System Recovery Problem with Dell Dimension 8400

cwilliambrown used Ask the Experts™
I recently decided to perform a system recovery to "clean up" my PC and start using it with a new business idea.  No problems with it.  I just wanted to star from scratch.  I have the original Dell System Recovery CD.  When I boot with the CD I get the message "Selected boot device not available - F1 to retry F2 for setup"

The CD drive Im booting from worked fine before I wiped the PC clean.  Even now I can boot from the drive using other bootable CD's, so Iknow the drive is fine.  I just can't seem to boot with my recovery CD.  The CD appears to be in good condition.  I have no problem reading it from my laptop??  

OS is Windows XP MCE.  I really need to get this PC up and running again asap!  Any ideas?  
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Hi There,

Download a CDROM boot disk from

Boot from the disk and then insert your recovery media. do a browse of your recovery media dir /p
There should be an autorun or some form of .exe that will launch your recovery.

i would get the ubcd and format the drive then try booting on xp media center cd.

if yiou have changed the drive with larger drive it would cause this error and you will need to slipstream sp2 or sp3 into your reocovery cd.

you can use nlite to do this

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Created several bootable CDs that allowed me to browse to my recovery CD.  However, when I open the setup.exe file, I get the error message "cannot be run in DOS mode."

Im not very familiar with UBCD.  I created the bootable CD but was unable to find a way to format my drive.  I was able to use another Dell Recovery CD (for Windows XP Pro) to format the HD (NTFS).

I've receovered PCs dozens of times and have never run into this scenario??  Any other ideas?
Did you do a normal format or quick format?
I have seen this happen when a quick format done.

can you boot up with recovery console and run chkdsk /f c:

1. Have you tried setting all your boot devices to CD-ROM in the BIOS?
2. Have you tried a high level format, followed by the Boot CD?
3. Are all the drives being correctly identified in the BIOS?
4. Have you tried to 'reset' the BIOS?
I'm shooting in the dark for you at the moment.  Some of these may or may not have anything to do with the problem at hand.  However when you've reached a point of frustration, it's time to try other things.
5. In DOS from a cmd prompt you would type format c:\ (where c:\ is the boot drive).
6. Have you tried installing the XP Pro, since the CD will boot and then 'upgrading' to MCE? Approach is a bit un-orthodox, but if it works, eh.


Ive tried most of these things.  Originally used quick format.  Later tried full change.  I've checked the disk with third party diagnostics and it is fine.  All drives are correctly identified and pass diagnostic tests.  Not sure if I have the latest BIOS but I have flashed it within the past year.
I want to point the finger at the CD BUT I can access it and read it in this laptop.  I can also put another recovery CD in the desktop and completely install XP Pro.  However, when it reboots the final time, it thows up a blue screen.  I'm assuming this is because it wasnt meant for my particular PC.
Buy a new system disk (non-restore disk).  It beats having trouble like this to deal with <shrug>
Top Expert 2013

cwilliambrown--Did you follow instructions for using the Dell System Restore CD?
However, you will lose all personal data and settings so back them up.
For the future I certainly agree you should get a full XP CD from Dell.  They should be willing to sell one to you for $10-20.


Hi JC / everyone......I followed Dell's instructions.  I know how to do this and have done it many, many times.  The problem is that, for some reason, I get the error message "Boot Device not Available" when I attempt to boot from the CD.  I know the drive is good because I can boot from other CDs and I also know the restore CD is good because I can read it from other computers.  The hard drive I'm installing to also passes all diagnostic tests.  So, I'm at a loss right now as to what is causing the problem??

I've ordered a replacement CD from Dell, even though I don't think there is anything wrong with the one I have??  By the way, there is no charge for the first replacement you request.
Top Expert 2013

cwilliambrown--"I've ordered a replacement CD from Dell"
You do not want a replacement of the System Restore disk, but rather a full WinXP MCE install disk.  OEM is also OK.
P.S.  I did not think the Dell PC-Restore procedure required you to boot using the PC-Restore CD, but rather that you boot the PC normally up to the point of seeing the Dell Splash screenm and then insert the PC-Restore CD.  But it has been a long time since I did this.
I'm at a loss as to whats causing your problem.  I do know, however, know that using a 'System Restore' CD provided by a mass market manufacturer is the absolute worst thing in the world to trouble shoot.  Quite often the CD's fail to perform the required task, as well they wind up cluttering the system with un-needed programs and utilities.  So from a troubleshooting stand point, if i were you, i would throw the System Restore disk in the garbage and start over with a retail/oem copy of WIN.  
In making my suggestion i was also relying on years of experience installing OS's and dealing with the headache that a System Restore disk can create.  


