Q:

How do you restore a computer to its factory settings?

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Quick Answer

To restore your computer to factory settings, you must backup the files you want to save and either reinstall your operating system or perform a factory reset. Restoring your computer to factory settings wipes all the information and programs, but it can solve a lot of problems or prepare your computer for sale. The process can take a few hours.

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Full Answer

  1. Back up your information

    Use an external storage device to back up the files you want to save. Anything you don't have a copy of should be backed up. Don't forget to back up your browser information, or your bookmarks and saved passwords disappear. Your browser's help menu should have directions on how to do this.

  2. Start the recovery process

    To perform the recovery, you can reinstall your operating system, or you can use your computer's on-board recovery process, which is advised for newer machines. The name of the utility varies, but likely involves the computer's brand name and the word recovery.

  3. Restore the computer to factory settings

    Every computer brand does this part differently, but the general process is the same. When you start the recovery, your computer asks if you are sure and warn you that you may lose data. From there it takes you to a progress screen. It may reboot to get there or simply exit your operating system, but once it gets there, your course is laid. The process often takes a few hours, unless your computer is very new. Once the factory reset is finished, your computer reboots and sets up Windows.

  4. Finish the process

    Your computer may have updates from the manufacturer to install, so you may have to reboot your computer a few times to install all of those. Once that is done, you can transfer your files back to your machine and reinstall your programs. If you find any buttons not working properly, go to the manufacturer's website, and download the drivers associated with those buttons.

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