System Restore, System Reset, Fresh Start, and Factory Reset… What’s the Difference?
We recently helped someone who had to reinstall all her programs because she ran a Windows 10 System Reset instead of a System Restore. And right then, we realized how confusing all the Windows 10 recovery options can be at times, especially if you’re upset, frustrated or in a hurry. We’re going to clarify each of these Windows 10 recovery options and give you some suggestions. And we’ll include links to our articles showing you how to access and run each of these Windows features.
Think of System Restore as a time machine. Let’s say this morning you installed Uncle Bill’s Desktop Whirly Gig and it really messed up your computer. System Restore is your best option. System Restore lets you go back in time, back to a time before you installed Uncle Bill’s crummy software. System Restore puts your computer back to the state it was in before your computer got all messed up. System Restore keeps all of your programs and settings up to the date/time of the Restore Point you choose. Additionally, it keeps all of your personal files and folders regardless of the Retore Point you choose. System Restore is a good first option when something goes wrong because it makes the least changes to your computer. To learn how to use System Restore see this Cloudeight article.
System Reset is a powerful tool that comes with every version of Windows 10. System Reset gives you two options:
1. Reset your computer and keep all your personal files.
2. Reset your computer and remove everything.
When you do a System Reset and choose the option to keep your personal files, Windows saves all of your personal files (documents, pictures, videos, music, etc.) and then removes all your programs and settings. Windows generates a list of programs that it removes. After Windows has saved all of your personal files and removed all of your programs, it reinstalls Windows. Any programs you installed are removed, but any apps that came with Windows and manufacturer’s bloatware will be reinstalled.
After the Reset is done, all your personal files will be right where they were before you did the reset. But you’ll need to reinstall any programs that you installed because all you’ll have after a Reset are Windows apps like Edge, Mail app, etc. and any manufacturer’s software that came with your computer. Our advice: The first program you should re-install after a system Reset is your security software.
When you do a System Reset and choose not to save your personal files and folders, Windows will remove everything, reinstall Windows with Windows apps and any manufacturer’s software.
A System Reset is the best option when your computer has so many serious unrelated problems that using your computer becomes very difficult or very annoying. To learn how to use System Reset to reset your PC and keep all your personal files, see our article here.
Fresh start is a new feature of Windows 10 that was introduced with Windows 10 Creators Update. Fresh start is very similar to System Reset with one big difference. When you run a Windows 10 Fresh start, it saves your personal files and folders, and some of your Windows settings. It uninstalls all of your programs. Then Fresh start clean installs Windows, which means none of the manufacturer’s bloatware is installed. You get a fresh, clean copy of Windows, and all your personal files are restored. Fresh start is a good choice if you are having many substantial and serious problems with your PC. You can get more information about Fresh start by visiting this page.
Most computer manufacturers include a (sometimes hidden) recovery partition on your hard drive. This recovery partition allows you to restore your computer to the state it was in the day you bought it – in other words just like it was when it was brand new.
Each computer manufacturer has its own procedure for performing a factory reset. Since doing a factory reset wipes everything off your computer and puts it back to exactly the way it was the day you bought it, it should be your very last choice if you are having serious problems with your computer.
IMPORTANT: If your computer came with Windows 7 or Windows 8x on it when you purchased it, and you then upgraded to Windows 10, if you do a factory reset, your computer will be running Windows 7 or Windows 8x a whichever was on your computer the day you bought it.
Always use System Restore, System Reset, or Fresh start before resorting to a factory reset. If you want to know how to do a factory reset, check your computer manufacturer’s website. Each manufacturer has its own method of doing a factory reset.