Dell Inc. has surfaced as a potential bidder for Quest Software Inc. and is deep into discussions to buy the Aliso Viejo-based company as soon as this weekend, according to numerous media reports.

Investors seized upon news of the deal, sending Quest shares up more than 5% Friday to a market value of more than $2.1 billion.

The Business Journal, citing analysts and company watchers, has linked Round Rock, Texas-based Dell with Quest since the business-software maker announced in early March it was slated to go private in a $2 billion deal led by New York private equity firm Insight Venture Partners.

In early May Quest disclosed in a regulatory filing that more potential bidders surfaced but didn’t disclose any specific companies.

In the filing it said it had received “multiple” proposals during its 60-day “go-shop” period under a directive by Quest’s board, which had unanimously approved the deal with Insight.

A special committee formed to review alternative bids determined “multiple proposals are reasonably expected to lead to a superior proposal,” the company said at the time.

A company spokesperson declined to comment on the reports linking Dell, the third largest PC maker, to Quest.

Quest said it opted for the Insight Venture deal because it included a 60-day "go-shop" period. The deal with Insight Ventures includes a relatively small break-up fee of $4.2 million, should Quest accept a different offer during the "go-shop" period or $6.3 million if the Insight deal collapsed at a later date.

Quest makes software that manages and improves on other business products from Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. of New York and Redwood Shores-based Oracle Corp., all potential suitors.

Quest is one of Orange County’s biggest software makers with $857 million in 2011 sales. It has 3,000 workers overall, about 600 here.