Recovery options in Windows

Help & learning for Windows 11 is coming soon!

In the meantime, check out what's available for Windows 10 on the Windows 10 tab.

Learn more about Windows 11

Windows 11 logo on a blue background

If you're having problems with your PC, the following table can help you decide which recovery option to use.  

Problem

See this section

Your PC isn't working well and you recently installed an update.

Remove an installed Windows update

Your PC isn’t working well and it’s been a while since you installed an app, driver, or update.

Reset your PC

Your PC won't start, you haven't created a recovery drive, and resetting your PC didn't work.

Use installation media to reinstall Windows 10

Your PC won't start and you haven't created a recovery drive.

Use installation media to restore your PC

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

Use a recovery drive to restore or recover your PC

You want to reinstall your previous operating system.

Go back to your previous version of Windows

Your PC isn't working well and you recently installed an app.

Restore from a system restore point


Click one of the recovery options below and follow the steps to try to get things working again.

If you've recently installed a Windows update, uninstall the update to try to resolve the issue.

  1. Select the Start  button, then select Settings  Update & Security   Windows Update  > View your update history > Uninstall updates.
    View update history settings

  2. Right-click the update you want to remove, and then select Uninstall.

Important: If you’ve encrypted your device, you’ll need your BitLocker key to reset your PC If you don’t know your BitLocker key, see Find my BitLocker recovery key.

Resetting reinstalls Windows 10, but lets you choose whether to keep your files or remove them, and then reinstalls Windows. You can reset your PC from Settings, the sign-in screen, or by using a recovery drive or installation media.

Reset your PC from Settings

  1. Select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Update & Security   > Recovery .
    Open Recovery settings

  2. Under Reset this PC, select Get started and then choose from the options and/or settings in the table below.

Option

What it does

Keep my files > Change settings > Preinstalled apps On

  • Reinstalls Windows 10 and keeps your personal files.

  • Removes apps and drivers you installed.

  • Removes changes you made to settings.

  • Restores any apps your PC manufacturer installed if your PC came with Windows 10.

Keep my files > Change settings > Preinstalled apps Off

  • Reinstalls Windows 10 and keeps your personal files.

  • Removes apps and drivers you installed.

  • Removes changes you made to settings.

  • Removes any apps your PC manufacturer installed.

Remove everything

  • Reinstalls Windows 10 and removes your personal files.

  • Removes apps and drivers you installed.

  • Removes changes you made to settings.

  • Removes any apps your PC manufacturer installed. (If your PC came with Windows 10, apps from your PC manufacturer will be reinstalled.)

Note: Remove everything > Change settings gives you two options.

Data erasure On removes files and cleans the drive. If you're planning to donate, recycle, or sell your PC, use this option. This might take an hour or two, but it makes it harder for other people to recover files you've removed.

Data erasure Off just removes files. It takes less time, but is less secure.

Reset your PC from the sign-in screen

If you can't open Settings, you can reset your PC from the sign-in screen. Here’s how:

  1. Press Windows logo key + L to get to the sign-in screen, and then restart your PC by pressing the Shift key while you select the Power  button > Restart in the lower-right corner of the screen.

  2. Your PC will restart in the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) environment.

  3. On the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot > Reset this PC, and then choose one of the options in the previous table.

    Choose an option screen in the Windows Recovery Environment.

Connect the installation media you created to your PC and reinstall Windows 10. 

  1. Open File Explorer  and select the drive with the installation media.

  2. From the root directory of the drive, double-click setup.exe, and then select Yes when asked if you’d like to allow the app to make changes to your device.

  3. Select Change what to keep.

  4. Select one of the following options, and then select Next:

    • Keep personal files and apps – This will preserve your personal data, apps, and settings.

    • Keep personal files only – This will preserve your personal data and settings, but all your apps will be removed.

    • Keep nothing – This will remove all personal data, settings, and apps.

    Warning: You cannot undo a reinstallation of Windows 10. Be sure to back up your files first if you choose the Keep nothing option. 

  5. To finish, select Install to start reinstalling Windows 10 on your PC.

Your PC will restart several times during the resinstallation.

Important: If you’ve encrypted your device, you’ll need your BitLocker key to use a recovery drive to restore or reset your PC If you don’t know your BitLocker key, see Find my BitLocker recovery key.

If your PC won't start and you haven't created a recovery drive, download installation media and use it to restore from a system restore point or reset your PC.

  1. On a working PC, go to the Microsoft software download website.

  2. Download the Windows 10 media creation tool and then run it.

  3. Select Create installation media for another PC.

  4. Choose a language, edition, and architecture (64-bit or 32-bit).

  5. Follow the steps to create installation media, and then select Finish.

  6. Connect the installation media you created to your nonfunctional PC, and then turn it on.

  7. On the initial setup screen, enter your language and other preferences, and then select Next. If you don't see the setup screen, your PC might not be set up to boot from a drive. Check your PC manufacturer's website for info on how to change your PC's boot order, and then try again.

