantec/Norton utility that lets you do this I think. Also maybe partition magic or something.

See what boot.ini in the root of your C drive says. Are there 2 Windows installs called out?

You can see if there’s an extra partition by going to the Control Panel, switching to the Classic View, going to Administrative Tools, double-clicking on Computer Management, then checking the partitions listed under Disk Management in the Storage section. That’s how I found my Dell-installed partitions to delete them before I reformatted.

What Rob says is correct. It doesn’t have anything to do with your PC Restore partition – it’s the boot.ini being confused.

The best fix:
Start -> Run -> MSCONFIG
Click on the BOOT.INI tab
Click “Check all boot paths”
It will tell you that one of them is invalid or a duplicate and ask if you want to delete it.
Say yes.
Click OK.
No more prompt.

Got it going now, thanks for all the help.