What sign is it that it gives you? your keyboard may be set up for the wrong region. are all the signs like that? or just the @ one? In Windows XP to change the keyboard layout: Control Panel -> Regional and Language -> Languages Tab -> Details and the keyboard language should be English US.
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If your @ sign is not working it is probably a regional setting in your control panel. Your Keyboard is probably set to the the wrong layout
This will be slightly different for Windows 7 vs Windows 8 so check the control panel for Regional settings, input, keyboard settings. you will need to change your keyboard layout. If the @ sign is ontop of the number "2" then select US otherwise select UK. That should help.
#1 in windows, go to regional and language settings, and ensure that your settings match the keyboard installed (If a USA system, then all the keyboard settings should be for US English etc) there are different layouts for different keyboard (US and UK keyboards have a few differences, others are more major)
#2 assuming #1 didn't resolve, boot to the diagnostics and run the custom keyboard test and see if it passes outside of windows (Boot to the Dell resource CD is the easy way to get to diags)
If the keyboard fails the test, then replace the keyboard. If issue still persists after keyboard replacement, then motherboard is next (A 8mo old system should still be under Dell warranty)
If the keyboard passes diags, then the issue is windows and final resolve, may be reinstalling windows
It sounds like your regional settings are wrong, go to control panel and click on Regional and Language options Click the Languages tab and press the Details button and change the default Input Language to your region.
You have a key, next to the ctrl key at the bottom left, in a different color (maybe blue). Press and hold that, as you press the respective key at the top (also blue), regarding ->num lk <- If this isn’t sufficient, ->comment back<-, and well have another look at it. Regards /Teis