Unable to restore an Alienware M11x

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Unable to restore an Alienware M11x

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Hi folks, so I've got a bit of a problem, and I'm hoping someone can help me out.

My lovely new Alienware M11x was delivered last week Smile and after playing with it for a while, I had to install a bunch of things to do a demo. Demo over, I looked at all the things I had to uninstall and thought - "Hah! Easy - I'll just factory restore the thing" plugged in an external DVD drive, stuffed in the disk that came with the machine, rebooted and let it install. Uh oh. I now have an Alienware M11x with a basic, completely standard installation of Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit Sad There's no drivers installed. No Dell applications installed. No nice backdrops. No Alienware applications. Nothing. Zip. Nada. The only "customization" is an Alienware logo in the System Properties.

So I called technical support - it appears what I should have done is use Dell Datasafe Local to restore - but here's the crunch - reinstalling Windows 7, from the Dell/Alienware supplied Media has removed the option under System Repair to restore the Dell Factory Image Crying

I can't find Dell Datasafe Local to download on the Dell support site - only Dell Datasafe Online. I can find patches for local, but not the actual application itself.

The recovery partition is still there - all 16Gb of it.

Dell support tell me they'll have to send me out a new hard drive, with the original image on it, then I have to replace the hard drive. WHAT? Surely there must be a download of Datasafe Local somewhere on the Dell support site, or some way of restoring the option on the F8/Startup/Repair menu. I can't believe that there isn't.

Anybody got any ideas? Please? Huh? 

Verified Answer
  • So... I wanted to tell everyone that I've solved the problem. For the folks that told me I was basically up a certain creek without a paddle and to accept it and put it down to experience you may want to save this information, as one day you may need this as well.

    So, how do you reimage a Dell/Alienware machine when you've no longer got the Dell Datasafe Local Tool, and by reinstalling a generic copy of Windows 7 you lose the option to recover to the Dell image on an F8/Repair your Computer? Here you go...

    FIRST - A DISCLAIMER - This just worked for ME. It might, or might not, work for you. Either way, it's going to DELETE EVERYTHING ON YOUR BOOT DRIVE. Do NOT attempt this unless you feel comfortable with that. I am not responsible if you louse things up. Sorry, but I just want to say that up front. There are plenty of alternative instructions for this available, and if you don't like the sound of this, then just do what everyone else has said, and reinstall a clean version of Windows and download the drivers and Applications from the My Dell Downloads site. I'm obstinant - I REFUSE to believe something is impossible until I've tried, hence me beavering away on this until I got it working FOR ME.

    YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.Smile

    1. Ensure that you still have the Recovery Partition. If you don't, you are screwed, but if you do, you'll notice everything is hidden. You can verify this by going into Folder Options and Properties and telling it to show everything, including Protected system files. You'll see a massive directory structure. The one you need to pay attention to is x:\DELL\IMAGE where x:\ is the recovery drive - on my machine this was D:
    2. In this directory you'll find a file called FACTORY.WIM - this is a Windows Image format file, which Dell created after installing your machine - it's the snapshot of your harddrive after a clean install.
    3. Next you need to go to another computer, go to www.microsoft.com and find, download and install the WINDOWS AUTOMATED INSTALLATION KIT (WAIK) for Windows 7 - DO NOT install the version for XP or Vista
    4. Once installed, you can ignore it all, apart from one file - IMAGEX.EXE - find that file - there will be three copies of it - one in an "x86" directory, one in an "amd64" directory and one in an "ia64" directory. For my machine - an Alienware M11x - you need the copy from the amd64 directory - I know, I know, the machine has an Intel processor, but the ia64 directory is for Itanium or Xeon systems. Trust me, it's the one in the amd64 directory, if you try to use any of the other two it'll just tell you they don't work.
    5. Copy the IMAGEX.EXE file to a USB flash drive - you can now uninstall the WAIK on the other machine if you want.
    6. Go back to your Dell/Alienware machine. Reboot it, and keep thumping F8 until the Windows boot menu comes up. Choose "Repair your Computer"
    7. The system will load into a Windows environment (called WinRE or "Windows Recovery Environment") and ask you to select your language, and then logon on. You MUST logon with an account that has local Administrator privilieges.
    8. If it pops up saying it found problems with your startup options and did you want it to fix them, say "No" - you're going to wipe the startup out anyway, so it doesn't matter
    9. Keep clicking next until you get to a menu with options like "Startup Repair", "System Restore", Windows Memory Diagnostic", "Command Prompt". In a moment, we'll use the command prompt, but first we need to know what drive letters WinRE has allocated to your partitions so choose the option that looks like "Windows PC Restore" or "System Image Restore".
    10. You'll see a dialog that it can't find any backup locations. Hit Cancel.
    11. Click the Advanced button.
    12. Click "Install a Driver" to continue - we're nto going to, so don't worry, but it's going to open a dialog where we can see the drive letters.
    13. On Dell Windows 7 machines there appears to be two drives, labelled "OS" and "Recovery". Make a note of each drive letter. On my M11x in WinRE drive D: was the OS drive (the "normal" Windows boot drive") and drive C: was the Recovery drive - this is backwards to what they should be but stick with it. You can cancel out of this now, and keep hitting Cancel until you get back to the Menu.
    14. Choose Command Prompt
    15. Stick your USB flash drive with the copy of IMAGEX.EXE in the machine and wait for WinRE to recognize it. Now just keep typing in drive letter (C:, D:, E: etc) until you find it. On my machine it was G:
    16. Now type G:\IMAGEX /APPLY C:\DELL\IMAGE\FACTORY.WIM 1 D:\      IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE YOU SELECT THE RIGHT DRIVE LETTERS. THEY MAY BE DIFFERENT ON YOUR MACHINE. THE SYNTAX IS THE G:\ ON MINE IS WHERE THE IMAGEX.EXE EXECUTABLE IS, THE C:\ IS THE DRIVE MARKED "RECOVERY" AND THE D:\ WAS THE DRIVE MARKED "OS" - IT MAY BE DIFFERENT ON YOUR SYSTEM. ONCE YOU GO PAST THIS STAGE YOU ARE **COMMITTED** AND WHICHEVER DRIVE YOU CHOOSE WILL BE **ERASED** AND OVERWRITTEN WITH THE FACTORY IMAGE.   YOU. HAVE. BEEN. WARNED. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK
    17. When you hit Enter the machine will start to uncompress the image, and copy it to the drive you have selected. In case you're wondering the "1" in the Command Line is to stipulate the image number, as WIM files can contain multiple images.
    18. You may get some warnings as it's uncompressing. I did. I'm brave (or stupid) and just ignored them and crossed my fingers
    19. When it's finished, which for me was about 10 minutes, type EXIT and hit Enter, then remove the USB drive, unplug any other drives you may have connected, and hit RESTART.
    20. If it has worked, you'll boot (with the correct drive letters - C: will now be the boot drive Smile) and Windows will run through it's OOBE (out of box experience) doing setup for the first time again. Congratulations - you've done it.
    21. Now buy something like Acronis True Image, or something else that makes backup images, and make a backup of your machine so you don't have to tear your hair out working all of this out without any help from the Dell "support agents" who haven't a clue how to do any of this, promise you they'll send you things, and never do.

    Hope that helps someone. It's been educational, and I'd like to thank those of you who've commiserated or offered ideas. Hopefully this is something that you can all add to your arsenal of solutions to problems you hope you'll never have a need to use

All Replies
  • There are no images as they are unique to the particular system build. You are basically out of luck. Once you lose the ability to access the Recovery partition there is nothing you can do.

    Since you were going to wipe it out anyways. your best option is to wait until you get the new drive.

     HomeBuilt SandyBridge P8P67 i7 2600k @ 4.5 ghz 8gigs GSkill Ripjaws. Corsair 800D Case and AX1200 Ps X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty pro PCIe Sound Card
    Dell Studio XPS 1645  Window 7 Pro

    Forum member since 2003

  • I get that - although the number of configurations for an M11x is so limited that actually building an image would be viable.

