How to refresh, reset, or restore your PC

Note: For information about this topic in Windows 10, see Recovery options in Windows 10.

If you're having problems with your PC, you can:

  • Refresh your PC to reinstall Windows and keep your personal files and settings. Refresh also keeps the apps that came with your PC and the apps you installed from the Microsoft Store.

  • Reset your PC to reinstall Windows but delete your files, settings, and apps—except for the apps that came with your PC.

  • Restore your PC to undo recent system changes you've made.

If you're having trouble starting (booting) your PC, see Windows Startup Settings (including safe mode), and go to the “Get to Windows Startup Settings in the Windows Recovery Environment” section. You can refresh, reset, or restore your PC from the Windows Recovery Environment.

If you want to back up and restore your personal files using File History, see Set up a drive for File History.

Before you start to refresh or reset your PC

In most cases, once you start to refresh or reset your PC, it’ll finish on its own. However, if Windows needs missing files, you’ll be asked to insert recovery media, which is typically on a DVD disc or thumb drive. If that happens, what you’ll need depends on your PC.

If your PC came with Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1, you’ll need the discs or thumb drive that came with your PC. Check the info that came with your PC to see if your PC manufacturer provided these discs or media. In some cases, you might have created them when you first set up your PC.

If you don’t have either of those, you can make them if you have a USB thumb drive of 16 GB or larger. Having a recovery drive can help you troubleshoot and fix problems with your PC, even if it won’t start. For more info, see Create a USB recovery drive.

If you upgraded your PC to Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1 with a DVD, use that disc. If you don’t have Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1 media, contact Microsoft Support.

Refresh, reset, or restore

Select any of the following for more detailed info.

If your PC isn't performing as well as it once did, and you don't know why, you can refresh your PC without deleting any of your personal files or changing your settings.

Note: If you upgraded your PC from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 and your PC has a Windows 8 recovery partition, refreshing your PC will restore Windows 8. You’ll need to upgrade to Windows 8.1 after the refresh has finished.

Warning: Apps you installed from websites and DVDs will be removed. Apps that came with your PC and apps you installed from Microsoft Store will be reinstalled. Windows puts a list of removed apps on your desktop after refreshing your PC.

To refresh your PC

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

  2. Tap or click Update and recovery, and then tap or click Recovery.

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

  4. Follow the instructions on the screen.

If you want to recycle your PC, give it away, or start over with it, you can reset it completely. This removes everything and reinstalls Windows.

Note: If you upgraded your PC from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 and your PC has a Windows 8 recovery partition, resetting your PC will restore Windows 8. You’ll need to upgrade to Windows 8.1 after the reset has finished.

Warning: All of your personal files will be deleted and your settings will be reset. All apps that you installed will be removed. Only apps that came with your PC will be reinstalled.

To reset your PC

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

  2. Tap or click Update and recovery, and then tap or click Recovery.

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

  4. Follow the instructions on the screen.

Note: You'll be asked to choose whether you want to erase data quickly or thoroughly. If you choose to erase data quickly, some data might be recoverable using special software. If you choose to erase data thoroughly, this will take longer but it makes recovering data less likely.

If you think an app or driver that you recently installed caused problems with your PC, you can restore Windows back to an earlier point in time, called a restore point. System Restore doesn’t change your personal files, but it might remove recently installed apps and drivers.

Notes: 

  • System Restore isn't available for Windows RT 8.1.

  • Windows automatically creates a restore point when you install desktop apps and new Windows updates, if the last restore point is older than 7 days. You can also create a restore point manually at any time.

To restore your PC to an earlier point in time

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

  2. Enter Control Panel in the search box, and tap or click Control Panel.

  3. Enter Recovery in the Control Panel search box, and then tap or click Recovery.

  4. Tap or click Open System Restore, and then follow the instructions.

If you need additional help refreshing, resetting, or restoring your PC, check out the Repair and Recovery community pages in the Windows forum for solutions that other people have found for problems they've experienced.

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