Most computers from PC vendors come with certain pre-configured factory settings which are important to the computer’s operation. This is particularly true of laptops, which usually have special function buttons, and touch screen computers, which require special drivers in order to function. Of course, a computer from a factory also has default Windows settings and does not feature any of your own customizations.
There may come a time in your computer ownership that you decide to basically hit the reset button.
This may be because your computer was struck by a virus, or it may be because you are selling your computer and you want to make sure your personal information can’t be retrieved by the person you are selling to.
Whatever your situation, this guide will help you completely restore your computer to absolutely pristine factory settings.
Step 1: Save Files & Folders
Depending on your version of Windows and the recovery system your computer’s vendor uses, some of your settings and files may be saved when you restore your computer to factory settings. However, it is best not to rely on this.
Treat your restoration to factory settings the same as you would a complete re-format of your hard drive. Assume all data will be lost and back up all crucial information to an external hard drive. Don’t bother backing up programs you can reinstall, but make sure to back up everything you don’t already have a copy of.
Also, make sure that you back up your browser information. The help website of the web browser you use should provide instructions on how to back up your browser. If you don’t do this you will lose all of your bookmarks and saved passwords.
Step 2: Start The Recovery Program
There are two common methods for returning your operating system to factory settings. One of these is to simply reinstall the operating system through the operating system’s own repair or reinstall process. With Windows this usually requires access to a Windows installation CD or the creation of a boot CD. If you have this available, you can refer to our guide on how to re-install Windows.
However, most computer vendors no longer ship out a copy of the Windows installation CD with their computers. Instead, the computer ships with a recovery partition or recovery disk. Each vendor uses their own particular type of solution, but the basics of them are the same. The most common names used by each company for their recovery solution can be found below. Note that manufacturers do change names from time to time – usually it will simply be something with the vendor’s brand name and the word “recovery” included after it.
- Acer – Acer eRecovery
- ASUS – ASUS Recovery Partition
- Dell – Dell Factory Image Restore
- Gateway – Gateway Recovery Management
- HP – HP PC System Recovery
- Sony – Sony Vaio Recovery Wizard
You can start the recovery program from within Windows. Alternatively – if perhaps your computer is having problems booting into Windows – you can usually access the recovery partition during your computer’s boot cycle. Pay attention to the display when your computer boots. There should be text indicating what button you need to press to start the recovery process. Typically, it will be a function key.
Step 3: Restoring To Factory Settings
Each vendor has their own recovery solution, so there is no way to provide a definitive guide to each and every vendor within the scope of this article. However, the general process of restoration almost always works like this.
- First, you will start the restoration program in Windows. The program will ask if you’d really like to begin the restoration process and warn you that your data could be (or will be) destroyed during the process.
- Once you confirm that you would like to start the recovery process you’ll reach some sort of progress screen. The computer may reboot to access this, or it may simply exit Windows and boot directly into the restoration program. At this point you’re set in your course – do not cancel the process. This can take half an hour to several hours depending on the speed of your computer.
- Once the restoration to factory settings is complete the computer will reboot and begin the Windows setup process. You will have to set up your user account and your settings just as you did when you first purchased the computer.
Step 4: Finishing Restoration
Ideally, the factory restoration wizard will completely restore everything needed to make your computer fully functional. However, in some situations you may find that a few drivers were not installed. For example, you might find that the screen brightness buttons no longer work on your laptop.
If you run into this problem you’ll need to download the drivers for your computer, which can be found on the vendor’s support website. You can either enter the serial number of your computer to obtain the proper drivers or you can find your model of computer yourself.
Once you have downloaded the appropriate drivers and installed them your system will be returned to its original factory settings. It will work just as it did the day that you bought it.
In any case, it’s a good idea to stay prepared for system mishaps by creating a Windows PE rescue disk.