Systematic principal component analysis (PCA) methods are presented in this paper for reliable islanding detection for power systems with significant penetration of distributed generations (DGs), where synchrophasors recorded by Phasor Measurement Units (PMUs) are used for system monitoring. Existing islanding detection methods such as Rate-of-change-of frequency (ROCOF) and Vector Shift are fast for processing local information, however with the growth in installed capacity of DGs, they suffer from several drawbacks. Incumbent genset islanding detection cannot distinguish a system wide disturbance from an islanding event, leading to mal-operation. The problem is even more significant when the grid does not have sufficient inertia to limit frequency divergences in the system fault/stress due to the high penetration of DGs. To tackle such problems, this paper introduces PCA methods for islanding detection. Simple control chart is established for intuitive visualization of the transients. A Recursive PCA (RPCA) scheme is proposed as a reliable extension of the PCA method to reduce the false alarms for time-varying process. To further reduce the computational burden, the approximate linear dependence condition (ALDC) errors are calculated to update the associated PCA model. The proposed PCA and RPCA methods are verified by detecting abnormal transients occurring in the UK utility network.