Recovery options in Windows 10

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

Problem See this section
Problem

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

See this section

Restore from a system restore point

Problem

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

See this section

Reset your PC

Problem

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

See this section

Use a recovery drive to restore or reset your PC

Problem

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

See this section

Use installation media to restore or reset your PC

Problem

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

See this section

Use installation media to reinstall Windows 10

Problem

You want to reinstall your previous operating system.

See this section

Go back to your previous version of Windows

Show all

Restore from a system restore point

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, 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.

  1. Right-click (or press and hold) the Start button, and then select Control Panel.

  2. Search Control Panel for Recovery.

  3. Select Recovery > Open System Restore > Next.

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

Note

  • If you’re not seeing any restore points, it might be because system protection isn’t turned on. To check, go to the Control Panel, search for Recovery, and then select Recovery > Configure System Restore > Configure and make sure Turn on system protection is selected.

Reset your PC

Resetting lets you choose whether to keep your files or remove them, and then reinstalls Windows. To get started, go to Settings > Update & security > Reset this PC > Get started and choose an option.

Note

  • If you can't open Settings, you can get to reset by restarting your PC from the sign-in screen. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key+L to get to the sign-in screen, then hold the Shift key down while you select Power Power icon > Restart in the lower-right corner of the screen. After your PC restarts, select Troubleshoot > Reset this PC.

    If you can't get to the sign-in screen, use a recovery drive or installation media to reset your PC.

Option What it does
Option

Keep my files

What it does
  • 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. (If your PC came with Windows 10, apps from your PC manufacturer will be reinstalled.)

Option

Remove everything

What it does
  • Reinstalls Windows 10 and removes all 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.)

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

Option

Restore factory settings

What it does
  • Reinstalls the version of Windows that your PC came with (either Windows 8 or Windows 8.1) and removes your personal files.

  • Removes apps and drivers you installed.

  • Removes changes you made to settings.

  • Reinstalls any apps your PC manufacturer installed on your PC.

This option isn't available on all PCs.

Note

  • If you reset your PC within a month of your upgrade to Windows 10, the option in Settings that lets you go back to your previous version of Windows will no longer be available.

Use a recovery drive to restore or reset your PC

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

If you're using a recovery drive created on Windows 10:

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

  2. On the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot, and then select an option. 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.

    • 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, but it won’t affect your personal files.

    • Select Reset this PC and then choose to keep or remove your files. For info on how resetting affects your apps and settings, see the Reset your PC section of this topic.

      If resetting doesn’t work, you can also Recover from a drive. This will reinstall Windows 10 (unless your PC came with Windows 8/8.1 and a recovery partition from your PC manufacturer, in which case it'll reinstall the version of Windows that came with your PC). It'll also remove your personal files, apps and drivers you installed, and changes you made to settings.

Note

  • If you chose not to back up system files when you created your recovery drive, Reset this PC and Recover from a drive won't be available.

If you're using a recovery drive created on Windows 8.1:

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

  2. On the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot, and then select an option. 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.

    • 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, but it won’t affect your personal files.

    • Select Reset your PC > Yes, repartition the drive to reinstall Windows 8.1. This will remove all your personal files, apps and drivers you installed, and changes you made to settings. Apps from your PC manufacturer will be reinstalled and the drive’s default partitions will be restored.

Note

  • If you’re using a Windows 8.1 recovery drive on a PC that was upgraded to Windows 10, Refresh your PC and Reset your PC > No, keep existing partitions won’t work. Try selecting Reset your PC > Yes, repartition the drive instead.

    If you chose not to copy the recovery partition when you created your recovery drive, Reset your PC > Yes, repartition the drive won't be available.

Use installation media to restore or reset your PC

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 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're not seeing 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.

    • Select Reset this PC to reinstall Windows 10. This will remove apps and drivers you installed and changes you made to settings, but lets you choose to keep or remove your personal files.

Use installation media to reinstall Windows 10

Before you follow these steps, try resetting your PC using installation media. If that doesn't work, you can use the same installation media to reinstall Windows 10 (also called performing a clean installation of Windows).

Warning

  • This will remove all your personal files, apps and drivers you installed, apps and customizations from your PC manufacturer, and changes you made to settings.

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

  2. Download the 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 non-functional PC, and then turn it on.

  7. On the initial setup screen, enter your language and other preferences, and then select Next. If you're not seeing 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 Install now.

  9. On the Enter the product key to activate Windows page, enter a product key if you have one. If you upgraded to Windows 10 for free or bought and activated Windows 10 from the Windows Store, select Skip and Windows will automatically activate later. For more details, see Activation in Windows 10.

  10. On the License terms page, select I accept the license terms (if you agree to them), then select Next.

  11. On the Which type of installation do you want? page, select Custom.

  12. On the Where do you want to install Windows? page, select a partition, select a formatting option (if necessary), and then follow the instructions.

  13. When you've finished formatting, select Next.

  14. Follow the rest of the setup instructions to finish installing Windows 10.

Go back to your previous version of Windows

For a month after you upgrade to Windows 10, you’ll be able to go back to your previous version of Windows from Settings > Update & security > Recovery. 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.

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 them, reinstall them from the Store.

If go back isn't available

  • Check to see if you can restore your PC to factory settings. This will reinstall the version of Windows that came with your PC and remove personal files, apps and drivers you installed, and any changes you made to settings. Go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery > Reset this PC > Get started and look for Restore factory settings.

  • If you have a product key for your previous version of Windows, use the media creation tool to create installation media for Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, and use it to do a clean install.

Info for Windows Insiders

If you’re an Insider and the current preview build isn’t working for you, go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery > Go back to an earlier build. 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.