Choosing an advanced recovery method

The advanced methods available in Recovery in Control Panel can return Windows to a usable state if it's badly damaged.

The first method uses a type of backup called a system image, which you need to have created earlier. The second method reinstalls Windows, either from a recovery image provided by your computer manufacturer, or from the original Windows installation files.


  • Both methods can result in loss of data. Before beginning either method, you’ll be prompted to back up your personal files to an external location, such as a USB hard disk. After the recovery completes, you can reinstall your programs using the original installation discs or files, and restore your personal files.

To access advanced recovery methods:

  1. Open Recovery by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type recovery, and then click Recovery.

  2. Click Advanced recovery methods.

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Restore files from a system image backup

You’ll need to have created a system image beforehand to use this option. A system image is a personalized backup of the partition that contains Windows, and includes programs and user data, like documents, pictures, and music. For more information, see What is a system image?

In general, if you have created a system image beforehand, this option is better because most of your files, programs, and settings are preserved on the system image. You'll only need to reinstall or restore any programs, updates, or files that you added after the date you created the system image. However, if the system image was made recently, there's a chance it could contain the problem you are trying to fix.

Return Windows or your computer to original settings

You can use this method if you don’t have a system image, or if you want to completely uninstall all of your programs and return Windows to new or "factory" condition. You’ll need to reinstall all of the programs that you’ve added, and restore all of your files.

This method will show one of two options, depending on what your computer manufacturer has selected:

  • Return your computer to the factory setting. This option deletes everything on your computer, including all of your files and any programs you’ve installed, and replaces it with a recovery image provided by your computer manufacturer. The recovery image contains Windows and can include programs that came preinstalled on your computer. You’ll need to restore your user files, and reinstall any programs you’ve installed using the original installation discs or files.

  • Reinstall Windows. This option reinstalls Windows on your computer. You’ll need to restore your user files, and reinstall any programs you’ve installed using the original installation discs or files.


    • Returning Windows to original settings doesn’t completely delete everything on your computer. It deletes programs, but saves user files to the Windows.old folder on your hard disk, which you can browse to after the reinstall completes. However, you should still back up any user files before using this method. For example, if you have encrypted files, you might not be able to access them after installing Windows. If you’ve backed up your user files and then restored them after reinstalling Windows, you can delete the Windows.old folder.