I ordered the replacement CD only because it was free.  I don't feel like I should have to pay for another copy of something I've already paid for.  Having said that, I might look into purchasing Vista.  If I'm going to spend the money, I might as well.

FlooringPro / JCimarron or anyone else:  let me ask you a question that I have never received a firm answer to.  Say I purchase an OEM version of XP Pro, can I use this copy to reinstall XP Pro on a clients PC, who has lost their restore CD, provided they have their license key?  Will the OEM version (or full retail for that matter) accept an XP key that was issued with a Dell, HP, etc computer?

I've worked on computers for years myself in a corporate environment, so I've always has access to volume licenses or simply used images to deploy/repair PC's.  Now that I am out on my own, I am still doing lots of system recoveries but I have to rely on the CD's that came with the clients system.  If I knew that I could purchase an OEM version of XP and use it along with the owners key, it sure would help me out.  So far, I have hesitated to buy a copy because I can't get a firm answer as to whether or not it will work.  In addition, would I have to buy an OEM copy of every flavor (ie XP Home, XP Pro, etc)?  I'm guessing yes since, unlike Vista, all flavors do not come on the same CD.
Very interesting question.  I have been a system builder for many years and have never had an opportunity present itself such as yours.  Without taking into account the EULA and the provisions it has, i would have to say that it most certainly would be possible.  I know you cant mix box flavors, OEM=OEM etc, but i would think that as long as you maintained those parameters then you should be able to get it done.  I cannot, however, say with 100% certainty that it would work.  Wish i could be of futher assistance.
Why not just 'grab' a .img of WIN (your flavor) and give it a shot with your current set of cd-keys?
Top Expert 2013

Re Vista:  "If I'm going to spend the money, I might as well."
Remember that Windows 7 will be available late October.  If you buy Vista now, you should get an upgrade coupon for Win7.
Maybe I am wrong, but Dell should sell you a retail (OEM) WinXP CD for $10-20. A very good investment if you need to run System File Checker, Repair Install and Clean Install.
Here is what OEM versions of Windows can be used for --
Most of the info on OEM is near the end.  For INSTALLATION, I think it can be be used with either the owner's key or the one you will get with the OEM CD.  Once you use the latter, it can only be used for another install on the same PC with the same motherboard.  However, the OEM CD can be used to boot the PC and to run System File Checker on any PC.  The Key is not involved with those procedures.
More on OEM CD's--


FP: I appreciate the thought but I've always run into problems trying to experiment like that in the past (trojans, etc)  I just wish I could get my hands on a copy to test this theory.  I can't imagine there is anything illegal about.  I would only be reinstalling an OS that the client had already purchased, using their own key.  Maybe one day, I'll just call MS and ask them!?!

JCIMARRON: I'll have to look into that!  At that price, it would be a worthwhile investment.  I'm not sure how it would limit me to one PC once I use the key that comes with it BUT if I only use it to restore client PC's using their own keys, I wouldn't ever have to worry about that!

Since that replacement CD went out today, i should have it by Fri/Sat.  I'm not sure how much, if anything, I'll try with the desktop before then.  But feel free to throw out ideas.  I'll do my best to try them out if you think of something!
If you need any help other than what can be provided here, feel free to email me maktoob at charter dot net. I hope a solid solution comes out of this, would be interesting to know what's really going on.


Dell shipped the replacement CD out overnight!  I just got it.  Unfortunately, it will not boot the PC.  This is really strange!?!  I can throw in another recovery CD I have for a different PC and it spins right up.  Obviously it doesn't install correctly, but it spins right up like the correct one SHOULD???  I'mat a loss right now???

Top Expert 2013

cwilliambrown--I understand the original and still present problem is that you cannot boot from the Dell Recovery CD.  (As I mentioned earlier, I am not sure that is a bootable CD, but it has been a long time since I used one.)
What do you want to do with the Recovery CD?  Reinstall the files that were present when the PC left Dell?
Have you followed the instructions here
If you have a friend who has another WinXP CD, you can test the CD-ROM drive.  If the drive is working it should boot from the other WinXP CD.  Of course, unless the friend has a multiple install license you probably should not go any further than just to see if it will boot the PC.
SOLUTION:  It was indeed a bad / failing DVD drive.  I guess what stumped me was the fact that the drive had no problem reading a couple of other CDs/DVDs I booted it with.  Just a coincidence I suppose?  
Anyway, I switched out the drive and the Recovery Disc booted right up.  Thanks to everyone for your input!
Thats great!  Good to hear you FINALLY got it solved. :)

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