    The thing is though, I have the image - it's in the 16Gb of data on the recovery drive. What I'm saying is that without the Dell Datasafe Local tool, I can't extract it. But for whatever reason, there isn't a copy of the Datasafe Local tool to install - the support guy was as surprised as I was.

    The problem could be easily resolved by having the tool available for download - that way Dell don't have to go to the expense of building another drive, and shipping it to me - the margin on the laptop itself is so slight that they've just blown their profit away because of this - the time in man hours alone spent on this obviates any profit on this particular machine.

    Alternatively, they could use the Phoenix failsafe in the BIOS, but that's deactivated in my BIOS, and there's no way to activate it. Another item that the tech support agent was surprised at and told me he thought that would be corrected in a BIOS patch.

     

  • I guess you forgot to read the manual.  The DVD is to reinstall Win 7 only not to restore the drive to the factory installation.  If you follow the instructions provided by Dell, you could have restored the drive to the factory configuration but its too late now.  There is an independent website that might help you use that restore function but I don't remember the url.  Maybe another reader can point you in the right direction.

    XPS 8500 

    Studio XPS 435T

    Inspiron 11Z

    Vostro V131

  • I totally agree Big Smile and I freely admit that if I'd dug out the manual, and gone through it I'd have found that. But in my defense, Dell are one of the few OEMs that appear to still ship Windows media - the vast majority use a Recovery partition (like the Dell one) and on the first boot, and subsequent boots, inform you that you need to pay attention to that fact, and may need to create your own recovery discs from that partition. HP do that for example, and then charge you for a set of recovery discs if you lose them - so faced with a disc, that implies it's a recovery media, I stuck it in. I realized almost immediately that it wasn't what I was after, as soon as Windows setup azctually started and wasn't in anyway automated, but by then setup had already removed the Repair Your Computer option Dell have in there, and on every subsequent attempt to boot the machine informed me the boot sector was damaged. Given that, I had no recourse but to complete the setup, and hope that although it said "contains no drivers or programs" in itsy-bitsy text on the disc on minute inspection that it would have a means to rewrite the repair option, and allow me to uyse the "proper", as laid out in the manual, process for recovery.

    On the other hand, Dell's support agents seem woefully unprepared for this device; it took me three attempts to talk to an agent after the first two couldn't find anything based on my service tag and express service code, that third individual was stumped as he thought (a) I should be able to download Datasafe and (b) failing that I should be able to use Phoenix Failsafe - neither of which were an option, and finally I have spent over 90 minutes on online chat, and on the telephone, trying to buy a second power adapter for the M11x, and even though I had the part number written on the original it took 4 agents before someone could find that part, and it took him 33 minutes to take my order. I'm hoping, really hoping that I caught Dell on a bad day, because as service goes, the experience was less than pleasent when I've just spent $1,200 on the laptop, and the level of support information is low - although there's plenty of information on how Datasafe Local doesn't work properly on the M11x and has issues with the Binary GFX system (with the fix information Smile

    I'm continuing to look, but to be honest, I'm loathe to do anything now that might corrupt the data in the recovery partition, so I'm going to have to wait for the replacement hard drive, but it still strikes me as vaguely silly that Datasafe Local isn't available for download, even if only at the request of a support agent, as I don't think I'm going to be unique in this problem (or maybe I am Embarrassed)

  • Just as a side note - the DVD actually says the following:

    "The software included on this Recovery DVD-ROM was preinstalled on your hard drive at the factory and may only be used for backup and recovery of your Alienware computer system."

    And page 84 onwards in the manual for Alienware M11x doesn't explicitly call out that the "Operating System Reinstallation Disc" won't restore a system to a usable condition. In fact, there's only one line that says "Contains operating system installation media", and in addition under System Applications on page 84 it says "Some of the software that is pre-installed on your computer does not include a backup CD/DVD. This software is available at My Dell Downloads (downloadstore.dell.com/media/)"

    But Datasafe Local isn't available there for download - only Cyberlink Youcam and a number of different language versions of the Adobe Reader are.

