Should You Refresh, Reset, Restore, or Reinstall Windows?

Joel Lee 12-04-2015

System Restore 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 or reinstall Windows. For most of us, those are the only two choices we had throughout most of Windows history. Ever wanted to reset Windows 7 How To Reinstall Windows 7 Without Changing Your Personal Settings, Installed Programs & Drivers Windows has a tendency to accumulate errors and problems over time. While some of this virtual wear and tear can be delayed by rigorous system maintenance and keeping malware at the gate, the time will... Read More without losing personal data? It wasn’t easy. Neither was resetting to factory settings How to Factory Reset Your HP Laptop Wondering how to factory reset an HP laptop? Here are the methods to restore any HP computer to its default settings. Read More .


Starting with Windows 8, we got two more goodies to play around with: Windows Refresh and Windows Reset. It’s great to have all of these options, but it can be confusing to know which one to use in which scenarios.

So, let’s explore a few scenarios to see which path is the right one to take. It’s actually quite straightforward when you know the difference between a Restore, Refresh, Reset, and Reinstall How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation In addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for "refreshing" and "resetting" your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows -- either keeping your personal files or deleting... Read More .

Your System Keeps Crashing

The Problem: You’re using your computer like normal, then out of nowhere the system starts acting up. It boots up fine, but randomly crashes for no apparent reason. You haven’t installed any new hardware lately, but you do remember installing new software and/or updating drivers around the same time that the crashes started.

The Solution: This is one situation where System Restore shines. System Restore works by taking snapshots of your system’s state (only important system files are tracked) and allows you to revert your system to a previously saved state.

This is exactly what we want. Our system was working fine, but it isn’t anymore. The most likely culprit is a corrupted system configuration, which should be remedied by reverting to a past configuration that wasn’t problematic.



However, this only works if you actually make restore points! If you don’t have any, Windows won’t know of any previous states to revert to. If you have too few restore points, you’ll need to roll back to a really old system state, which may cause compatibility issues with other changes made to your system since then.

We recommend creating automatic restore points How To Make Sure Windows System Restore Works When You Need It System restore is not an automatic feature in Windows 7. Usually it is enabled when you've purchased a new system, but after running updates, installing system tools or running any other list of tasks that... Read More once a day and dedicating enough system space to store several of them at any given time. However, depending on how often you make changes to your system, a weekly or monthly schedule might work as well.

In case System Restore isn’t working System Restore Not Working? 5 Fixes for Windows 7 and 10 System Restore saves your PC from disaster. But what if it System Restored failed you? We've got the fix. Read More  for you, you can make a couple of tweaks. If everything looks good but it still fails, here’s what you should do when System Restore fails System Restore Not Working? 5 Fixes for Windows 7 and 10 System Restore saves your PC from disaster. But what if it System Restored failed you? We've got the fix. Read More . Worst case scenario, you should move on and perform a Windows Refresh.


You Have Persistent Malware

The Problem: You recently ran an anti-malware scan Make Sure You're Clean With These Free One-Time Scan Antivirus Tools [Windows] It sucks to be constantly bombarded by computer-related threats, whether they’re spyware, malware, viruses, keyloggers, or whatever else. A popular way to combat this problem is to install an antivirus solution that sits in the... Read More and discovered a few threats residing on your system. Being quick and decisive, you took all of the necessary steps to remove malware from your system 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked... Read More — you made sure to do everything from removal to disinfection The Complete Malware Removal Guide Malware is everywhere these days, and eradicating malware from your system is a lengthy process, requiring guidance. If you think your computer is infected, this is the guide you need. Read More — but no matter what you do, the malware sticks around.

The Solution: There are a few instances where System Restore might clear out malware, but those situations are few and far between. Persistent malware once would’ve required a complete reinstall, but our lives are made easier now that we have Windows Refresh, which is the proper choice here.

Windows Refresh is similar to reinstalling the entire Windows system, except it won’t delete any of your personal files. This is ideal for a persistent malware infection because it’ll refresh all of the system files without impacting most of your data.



There is one downside to Windows Refresh, however, and that’s the fact that it will uninstall all of the programs you installed (Modern apps will stay preserved) and install any programs that came with your system that you may have uninstalled at some point.

One small consolation: Windows Refresh will save a list of all uninstalled programs to your desktop so you can go back and install them manually. Once Refreshed, your system should be clear of all malware, but we recommend running another scan afterwards.

