Security Windows

Why Not to Restore Your Computer to Factory Settings & What to Do Instead

Joe Keeley 29-05-2015

If you’ve purchased a computer from a manufacturer then you’ll likely find it’s weighed down with unnecessary junk like trial software and unsightly customizations. You shouldn’t have to put up with this.


If you’re looking to restore your system, think twice before restoring to the factory settings. You might speed up your system by wiping the slate, but it’s not as clean as it could be. That’ll only come from installing completely fresh from the operating system.

Be sure to leave us a comment afterwards to let us know if you’ve ever been frustrated with manufacturer bloatware and installed fresh to overcome it.

The Problem with Factory Settings

The first time you booted up your new pre-built computer, you entered a system with factory settings. Although you’re running Windows, the installation isn’t exactly the same as if only the operating system was installed.

This is because most manufacturers will install or customize the system in a particular way. Sometimes this is done to make it more convenient for the user, like having all relevant drivers installed, but sometimes it’s done more for the benefit of the manufacturer than the consumer. Little things like the wallpaper being a branded image can occur, but often you’ll also find that some less useful programs have been pre-installed.

Why Not to Restore Your Computer to Factory Settings & What to Do Instead lenovo superfish1


These programs could be software trials (commonly for things like antivirus) or manufacturer suites that apparently help get the best out of your system. The thing is, you probably didn’t ask for these things to be on your computer and it feels a bit invasive to have it all pushed on you. At best these programs are bloatware that take up valueable hard drive space, but they could also be a security risk.

We’ve reported previously about how to know if your new PC is secure How Do You Know If Your New PC Is Secure? Recent stories teach us that, in almost every case, there is software pre-installed on your device designed to intercept online transactions, listen in, or compromise your security in some other way. Read More . One example of a security issue was with Lenovo laptops, found to have the Superfish malware preinstalled Lenovo Laptop Owners Beware: Your Device May Have Preinstalled Malware Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo has admitted that laptops shipped to stores and consumers in late 2014 had malware preinstalled. Read More . The standard Windows uninstaller didn’t help in getting rid of it and the common user would have been left none the wiser. It’s unacceptable for something like that to happen, especially when you’ve laid down a hefty sum for a new system, and highlights an extreme case where factory settings are dangerous.

Remove the Bloatware

One tactic you could use, if you don’t want to start from a fresh system install, is to remove the bloatware that comes with your system. Bear in mind this won’t rectify any security vulnerability, like the Superfish incident mentioned above, but it’s a simple way to get rid of the obvious junk.



For this you can just use the in-built Windows uninstaller or take it one step further by using a program like Should I remove It (our Should I Remove It review Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? Here at MakeUseOf, we've put out many articles reviewing and highlighting software that allows you to completely and cleanly uninstall applications from your system. One issue many of you run into is not knowing which... Read More ) in order to better establish what needs wiping from your system. Remember, don’t remove drivers or other system critical utilities because you could find your system unstable afterwards.

For more information on removing that excess junk, be sure to check out our guide on how to get rid of bloatware How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops Tired of software you never wanted consuming your laptop's resources? Your computer isn't free ad space. Here's how to get rid of bloatware. Read More .

Install Your System from Scratch

The best way to ensure you’ve got the cleanest system possible is not to do a factory reset, but rather wipe your drive and install the operating system from scratch. Doing a factory reset will roll everything back to how the system was when you first got it, including removing all the programs and data you added, but as we’ve established, a factory reset will also restore the bloatware the system came with originally.

It’s not too tricky to do a fresh system install, but first you need to understand the consequences of it. Although it may sound obvious to some, this process will wipe all of your data, unless you stored them on a separate drive or partition from your operating system. Your documents, music, installed programs, and more will be gone, unless you create a backup of them. You can use Windows Easy Transfer (our moving data guide Upgrading Hardware? Tips For Moving Your Windows Installation Without Having To Reinstall Cringe at the thought of having to re-install Windows? Upgrading PC hardware is exciting, but dealing with your Windows installation can become an issue. Here are your options for keeping your current Windows setup. Read More ) for some of that data or you can use a dedicated backup program 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More .


