A factory reset of a computer typically involves reformatting the hard drive, reinstalling the operating system that came with the computer originally and reinstalling drivers that came with the computer. Most factory resets wipe out applications and personal data stored on the computer.
Factory resets are typically performed when a computer has been severely impacted due to a combination of viruses, "bloatware" or corrupted system software. Factory resets are often performed using a built-in recovery partition or using system recovery discs. Some brands have dedicated recovery programs that reinstall the entire operating system and associated drivers. Since factory resets typically wipe all personal data off of a machine, a backup should be made before attempting a factory reset.
If a computer has a recovery partition, usually a system can be booted by pressing one of the function keys like F10 at startup, and then launching the recovery setup. If there is no recovery partition but there are recovery discs, one must boot from the recovery discs. After a factory reset is completed, one must reinstall custom software and restore any personal files from the backup, plus manufacturer-specific drivers if they were not part of the recovery discs.
Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft offers several options to fix a computer. A "reset" removes all applications and personal data and reinstalls a fresh copy of Windows. A "refresh" deletes all non-Metro applications, but preserves all personal data. However, if a refresh does not resolve computer performance issues, a full reset may be required.