How to Reset Computers to Factory Settings
There is nothing more frustrating than your trusty computer doing things it is not supposed to. For example, error messages pop up from nowhere, and Microsoft files that came with the computer just disappear.
Viruses are one common reason for such strange behavior. Power spikes can also cause problems in your operating system. Even regular Windows updates can cause issues you never had before. But there's a way you can fix these problems for free.
System Restore or System Recovery?
It is important to know the difference between "system restore" and "system recovery."
"System restore," that is, restoring your system to a previous date when the computer worked fine, may do the trick and get rid of your problems. To do a system restore, click "Start," click "Help and Support," and under "Pick a Task," click "Undo changes to your computer with System Restore." Follow the instructions in the wizard.
Using Windows System Restore
A more radical remedy may be required when your hard drive will not boot up, or when you can't get the computer to navigate through the windows you need for a restore-point reset. This radical resetting of the computer is called a system recovery (not a system restore). It will put your computer back to factory settings. You should lose your current problems, but you will also lose any files you had, including pictures, music, and documents.
This is how system recovery works. Each computer manufacturer has a special key you have to hit right when you power on the computer.
Special "System Recovery" Keys
HP and Compaq desktops
eMachine, Gateway PC
So—if you are sure you want to return your computer to the state in which it left the factory—power the computer off, and then power it back on while tapping the appropriate key (e.g. F10) until a screen pops up asking if you want to do a system recovery. Note: it may ask you if you want to do a "system restore," but be warned; if you are tapping this magic key, the dialogue box is most likely referring to what we are calling "system recovery"—a recovery to the factory state, minus all your data. Once this "system recovery" dialogue window opens, stop tapping the special key and just follow the instructions. Some older computers may ask you for the restore discs you got when you bought the computer, so have those ready. Most newer computers do not need restore discs.
The whole system restore could take two or three hours. When done, reboot your computer, and it should be like-new and speedy again.