windows 7 upgrade

To begin your fresh system install you’ll need a copy of the operating system on bootable media (like a CD or USB drive How To Install Windows 8 From A USB Stick If you’re looking to install Windows 8 and your computer doesn't have a DVD drive, you’re not alone. Whether you have a Windows 8 DVD or a Windows 8 ISO file you've downloaded from Microsoft,... Read More ) and your product key Four Places to Find Your Windows 8 Product Key With Windows 8, finding the 25-digit product key got harder. But you still need it to download installation media or install on a machine that didn't come pre-installed with Windows 8. Read More . If you’ve got a copy of the operating system on disc from Microsoft, that’s excellent. If not, you’ll need to create the bootable media yourself by using an ISO file. Handily, we have an excellent and in-depth guide on how to make bootable media using ISO How to Make a Bootable CD/DVD/USB to Install Windows Need installation media to reinstall Windows? Our tips show you how to create a bootable CD, USB, or DVD with an ISO from scratch. Read More .

You’ll then need to run this bootable media, which can be done just by putting the disc or USB drive in and rebooting. If this doesn’t work automatically, reboot and look out for which key you need to press to access your BIOS How to Enter the BIOS on Windows 10 (And Older Versions) To get into the BIOS, you usually press a specific key at the right time. Here's how to enter the BIOS on Windows 10. Read More ; once there, change the boot order How to Change the Boot Order on Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) Learn how to change the boot order of your computer. It's important for troubleshooting issues and tweaking settings, and it's a lot easier than you think. Read More to have the disc/USB be first.

The install wizard will guide you through the necessary steps, but make sure you select to wipe the hard drive and completely install from scratch. Once done, you’ll then be sent to your new desktop, after which you should head to Windows Update Windows Update: Everything You Need to Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More and get all of the important updates (including your drivers How to Find & Replace Outdated Windows Drivers Your drivers might be outdated and need updating, but how are you to know? Here's what you need to know and how to go about it. Read More ). When that’s all good, you can go ahead and restore the data you backed up earlier.


Signature Edition Computers

If you’re looking to buy a new computer that doesn’t come with all the manufacturer excess then, short of building your own, you might want to consider checking out the Signature Edition Computers from the Microsoft Store. There are no promotional pre-loads, no bloatware – just the operating system.

signature edition

These are computers that come in a whole range of configurations from different manufacturers. Don’t pay much attention to the marketing babble about them being the “fastest around”. They’re only quick because solely the operating system is installed, not due to any additional bonuses or hardware differences.

However, if you’re comfortable with installing fresh yourself, you might find that it’s a better deal to buy a standard system and then just do a fresh install on that. Be sure to compare prices of standard against Signature Edition before making a purchase.

Keep it Fresh

Now you know: always keep your system fresh by installing from the operating system, not reverting back to factory settings. You don’t need trial software, pointless manufacturer suites and unsightly customizations weighing down your brand new system. And should you ever find that you need a tool offered by the manufacturer, for example to use a special hardware key, know that you can download it from their website.

Note that your recovery partition still contains a factory settings setup, so should you refresh or reset your compute Should You Refresh, Reset, Restore, or Reinstall Windows? Ever wanted to reset Windows 7 without losing personal data? Between a factory reset and a reinstall, it was tough. Since Windows 8, we have two new options: Refresh and Reset. Which one is right... Read More r, the bloatware will be back. Going back to a restore point What You Need To Know About Windows System Restore Imagine the trouble you could find yourself in, if your system failed! The Windows System Restore feature could save your butt. This article explains how to create and use Windows restore points. Read More , however, is safe as it will not draw on your recovery partition. To be save, you can wipe the original recovery partition and restore it How to Restore a Deleted Recovery Partition in Windows 8 At the time, that extra storage space must have been very tempting. But now you need a recovery partition. We'll show you how to restore it. Read More using your freshly installed system.

Have you ever suffered at the hands of a manufacturer install? Did you wipe it all and start afresh with the operating system?

Image Credits: Black laptop via Shutterstock

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Install Software, System Restore, Windows.

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  1. Lisa carter
    December 28, 2017 at 12:11 am

    You sound so computer inclined man I wish I could borrow you

  2. Dylan
    September 2, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Wouldn't doing this erase any recovery software the manufacture set in place? No more recovery windows files, you'd have to keep the USB drive you made if you don't have a Windows CD.

    Plus that would make it harder for the next person to restore it if you decide to sell the laptop/PC.

  3. Drexusion
    May 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    The only problem with this is PCs running anything before Windows 10 may not activate without using the Manufacturer's Recovery Partition of Media.