Restore or reset Surface for Windows 8.1

If you're having trouble with your Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3, or Surface 3, you may be able to restore, refresh, or reset it to solve the problem.

Should you restore, refresh, or reset your Surface?

If your Surface isn't running as quickly or reliably as it used to, try one of these recovery options. The following table can help you decide which one to use.

Problem

Try this

Your Surface isn't working well, and you recently installed an app, driver, or update.

Restore from a system restore point

Your Surface isn’t working well, and it’s been a while since you installed anything new. Or, you tried a restore and it didn’t solve your problem.

Refresh or reset your Surface

Your Surface won't start, and you've created a recovery drive.

Use a recovery drive to reinstall Windows

This option takes your Surface back to an earlier point in time, called a system restore point. Restore points are generated when you install a new app, driver, or Windows update and when you create a restore point manually. Restoring won’t affect your personal files, but it will remove apps, drivers, and updates installed after the restore point was made. To get started, do the following:

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and click Search.)

  2. In the search box, enter recovery, and in the search results, tap or click Recovery.

  3. Tap or click Open System Restore > Next.

  4. Choose the restore point related to the problematic app, driver, or update and tap or click Next > Finish.

Not seeing any restore points?

If you’re not seeing any restore points, try a reset to solve your problem.

To check if system protection is turned on:

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and click Search.)

  2. In the search box, enter recovery, and in the search results, tap or click Recovery.

  3. Tap or click Configure System Restore > Configure.

  4. Make sure Turn on system protection is selected.

Can’t boot into Windows?

If you can’t boot into Windows, you may be able to perform a system restore in the Windows Recovery Environment. Here’s how:

  1. Boot your Surface using a USB recovery drive. Insert a bootable USB drive into the USB port on your Surface, then press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button. When the Surface logo appears, release the volume-down button.
    For more info, see Boot Surface from a USB device. If you don’t have a USB recovery drive, see Download a recovery image for your Surface.

    Note: The USB recovery drive must be formatted to FAT32 (not NTFS) to work correctly.

  2. When prompted, select the language and keyboard layout you want.

  3. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options.

  4. Select System Restore, select the target operating system, and select Next.

  5. Choose a restore point.

  6. Select Next > Finish.

  7. When asked if you want to continue, select Yes.

After running system restore, you should be able to boot into Windows.

Refreshing your Surface reinstalls Windows and keeps your personal files, settings, apps that came installed on your Surface, and apps you installed from the Store. You’ll need to reinstall desktop apps. Here’s how:

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and click Settings.)

  2. Tap or click Change PC settings > Update and recovery > Recovery.

  3. Under Refresh your PC without affecting your files, tap or click Get started.

  4. Tap or click Next, make sure your Surface is plugged in, and tap or click Refresh.

After refreshing your Surface, you’ll need to reinstall desktop apps such as Microsoft Office, as well as the latest Windows updates.

Resetting your Surface lets you choose whether to remove just your files or fully clean the drive, and then reinstalls Windows. Here’s how:

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and click Settings.)

  2. Tap or click Change PC settings > Update and recovery > Recovery.

  3. Under Remove everything and reinstall Windows, tap or click Get Started.

  4. Tap or click Next, and choose either Just remove my files or Fully clean the drive.

    The option to clean the drive is more secure, but takes much longer. For example, if you are recycling your Surface, you should choose to clean the drive. If you are keeping your Surface, you just need to remove your files.

  5. Tap or click Reset.

For more info about creating and using a recovery drive to reinstall Windows, see Create and Using USB recovery drive.

Windows 10. If you created a recovery drive on Windows 10:

  1. Make sure your Surface is shut down and plugged in.

  2. Insert the USB recovery drive into the USB port.

  3. Press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button. When the Surface logo appears, release the volume-down button.

  4. When prompted, select the language and keyboard layout you want.

  5. Connect the recovery drive and turn on your Surface.

  6. On the Choose an option screen, tap or click Troubleshoot > Reset this PC and choose the reset option that's best for you.

Notes: 

  • If you chose not to copy the recovery partition when creating your recovery drive on Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, you won't be able to use it to reinstall Windows.

  • If you chose not to back up system files when you created your recovery drive on Windows 10, you won’t be able to use it to reinstall Windows.

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