Should You Reset, Restore, or Reinstall Windows?

By | January 5, 2022

System Restore or reinstall Windows. For most of us, those are the two choices we’ve had throughout the history of Windows. Ever wanted to reset Windows 7 without losing any personal data? It’s not easy. Nothing to reset to factory settings.

Windows Refresh and Windows Reset. It’s great to have all of these options, but it can be confusing knowing which to use in which scenario.

So, let’s go through some scenarios to see which path is the right one to take. It’s actually quite easy when you know the difference between Restore, Refresh, Reset and Reinstall.

Your System Keeps Crashing

The problem: you use the computer as usual, then out of nowhere the system starts working. Boots fine, but crashes randomly for no apparent reason. You haven’t installed any new hardware recently, but you remember installing new software and/or updating drivers around the same time that the crash started.

Solution: This is one situation where System Restore shines. System Restore works by taking a snapshot of the state of your system (only critical system files are tracked) and allows you to restore your system to a previously saved state.

This is what we want. Our system is working fine, but not anymore. The most likely cause is a corrupted system configuration, which should be fixed by reverting to a previous, unproblematic configuration.

However, this only works if you actually create a restore point! If you don’t have it, Windows won’t know the previous state to restore. If you have too few restore points, you will have to revert to a very old system state, which could cause compatibility issues with other changes made to your system since then.

We recommend creating automatic restore points once a day and dedicating enough system space to save a few of them at any given time. However, depending on how often you make changes to your system, a weekly or monthly schedule might also work.

If System Restore doesn’t work for you, you can make some adjustments. If everything looks good but still fails, here’s what you should do when System Restore fails. Worst case scenario, you should go ahead and do a Windows Refresh.
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Have Persistent Malware

The problem: You recently ran an anti-malware scan and found several threats residing on your system. Being quick and decisive, you take all the necessary steps to remove malware from your system – you make sure to do everything from removal to disinfection – but no matter what you do, the malware remains.

Solution: There are instances where System Restore might remove malware, but those situations are few and far between. Persistent malware once required a complete reinstall, but our lives are made easier now that we have Windows Refresh, which is a great choice here.

Windows Refresh is similar to reinstalling the entire Windows system, except it won’t delete your personal files. This is ideal for persistent malware infections as it will refresh all system files without affecting most of your data.

However, there is one downside of Windows Refresh, and that is the fact that it will uninstall all the programs you installed (Modern applications will be retained) and install all the programs that came with your system that may have been uninstalled at some point.

One small consolation: Windows Refresh will keep a list of all uninstalled programs for your desktop so you can go back and install them manually. After Refresh, your system should be clean of all malware, but we recommend running another scan afterwards.

Tips if Windows Refresh doesn’t work for you.

The problem: You have a computer that you no longer need and you think money will be more useful, so you decide to sell it. However, whether you only use it for five days or five years, there is some personal information there that you don’t want buyers to see.

Solution: This kind of scenario is perfect for Windows Reset. Unlike the previously mentioned Windows Refresh, Windows Reset will reset your entire Windows installation and delete all your personal files and folders. In other words, it is completely “reset”.

Before you open it, always remember to back up your data in case you need it later. Save it on a USB drive or external hard drive if you don’t have many. Cloud storage is another good option as long as privacy isn’t absolutely essential.

Now, as useful as a Windows Reset is, it’s not enough if you’re going to sell or give away your computer. Tech-savvy users may be able to scrape some data off the hard drive even after Windows has been cleaned and reset.

And that’s why you need to nuke your hard drive. When you delete a file, it’s still on the hard drive; Windows just marks it as “deleted”. To actually delete something, you need to write it down enough that it can’t be recovered. Once nuked, your computer is safe to give away.

Your System Won’t Boot

The problem: If bad luck befalls you, you might wake up one day to find Windows won’t boot at all. Without access to Windows, you don’t know how to perform a Restore, Refresh, or Reset procedure. Is your system dead and beyond repair?

Solution: Not enough. Depending on how corrupted your Windows configuration is, it might give you the option to boot into Advanced Startup Options. This menu allows you to perform Refresh and Reset without actually booting the operating system.

If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to grab the Windows installation disc and run it. It should detect that Windows is already installed and offer you the option to Repair the system. If you don’t have an installation disc, you can create a bootable USB, CD, or DVD.

If you’ve made it this far and your system is still crashing, you have no other choice but to take the final step: a full Windows reinstallation.

Now As Good As New

99% of the time running the Restore, Refresh, or Reset procedure will fix the problem you have without much incident. In the rare case that your system becomes inoperable, Reinstallation will always serve as a last resort. Either way, you should now be good to go!

Make sure that you have explored as many Windows troubleshooting and general Windows repair tips as you can before running the nuclear program on your system.

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