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How to Reset a Computer to the Factory Settings

It is occasionally necessary to reset a computer back to the factory specifications by formatting the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system and software. This can be convenient when placing a computer on the market for sale. It is also a handy troubleshooting step that can be performed when the system no longer runs like it used to. The process can resolve operating system or application software issues and clean up virus infections, and with most name brand systems it is relatively automated once it has begun.

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  1. Back up any important files on the system or create a full system image to allow the system to be restored to the current configuration at a later time if desired.

  2. Insert the system recovery disc or operating system disc into the optical drive and restart the computer.

  3. Press "Enter" when prompted during the boot process to boot from the CD/DVD drive. This occurs before the Windows logo is displayed. If the system does not boot to the optical drive on the first attempt, allow it to continue to load the installed operating system and restart it to try again. If it never offers the prompt to boot from the optical drive, the boot sequence may need to be modified to allow the first boot device to be the optical drive. Refer to the documentation that came with the computer or the motherboard user manual, or the manufacturer's website or technical support for details on the required steps for changing this for a particular brand and model of computer.

  4. Accept the language and time zone settings or make any necessary changes and continue.

  5. Click the option to install the operating system or restore the system to the original factory settings. This will vary by manufacturer and model but the steps are normally clearly indicated on the screen.

  6. Accept the license agreement and acknowledge the fact that all of the information on the computer is about to be erased, including the operating system, application files, data, e-mail, photos and personal settings if prompted.

  7. Click "Custom" if prompted for the installation type and click "Advanced" when given the choice of drives to install the operating system onto. Click on the primary hard drive partition and click "Delete" to remove the partition. Click on the unallocated space remaining on the drive to choose this location to install the operating system onto.

  8. Continue the installation and insert additional discs as prompted, if any are required. This will vary by manufacturer and model of computer.

  9. Remove the system recovery disc or operating system disc, and restart the computer.

  10. Tip

    Some computers come with the system recovery information on a special recovery partition on the hard drive and the recovery discs are not required. Refer to the manufacturer's documentation for steps on accessing this recovery partition. Most manufacturers will supply a copy of the system recovery discs for a nominal fee. Perform an update of the operating system once the process has completed before using the computer. Install application software after doing the updates.


    All data will be permanently deleted and any applications or games that were installed after the system was purchased will need to be reinstalled from the original discs. Any downloaded programs that have been installed will need to be downloaded again and reinstalled.

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Things You'll Need

  • Factory restore disc or operating system installation disc

About the Author

Norm Dickinson began his writing career in 1997 as a content creator for Web pages he designed for clients. His work appears on various websites, focusing on computer technology. Dickinson holds an Associate of Arts in industrial electronics technology and another Associate of Arts in computer science.

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