  8. Select Repair your computer.

  9. On the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot. From there, you can:

    • Restore from a system restore point by selecting Advanced options > System Restore. This will remove recently installed apps, drivers, and updates that might be causing your PC problems. Restoring from a restore point won’t affect your personal files.

Important: If you’ve encrypted your device, you’ll need your BitLocker key to use a recovery drive to restore or reset your PC If you don’t know your BitLocker key, see Find my BitLocker recovery key.

If your PC won’t start, you can use a recovery drive to restore from a system restore point or recover your PC. For info on how to create a recovery drive on a working PC, see Create a recovery drive.

Note: If you are using a Surface, see Creating and using a USB recovery drive for Surface to download and create a USB recovery image specifically for your Surface device.

To restore or recover using the recovery drive: 

  1. Connect the recovery drive and turn on your PC.

  2. Press Windows logo key + L to get to the sign-in screen, and then restart your PC by pressing the Shift key while you select the Power  button> Restart in the lower-right corner of the screen.

  3. Your PC will restart in the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) environment.

  4. On the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot, and then select one of the following two options. (If you don’t see the Choose your option screen, your PC might not be set up to boot from a drive. Check your PC manufacturer’s website for info on how to change your PC’s boot order.)

Choose an option screen in the Windows Recovery Environment.

  • To restore from a system restore point, select Advanced Options > System Restore. This won't affect your personal files, but it will remove recently installed apps, drivers, and updates that might be causing your PC problems.

  • To reinstall Windows 10, select Advanced OptionsRecover from a drive. This will remove your personal files, apps and drivers you installed, and changes you made to settings.

For a limited time after upgrading to Windows 10, you’ll be able to go back to your previous version of Windows by selecting the Start  button, then select Settings  > Update & Security  > Recovery and then selecting Get started under Go back to the previous version of Windows 10. This will keep your personal files, but it'll remove apps and drivers installed after the upgrade, as well as any changes you made to settings. In most cases, you'll have 10 days to go back. 
Open Recovery settings

To go back, you'll need to:

  • Keep everything in the windows.old and $windows.~bt folders after the upgrade.

  • Remove any user accounts you added after the upgrade.

  • Know the password you used to sign in to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 (if you used one).

  • Have the USB drive you used to upgrade to Windows 10 (if you used one).

Note: If you go back to Windows 8.1, some apps that came with Windows, like Mail and People, might not work anymore. To fix the apps, reinstall them from the Microsoft Store.

Note: The option in Settings to go back to your previous version of Windows is only available for a limited time after upgrading.

Info for Windows Insiders

If you’re an Insider and the current preview build isn’t working for you, select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Update & Security  > Recovery . Under Go back to the previous version of Windows 10, select Get Started. This won’t remove your personal files, but it’ll remove recently installed apps and drivers, and change settings back to their defaults.

Going back to an earlier build won’t remove you from the Insider Program. When the next preview build is ready, it'll be installed on your PC.

This option takes your PC back to an earlier point in time, called a system restore point. Restore points are generated when you install a new app or driver, 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.

  1. In the search box on the taskbar, type control panel,andthen choose it from the list of results

  2. In the Control Panel search box, type recovery.

  3. Select Recovery > Open System Restore.

  4. In the Restore system files and setting box, select Next.

  5. Select the restore point that you want to use in the list of results, and then select Scan for affected programs.

    Notes: 

    • If you don’t see the restore point that you want to use, select the Show more restore points check box to see more restore points.

    • If you’re not seeing any restore points, it might be because system protection isn’t turned on. Here’s how to check:

      1. In the search box on the taskbar, type control panel,andthen choose it from the list of results.

      2. In the Control Panel search box, type recovery.

      3. Select Recovery > Configure System Restore > Configure and see if the Turn on system protection option is selected.

        • If the Turn on system protection option is not selected, system protection isn’t turned on and there aren't any restore points. In this scenario, you won't be able to recovery your PC using a system restore point and will need to use one of the other recovery options listed on this page.

        • If the Turn on system protection option is selected, continue with step 6.

  6. You'll see a list of items that will be deleted if you remove this restore point. If you're OK with the deletions, select Close> Next > Finish.

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, select Settings, and then select Change PC settings.)

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

  3. Under Refresh your PC without affecting your files, tap or select 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, select Settings, and then select Change PC settings.)

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

  3. Under Remove everything and reinstall Windows, tap or select 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 select Search.)

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

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

  4. Tap or select 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.

Need more help?

Join the discussion
Ask the community
Get support
Contact Us

Was this information helpful?

Thank you for your feedback!

×