Here are a few tips if Windows Refresh isn’t working Windows 8 Refresh Not Working? Try These Tips Windows 8's Refresh is like reinstalling Windows, but it's easier, faster, and preserves your personal files. If Refresh fails or doesn't solve your problems, these troubleshooting tips should help you fix things. Read More for you.

You Want to Sell Your Computer

The Problem: You have a computer that you no longer need and you figure cash will be more useful, so you decide to sell it. However, whether you’ve only used it for five days or five years, there’s some personal information on there that you don’t want the buyer seeing.


The Solution: This kind of scenario is a perfect fit for Windows Reset. Unlike the previously-mentioned Windows Refresh, Windows Reset will reset the entire Windows installation and delete all of your personal files and folders. In other words, it truly is a “reset”.


Before you plow ahead with it, always remember to back up your data 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 in case you need it later. Store it on a USB drive or external hard drive if you don’t have much. Cloud storage Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You? Have you changed the way you think about cloud storage? The popular options of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have been joined by others. We help you answer which cloud storage service should you use. Read More is another good choice as long as privacy isn’t absolutely critical.

Now, as useful as Windows Reset might be, it isn’t enough if you’re going to sell or give away your computer 4 Things You MUST Do When Selling or Giving Away Your Old Computer, Phone or Tablet Here’s a fun thing I like to do: buy an old hard drive on eBay, then run recovery software on it. It’s a little data treasure hunt, and you’ll be amazed at what you can... Read More . A tech-savvy user might be able to scrape some data off of a hard drive What Is Data Recovery And How Does It Work? If you've ever experienced a major loss of data, you've probably wondered about data recovery -- how does it work? Read More even after Windows has been cleared and reset.

And that’s why you need to nuke your hard drive How to Securely Delete Files From Your HDD or SSD in Windows Did you know files never actually get deleted? That's why they can be recovered; by you or someone else. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, learn how to securely delete files. Read More . When you delete a file, it’s still on the hard drive; Windows just marks it as “deleted”. To truly delete something, you need to write over it enough times so that it becomes unrecoverable. Once nuked, your computer is safe to give away.

Your System Won’t Boot Up

The Problem: If bad luck befalls you, you might wake up one day to find that Windows doesn’t boot up at all. Without access to Windows, you don’t know how to run any of the Restore, Refresh, or Reset procedures. Is your system dead and irreparable?

The Solution: Not quite. Depending on how corrupted your Windows configuration is, it might give you the option of booting into Advanced Startup Options How To Resolve Windows 8 Boot Issues Windows 8 uses a new "hybrid boot" feature to improve boot times. When you shut down, your computer doesn't actually shut down normally - it performs a sort of limited "hibernate" that stores a state... Read More . This menu lets you run Refresh and Reset without actually booting up the operating system.


If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to grab your Windows installation disc and run it. It should detect that Windows is already installed and offer you the option of Repairing the system. If you don’t have an installation disc, you can make a bootable USB, CD, or DVD 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 instead.

If you get this far and your system is still broken, you have no other choice than to hit the last resort: a full Windows reinstallation.

Now It’s As Good As New

99% of the time running the Restore, Refresh, or Reset procedures will fix the issue you have without much incident. In the rare case that your system is inoperable, a Reinstallation will always work as a last resort. Either way, you should now be good to go!

In case you have an HP laptop, check out our specific methods for restoring an HP computer to factory settings How to Factory Reset Your HP Laptop Wondering how to factory reset an HP laptop? Here are the methods to restore any HP computer to its default settings. Read More .

Image Credits: Windows System Crash Via Shutterstock, Cyber Infection Via Shutterstock, Laptop and Cash Via Shutterstock

Related topics: System Restore, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Starx
    May 3, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Is using a system image the same as reinstalling windows? Because I don't have the install cd for windows, only a system image created as soon it was taken out of the box.

  2. Alfin
    March 1, 2016 at 9:09 am

    after we reinstall windows from win8 settings, should i reinstall my drivers back? im using a laptop that already in-built original windows 8

  3. Anonymous
    June 25, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    If you get instant recovery software like Rollback Rx home edition it's freeware and you can go back to when you first installed the software on a clean state. So in a lot of ways this is the best option and I'm surprised it's not mentioned.

