How to refresh, reset or restore your PC

If you're having problems with your PC, you can try to refresh, reset or restore it. Refreshing your PC reinstalls Windows and keeps your personal files and settings. It also keeps the applications that came with your PC and the apps you've installed from the Windows Store. Resetting your PC reinstalls Windows but deletes your files, settings and applications – except for the applications that came with your PC. Restoring your PC is a way to undo recent system changes you’ve made.

If you want to back up and restore your personal files using File History, see Setting up a drive for File History. If you want to restart your PC, see Shutting down (turning off) your PC, making it sleep or hibernating it.

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 USB stick. 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 USB stick that came with your PC. Check the info that came with your PC to see whether 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 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.

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Refreshing your PC without affecting your files

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

  • Applications you’ve installed from websites and DVDs will be removed. Applications that came with your PC and apps you've installed from the Windows Store will be reinstalled. Windows puts a list of removed applications on your desktop after refreshing your PC.

To refresh your PC

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

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

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

  4. Follow the instructions on screen.

Removing everything and reinstalling Windows

If you want to recycle your PC, give it away or start afresh with it, you can reset it completely.

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 your personal files will be deleted and your settings will be reset. All applications that you've installed will be removed. Only the applications that came with your PC will be reinstalled.

To reset your PC

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

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

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

  4. Follow the instructions on 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.

Restoring your PC to an earlier point in time

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

Notes

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

  • Windows automatically creates a restore point when you install desktop applications and new Windows updates, if the last restore point is more than 7 days old. 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, then tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the top-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, 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, then tap or click Recovery.

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

Get additional help in the Microsoft community

If you need additional help with refreshing, resetting or restoring your PC, see 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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