    So I think I can be forgiven for making the mistake I did given the lack of information, and conflicting information Wink

     

     

  • I feel for you and as far as i think even a unique system with custom installation should have custom restore image with it thats what you are paying the money for it.even small custom builders make a final image of the system when they think every thing is installed since they don't want to go through re-installing and rebooting systems like 20 times if some thing go wrong oh well think a lesson well learned from this not to play around with a system unless you make an image of the system since a DVD cost is like less then a $ so worth it to image it.

     

    Syed F Ali

    C.E.O

    www.bestwaycomputers.com

    www.stategeeks.com

  • same her pal, for me the facial recognision totally messed up, logged me out every 5 minutes...id had enough, opened dell datasafe and nothing, it wouldnt even regonise my recovery partition, heres my advice. all the 16 or so drivers are up in the my drivers section of the alienware site, get them all burn them to dvd, do a full format, get rid of the recovery section i have and now have an extra 16 gig free not going to waste, and you have the software. drivers everything you can install yourself on bootup and the fx center, facial recognision everything will work fine, my m11x is like new, and it feels like my laptop now as ive installed and made it how i want. i didnt have a dell image option either, but as i say the datasafe didnt eve work for me so thats why i didnt have an option for it.

  • Yes, it does seem that Dell jumped the shark with this one, which is a shame, as the potential for this machine is so high, even without a Core i(insert 3, 5 or 7 here dependant on how much spare cash you have floating around) to power the thing.

    Anyway, just to update folks, I called Dell again yesterday, to discover, not to my surprise, that they had no record of my previous call with them, so no new hard drive had been sent out. I wasn't a happy bunny. Their attempts to remote connect to the machine using "Alien Contact" (or Cisco GoToMyPC as the rest of us mere mortals would know it as) were once again unsuccessful and they promised to email me a link to where I could download Datasafe Local. Needless to say, nothing yet.

    Anyway, I decided nothing ventured nothing gained, and decided to dig around in the Recovery partition - after all, the worst I could do is screw that up as well and have to just reinstall and try to fix all the problems Dell have with this machine's software installation myself as you suggest bellyboy56. Lo and behold ... the recovery data is in a bog standard WIM file (Windows IMage) so in theory all I need to do now is create a WinRE (Windows Recovery Environment) boot disc, and let it pull the image off the D: drive. I'll let everyone know if it succeeds, but frankly, I am stunned and highly disappointed that the support technicians didn't know how the recovery information was held on the PC - the quality of their training really must be woefully inadequate, and I feel for them. Hmm

    So, I'll let folks know - thanks for everyone's "advice" so far, and thanks bellyboy56 for commiserating - I'm sorry you've had problems as well.

    Frankly, my advice for folks in the future is going to be to buy a Sony VAIO Z-series machine...

     

  • When someone decides to reinstall their notebook/desktop PC most, if not all of the drivers and software applications can be obtained from Dell's support link using the service tag number assigned to the PC and from the My DELL Downloads web site.

    The My DELL Downloads site permits only a limited number of times (e.g. 3) that you can retrieve a copy of your application software so be sure to burn a copy of those re-installation executables to DVD.

  • So... I wanted to tell everyone that I've solved the problem. For the folks that told me I was basically up a certain creek without a paddle and to accept it and put it down to experience you may want to save this information, as one day you may need this as well.

    So, how do you reimage a Dell/Alienware machine when you've no longer got the Dell Datasafe Local Tool, and by reinstalling a generic copy of Windows 7 you lose the option to recover to the Dell image on an F8/Repair your Computer? Here you go...

    FIRST - A DISCLAIMER - This just worked for ME. It might, or might not, work for you. Either way, it's going to DELETE EVERYTHING ON YOUR BOOT DRIVE. Do NOT attempt this unless you feel comfortable with that. I am not responsible if you louse things up. Sorry, but I just want to say that up front. There are plenty of alternative instructions for this available, and if you don't like the sound of this, then just do what everyone else has said, and reinstall a clean version of Windows and download the drivers and Applications from the My Dell Downloads site. I'm obstinant - I REFUSE to believe something is impossible until I've tried, hence me beavering away on this until I got it working FOR ME.

    YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.Smile

    1. Ensure that you still have the Recovery Partition. If you don't, you are screwed, but if you do, you'll notice everything is hidden. You can verify this by going into Folder Options and Properties and telling it to show everything, including Protected system files. You'll see a massive directory structure. The one you need to pay attention to is x:\DELL\IMAGE where x:\ is the recovery drive - on my machine this was D:
    2. In this directory you'll find a file called FACTORY.WIM - this is a Windows Image format file, which Dell created after installing your machine - it's the snapshot of your harddrive after a clean install.
    3. Next you need to go to another computer, go to www.microsoft.com and find, download and install the WINDOWS AUTOMATED INSTALLATION KIT (WAIK) for Windows 7 - DO NOT install the version for XP or Vista
    4. Once installed, you can ignore it all, apart from one file - IMAGEX.EXE - find that file - there will be three copies of it - one in an "x86" directory, one in an "amd64" directory and one in an "ia64" directory. For my machine - an Alienware M11x - you need the copy from the amd64 directory - I know, I know, the machine has an Intel processor, but the ia64 directory is for Itanium or Xeon systems. Trust me, it's the one in the amd64 directory, if you try to use any of the other two it'll just tell you they don't work.
    5. Copy the IMAGEX.EXE file to a USB flash drive - you can now uninstall the WAIK on the other machine if you want.
    6. Go back to your Dell/Alienware machine. Reboot it, and keep thumping F8 until the Windows boot menu comes up. Choose "Repair your Computer"
    7. The system will load into a Windows environment (called WinRE or "Windows Recovery Environment") and ask you to select your language, and then logon on. You MUST logon with an account that has local Administrator privilieges.
    8. If it pops up saying it found problems with your startup options and did you want it to fix them, say "No" - you're going to wipe the startup out anyway, so it doesn't matter
    9. Keep clicking next until you get to a menu with options like "Startup Repair", "System Restore", Windows Memory Diagnostic", "Command Prompt". In a moment, we'll use the command prompt, but first we need to know what drive letters WinRE has allocated to your partitions so choose the option that looks like "Windows PC Restore" or "System Image Restore".
    10. You'll see a dialog that it can't find any backup locations. Hit Cancel.
    11. Click the Advanced button.
    12. Click "Install a Driver" to continue - we're nto going to, so don't worry, but it's going to open a dialog where we can see the drive letters.
    13. On Dell Windows 7 machines there appears to be two drives, labelled "OS" and "Recovery". Make a note of each drive letter. On my M11x in WinRE drive D: was the OS drive (the "normal" Windows boot drive") and drive C: was the Recovery drive - this is backwards to what they should be but stick with it. You can cancel out of this now, and keep hitting Cancel until you get back to the Menu.
    14. Choose Command Prompt
    15. Stick your USB flash drive with the copy of IMAGEX.EXE in the machine and wait for WinRE to recognize it. Now just keep typing in drive letter (C:, D:, E: etc) until you find it. On my machine it was G:
    16. Now type G:\IMAGEX /APPLY C:\DELL\IMAGE\FACTORY.WIM 1 D:\      IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE YOU SELECT THE RIGHT DRIVE LETTERS. THEY MAY BE DIFFERENT ON YOUR MACHINE. THE SYNTAX IS THE G:\ ON MINE IS WHERE THE IMAGEX.EXE EXECUTABLE IS, THE C:\ IS THE DRIVE MARKED "RECOVERY" AND THE D:\ WAS THE DRIVE MARKED "OS" - IT MAY BE DIFFERENT ON YOUR SYSTEM. ONCE YOU GO PAST THIS STAGE YOU ARE **COMMITTED** AND WHICHEVER DRIVE YOU CHOOSE WILL BE **ERASED** AND OVERWRITTEN WITH THE FACTORY IMAGE.   YOU. HAVE. BEEN. WARNED. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK
    17. When you hit Enter the machine will start to uncompress the image, and copy it to the drive you have selected. In case you're wondering the "1" in the Command Line is to stipulate the image number, as WIM files can contain multiple images.
    18. You may get some warnings as it's uncompressing. I did. I'm brave (or stupid) and just ignored them and crossed my fingers
    19. When it's finished, which for me was about 10 minutes, type EXIT and hit Enter, then remove the USB drive, unplug any other drives you may have connected, and hit RESTART.
    20. If it has worked, you'll boot (with the correct drive letters - C: will now be the boot drive Smile) and Windows will run through it's OOBE (out of box experience) doing setup for the first time again. Congratulations - you've done it.
    21. Now buy something like Acronis True Image, or something else that makes backup images, and make a backup of your machine so you don't have to tear your hair out working all of this out without any help from the Dell "support agents" who haven't a clue how to do any of this, promise you they'll send you things, and never do.

