Windows 8 Reset to Factory Settings

If you’re having problems with your Windows 8, you can try to refresh, reset, or restore it. Refreshing your PC reinstalls Windows and keeps your personal files and settings. It also keeps the apps that came with your PC and the apps you installed from the Windows Store. Resetting your PC reinstalls Windows but deletes your files, settings, and apps—except for the apps that came with your PC. Restoring your PC is a way to undo recent system changes you’ve made.

Before you Start to Reset your PC

In most cases, once you start to refresh or reset your PC, it’ll finish on its own. However, if Windows needs missing files, you’ll be asked to insert recovery media, which is typically on a DVD disc or thumb drive. If that happens, what you’ll need depends on your PC.

If your PC came with Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1, you’ll need the discs or thumb drive that came with your PC. Check the info that came with your PC to see if your PC manufacturer provided these discs or media. In some cases, you might have created them when you first set up your PC.

The Difference Between Refresh and Reset

Windows 8 or 10 have two factory reset options, named Refresh and Reset. Both reset your computer to a fresh, factory default sate. Refresh preserves your files and installed Modern programs, while Reset removes everything on your system.

When you Refresh your PC:

  • Windows will save your personal files & settings and Modern apps installed from the Windows Store.
  • Windows will reset your PC settings.
  • Windows will remove all installed desktop programs. A list of all removed programs will be saved to desktop.

By resetting your computer settings and removing all desktop programs, Windows can “refresh” your PC so it’s more like a fresh install without deleting your personal files.

When you Reset your PC, Windows will remove everything. Think of this like doing a complete Windows reinstall and formatting your hard drive.

Should You Refresh or Reset?

If you’re experiencing problems with your computer and want to fix them, you should try refreshing your PC first. Windows will restore system files and desktop programs to their default state, saving all your important personal files (and Modern apps, if you use them.)

If you want to reset your computer to its factory default state – particularly useful if you’re getting rid of the computer and want to remove your personal data, or if you just want a clean start — you should reset your PC instead.

Reset Windows 8 to Factory Settings

Use the Reset your PC feature to permanently remove all personal files, software you have installed, and to return the computer to factory settings.

Use the following steps to reset your computer from the Start screen:

  1. From the Start screen, type reset to open the Search charm, and then select Remove everything and reinstall Windows from the search results. The Update and recovery window opens.
    Search for Reset PC
  2. Under Remove everything and reinstall Windows, click Get started.
    Update and Recovery in Windows 8
  3. On the Reset your PC screen, click Next.
    Reset your PC to Factory Settings
  4. If prompted, insert your Windows 8 installation disc or recovery media.
  5. If your computer has more than one drive installed, you must select whether you want to reset only the drive where Windows is installed, or reset all drives. Make your selection, and then click Next.
    Reset Windows 8 to Factory Settings
  6. Next you will be asked if you want to fully clean your drive. When you remove your files, you can also clean the drive so that the files cannot be easily recovered. Select either Just remove my files or Fully clean the drive. Then click Next.
    Choosing the cleaning level
  7. On the Ready to reset your PC screen, click Reset. Your personal files and settings will be destroyed by performing this step. Make sure you have backed up all your important files on another drive before performing a reset. If you need help backing up your files, you might want to contact a professional data recovery service.
    How to Reset your PC

Wait while Windows resets your computer. This might take awhile, and your computer will restart.

Use the Recovery Partition

Modern computers come with the operating system pre-installed and a recovery partition to restore it. A partition is a portion of the hard drive that is sectioned off. Primarily, they’re used to limit the amount of space that can be used for certain data.

For example, a hard drive could have several partitions: a recovery partition which contains all the recovery setup files necessary for a clean refresh of the operating system, a partition for the operating system and all installed programs, and a partition for all extra data.

Starting a recovery via the recovery partition usually means that you have to press one of the “F” keys (such as F1-F12) the moment after you hit the power button. These should be:

  • Acer – Alt + F10
  • Asus – F9
  • Dell/Alienware – F8
  • HP – F11
  • Lenovo – F11
  • MSI – F3
  • Samsung – F4
  • Sony – F10
  • Toshiba – 0 (not numpad) while turning on, release key when Toshiba logo appears

Doing so tells the BIOS (the basic firmware that runs primitive functions) that you’d like to run the recovery setup rather than load your Windows installation. Then, simply follow the on-screen instructions to complete the recovery — it should be very similar to a full-screen installation of any other program.

Once the recovery installer has completed, your computer will be in the exact same state as it was when you turned it on for the first time. This may also include all of the bloatware that came with it.