  4. dave
    May 20, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Cal me stupid or whatever. I never do a backup and I have windows restore turned off. I rather try to fix my problem or do a reinstall. But I have to say that I have learned to setup my machine in such way that I can delete windows and not lose any of the data of importance. I have 6 drives installed c: = windows d: = my documents & desktop e: = programs & few games f: = my downloads g: = media (movies & music) h: = foto's. This way I have no problems with reinstalling windows except for taking lot of time to finish including updates and installing programs and not to forget to configure every program & system settings. But have to admit that I find it ridiculous how many updates you have to go through with win7. Hopefully it's over soon with Win10.

    • Anonymous
      October 17, 2015 at 6:09 am

      Create a System image bro. It will help you not to re-install windows with spending lot of time re-installing mobo. driver & other necessary soft. along with customize settings...

      • Anonymous
        October 23, 2015 at 12:11 pm

        Createing a System image has also their problems especially in a setup that i use.
        cause some setups are on a other drive.

  5. Kevin Reynolds
    April 15, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Joel Lee. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Linux "Issues". Is there another article somewhere that goes into that/those?


    • Sam
      April 20, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Just keep using Linux. You'll discover them yourself soon enough. Then you'll either stop dealing in absolutes and take a more moderate view, or you'll pretend the problems don't exist. Your choice :-)

    • Kevin Reynolds
      April 20, 2015 at 4:46 pm


    • Sam
      April 21, 2015 at 9:59 am

      Hey it's not all bad - there's lots to love about Linux. Just manage your expectations and accept that no OS is perfect :-) Personally I get a better experience overall with Windows 7, but there are things I like and dislike about both Windows and Linux. The more you use any OS the most glitches and niggles you'll discover.

  6. Robert G.
    April 13, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Acronis True Image is my friend.

    Never I've reinstalled Windows XP and never I'll reinstall Windows 7 *** smile ***.

    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      At $50, I'm a bit wary that it's worth the price. What does it do that Windows Restore/Refresh/Reset can't handle?

  7. Kevin Reynolds
    April 13, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Gavin. I only meant to be a little bit snarky. I moved over to Linux when Microsoft dropped support for XP and I'm really glad I did. This article is about fixing "Windows" problems and I say the best way to do that is to drop that buggy software all togegher and get yourself a Linux system. Man I tell you that's what I did and I don't have those problems anymore. It's the best fix yet.

  8. Salkis
    April 13, 2015 at 2:27 am

    The article was very helpful

    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      Glad to hear it. Thank you!

  9. Kevin Reynolds
    April 12, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    None of the above. What you should do is switch to Ubuntu Linux.

    • Gavin
      April 13, 2015 at 7:20 am

      With that statement, you're saying Linux doesn't have any issues with slowing down, not booting or corrupted files? Anyway, this isn't an article about Linux, it's about Windows.

    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      As a fan of all three major OS types, I can say that Linux has its own issues.

  10. Jamieg
    April 12, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    I don't unerstand. I've downloaded my share illegal and questionable content/apps, visited sites I shouldn't have and frequently played around in the registry. I have never needed Antivirus software, never turned on the restore option and haven't had to do a reinstall since probably windows 2000. WTF do people do their computers!?

    • Yousef
      April 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      You know , the fake download buttons, click me pop ups and the grapage downloaded with free softwares.
      normal people dont know how to deal with these.

    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      Like Yousef mentioned, not everyone is tech-literate and tech-experienced. There's a lot of garbage on the Internet even if you only visit legitimate sites and it's easy to contract malware if you aren't "trained" against it.

  11. dejan
    April 12, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    What to do if the system slows continuously?

    • power Manger
      April 12, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Eugenio Paolantonio has announced you need to install PCBSD and see the power of true OS
      get the power of BSD on your desktop

    • A41202813GMAIL
      April 13, 2015 at 10:57 am

      A - UnInstall All M$ Updates You Can Live Without,

      B - Try It For A Few Days,

      C - If There Is No Change, Install Them Back - The Problem Is Somewhere Else.

      Sadly, In The SUMMER Of 2009, I Found The Problem Was Definitely NOT Somewhere Else.

      I Have Never Installed Any Newer M$ Updates Since.

      After APRIL 2014 That Problem Does Not Even Exist Anymore.


    • Joel Lee
      April 15, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      There are a LOT of potential causes for a system slowdown and diagnosing the problem can be a time-consuming process. Check out the Windows 8 Performance article (// if you're on W8 or the Windows Speed-Up Guide for versions before it.

      The problem could also be a malware infection.

      As a last resort, I'd bite the bullet and run a System Restore (if you have restore points) or a Windows Refresh.