You’ve upgraded to Windows 10, or you’re about to. But once you’ve made the change, you want to be certain that you can backup and restore your data quickly and conveniently. System Restore and Factory Reset have been included in Windows 10, and are better than they were in Windows 8.x.
Windows 10 Has No Recovery Partition
Microsoft is so confident in the restore, refresh, and reset tools packaged into the new version of Windows that there is no longer a recovery partition. Whereas in Windows 8 you could use a recovery image on a hidden disk partition to restore the operating system, this is no longer possible under Windows 10.
The reason? To allow users to maximize their available disk space, which in conjunction with file compression can save over 6 GB on 64-bit systems running Windows 10. This will be a considerable advantage to users on small capacity systems (such as the 64 GB SSD Surface Pro devices) upgrading to Windows 10.
As the recovery partition was the nearest thing to having the installation media, this is obviously not ideal. However, the reset, refresh, and reset tools should be sufficient to deal with the vast majority of issues, as long as you make the right decision between a system restore and refreshing Windows.
Using System Restore in Windows 10
If you’re having problems with Windows 10’s performance, the first thing you should look at is your list of restore points. If one of these coincides with when Windows started to misbehave, then you can use the System Restore tool to reinstate the settings and software that were in place at that time.
Open Start > Settings and in the search box type create a restore point. Click the matching result, select the drive you want to use to store your restore point (typically the system drive) and click Configure > Turn on system protection. This action activates the system restore functionality. Click OK to confirm, and in the main window click Create… to create a restore point, and give it a name.
The system protection software will create the restore point, which you can revert to at a later date using the System Restore button and working through the wizard to restore your previous state. You may need to spend a few moments checking through what will be affected so that you can reinstall software and – hopefully – avoid any apps that caused the problem that prompted you to use System Restore.
(You can also restore backups created in Windows 7, using the Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7) option.)
This video tutorial should help:
You can also find out more in our guide to creating a restore point in Windows 8.
But what if you need to roll back to a saved restore point, but cannot boot into Windows 10? The answer comes through Advanced Startup, which should be accessible by using a recovery drive or Windows 10 installation media (choose Repair your computer when Windows Setup launches).
In Advanced Startup, select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > System Restore, and then work through the wizard to find and apply the restore point.
This makes System Restore the fastest solution; at the same time, however, it is also the least reliable, often unable to cope with the introduction of malware to Windows.
Refresh Your Windows 10 Computer
Was reverting to a restore point not enough to resolve problems with your computer? You need to refresh your settings, which will revert your system to a state similar to what it was when you purchased it or first installed Windows 10.
The only difference here is that you will be able to retain your personal data and settings.
Open Start > Settings > Update & Security to begin, selecting Recovery in the left-hand menu. Under Reset this PC, click or tap Get Started, and use the Keep my files option. A warning will be displayed; a second may appear if you have upgraded to Windows 10 from a previous version, and informs you that resetting will prevent you from undoing the upgrade. If you’re happy, proceed with the Reset.
You’ll need to wait for the process to complete, the length of which will depend on how many apps you’ve installed.
Consider refreshing Windows 10 the second string to your bow. If your computer is running slow, if you find it crashes or freezes regularly, this is the option to take if you don’t have the time to back up your settings and personal folders first.
Reset Windows 10
The “nuclear option” when it comes to getting Windows 10 back to its best is to reset it, much as you would a smartphone or tablet. This action restores the operating system to the “factory settings,” leaving it seemingly as new. As such, you will need to back up your personal data beforehand, but bear in mind that any bloatware you have removed will be reinstated. This is a strong argument against using the factory reset option.
On the bright side, since Windows 10 does not come with a recovery partition, software pre-installed by manufacturers is stored separately and skilled users can remove bloatware prior to refreshing their computer.
Find your way back to the Reset this PC option, and click Get Started. This time, instead of Keep my files, you will select Remove everything. Here you will have two options, Just remove my files for a quick reset, and Remove files and clean the drive; this option will take longer, but is more secure, therefore making it more useful for wiping a PC clean before selling or giving it away.
When this is done, you will have an OS that feels as if it has just been installed, and you’ll need to reinstate your account (or create a new local profile) and restore your data.
Again, if you cannot boot into Windows 10, this option is available from the Advanced Mode screen. After booting into Advanced Options, go to Troubleshoot > Reset this PC and you’ll find the options as discussed above.
How Does Restore, Refresh and Reset Compare with Windows 8?
For experienced Windows users, especially those that have upgraded from Windows 8, the refresh and reset tools will be pretty familiar. Meanwhile, a version of System Restore has been in Windows since Windows 2000 (most domestic users will recognize it from Windows XP, however, the operating system that somehow refuses to die).
Functionally, the system is more or less identical, but with multiple drives attached there is more of a chance that Windows will offer to wipe these as well as the system drive. This is a feature that can prove useful, but is also particularly dangerous. However, it isn’t new to Windows 10; it was present in Windows 8, but the regularity of its appearance seems to be related to the type of drives you have connected.
If Windows 10 offers to erase other drives on your computer, using the dialogue Your PC has more than one drive. Do you want to remove all files from all drives? then make sure you select Only the drive where Windows is installed.
Have you used the Windows 10 restore, refresh and reset system functions? Did you run into any problems, or were you impressed with how well it worked? Share your story in the comments.