    Hope that helps someone. It's been educational, and I'd like to thank those of you who've commiserated or offered ideas. Hopefully this is something that you can all add to your arsenal of solutions to problems you hope you'll never have a need to use

  • Did you try the Win 7 image restore program that ships with Win 7?

    Restore your computer from a system image backup

     

    You can use a system image to restore the contents of your computer if your hard disk or entire computer ever stops working. For more information about system images, see What is a system image?

    Warning

    • When you restore your computer from a system image, it's a complete restoration. You can't choose individual items to restore, and all of your programs, system settings, and files are replaced with those on the system image.

    Before starting, make sure that the removable media that your backup is stored on is available, if applicable. Also, make sure that the disk that you're restoring the backup to is the same size or larger than the disk that you backed up.

    Show contentHide content To restore using the Recovery Control Panel (recommended)

    Show contentHide content To restore using pre-installed recovery options

    Show contentHide content To restore using a Windows installation disc or a system repair disc

    XPS 8500 

    Studio XPS 435T

    Inspiron 11Z

    Vostro V131

  • MarkTho Man, really thanks, you are my hero man I just got my Aurora Desktop this week, and i was with the same problem. Ive done the steps  you provided and everything was perfect. Just to inform you, my processor is a i7 920 and i also had to use the amd64 bit version from imagex. When i tried the ia64, the application told me that the program was valid but wasn't for my system. Anyways, it worked perfect using the amd64. Everything here was just as you said, even the drive letters :-)

    Thanks man, you helped me a lot !!! I'm sure that this post of yours will help a bunch of people.

    Peace man !!!

  • Hi sawaddi, yeah, I looked at that, the trouble is that reinstalling a generic (albeit Alienware branded) copy of Windows 7 nuked most of the options, and the Windows System Recovery tool refused to use the FACTORY.WIM file that was in the recovery partition, even when I removed the hidden attributes etc. from the partition. Options 1,2 you list above therefore didn't work, and there was no "System Repair" option during the Windows 7 setup when I tried that. Believe me - I wouldn't have gone to all the trouble with IMAGEX if I hadn't tried all of those options before Wink

    Now having said and done all of that, I've installed Acronis True Image Home 2010 and created an image of all the partitions on the machine so I can completely restore everything in the event of it being needed. Once bitten, twice shy and all that Smile

  • Hello,

    I got the same problem as you did, and I kind of got to (almost) the same solution.

    The only problem is that it didn't work for me as it did for you. On the last step when I performed imagex /apply ... command it first seemed to work fine and got to 100% "Applying progress", but then it gets an error:

    [Error] d:\windows\system32\NlsLexicons00f.dll ,<Error = 1812>

    Error resoring image.

    The specified image file did not contain a resource section.

    Any ideas what can be wrong for me? I have a new Dell Studio 1749 laptop with Windows 7.

    Btw, my Restore partion contains 2 filew - Factory.wim (3.9Gb) and Factroy2.wim (1.4 Gb). - Don't know if it's relevant..

    I cracked my head today! Any help is appreciated!!!

  • My recovery partion has 14.7gb however theres 1 file in there called recovery at 3.9gb when i click on that file theres nothing there how do i make it visible in that folder

    as i have had the same problems