1. It started with network connection issues. I had to keep resetting the network adapter to maintain a network connection.
2. Computer would reboot on its own, unexpectedly, always when it was sleeping. The screen would say "boot device not available" then list drives after. It would always restart fine after that.
3. I got annoyed by all of this and hoped a system restore would help. I did this, now the computer freezes after Vista has booted. Usually after a little clicking around, opening windows etc. Network problems still exist. Computer is now basically unusable.
1. Was the increasingly often network adapter problem and the occasional reboot a hardware or software failure?
2. What could I have done to fix this before trying to do a factory restore?
3. Is it wise to restore to a 4 year old factory image?
4. Now what should I do?!
More about :dell 540s network connection problems random shutdowns factory restore useless computer
I'd check the cmos battery and check for bios updates before I trashed it. As USAF said it may be a hard drive problem. You could make a linux live usb drive and use it to test the hardware. I recommend ubuntu 12.04 and also hirens boot disk.
Before anything, can you save your data, restoring to factory image will make your Windows look like when you just purchased this PC. Also, do you have any discs from Dell or only extra, small partition with factory image, or did you do DVD backup image?