You don't need a manufacturer's recovery set except to put back the exact same stuff as was originally installed, much of which you don't need anyway. Your computer will have a valid Windows product key sticker on it, and you can reinstall Windows using a regular installation CD.
You'll need a CD for the same version of Windows that was preinstalled. You will also need the drivers for your computer's hardware (video, audio, network interface, etc.), which you can download from Dell's website
Insert the Windows CD and boot the computer from it. (Most computers are set to boot from the CD drive if there's a disc in, but you may have to change the boot order if your computer always tries the hard drive first.) At one point you'll need to enter the Windows product key; use the one on the sticker on your computer. Later, after the installation is all finished, you'll need to go through activating your Windows copy. These steps aren't needed with the factory restore disc, but it's only a minor inconvenience.
After Windows is installed, install the hardware drivers you downloaded. Most drivers are packed as executable programs. Run them and they automatically install whatever Windows needs. When you're done, your computer will be ready to go.
Your computer won't have any of the applications that were preinstalled, but it's normally stuff you can live without anyway. You can find free or low-cost applications for just about anything you want to do. For antivirus programs there's Avast!
, and Avira
for starters. Some CD/DVD burning software applications are CDBurnerXP
is a great alternative to Microsoft's Office suite. In short, you're able to put on just what you need, and to pick from the many options available.
Don't let the process scare you. It's actually quite simple and the result is worth it. Good luck with your restore, and thanks for using Fixya!