How to Easily Restore a Dell PC to Factory Settings

Restoring your Dell PC's operating system and settings brings the software on your computer back to its out-of-the-box condition. Both Dell's utilities and Windows 8 can get you through this process with minimal fuss. Dell's Backup and Recovery app can perform the restore and also handles the backup of files, applications and drivers. Windows 8 offers a few different restore options, one of which can be used when you're having trouble booting to Windows. There are also different ways to back up your system to prepare for the restore. The backup can simply be on a partition of your hard drive or can be moved to external storage devices to protect yourself in case of hard drive failure.

  1. Backing Up Personal Files and Documents

    • Dell Backup and Recovery offers Basic and Premium data protection service. Basic currently comes pre-loaded on all Dell Windows 7 and 8 systems. If you don't have this utility, download it from Dell.com (link in Resources).

      Go to the Windows 8 Start screen and swipe up to see a list of all your Apps. Dell Backup and Recovery is in the separate list of Dell apps. Select the "Backup" tile, then the "Data Backup" pane, and select "Backup Now" to create backup files of your personal data and documents on your hard drive. Upgrade to Premium to use the Cloud pane to back up your data online.

    Backing Up Your System and Settings

    • Dell Backup and Recovery can also back up your settings and your system software onto your hard drive. Select the "Backup" tile on the app's home screen for these options. The "Settings" section allows you to save your personal system settings, but it's often best to skip this step. An unknown setting could easily be causing the problems you are trying to fix with the system restore.

      You system software is usually already backed up with an image of your factory-installed software on a Recovery Partition preinstalled on your hard drive. You can find its location in the "Backup" section of Backup and Recovery. To move the location of your backup online or onto an external storage device, upgrade to Backup and Recovery Premium. If you don't have a factory image partition for whatever reason, you can order system discs from Dell to perform the restore (link in Resources).

    Preparing to Reinstall Office After Restore

    • Be aware that the system restore does not handle reinstalling your Office products. Instead, after the restore is complete, the shortcuts that normally lead to your software open a prompt to install Office. You need your Product Key for Office to reinstall. Locate your system documentation and find your Microsoft Product Key, usually located on a cardboard square the size of a DVD sleeve. As of publication, there is just one shared product key for both the OS and the Office software.

    Restoring with Dell Backup and Recovery

    • Select the Recovery Tile in the Backup and Recovery Home screen. Go to the "System Recovery" pane and click "Yes, Continue," despite the fact the instructions say to "insert the first disc" before clicking. Select "Factory Image" in the list of Recovery Points and press "Restart." "Factory Image" may be the only point listed if you haven't created any other restore points. Follow all prompts until Restore is complete.

    Restoring with Windows 8 Update and Recovery

    • Windows 8 streamlines the restore-to-factory-settings process. Go to the Start screen and search for and open "Update and Recovery." Select the "Recovery" pane, and under "Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows," click "Get Started." Follow the prompts until the restore is complete. The same pane includes a "Refresh" option to clean things up without affecting your personal data, and a choice for "Advanced Startup" to use for restoring using a factory image on a thumb drive or discs.

    Restoring with the Advanced Boot Options Menu

    • If you are having trouble booting to Windows and you want to restore to factory settings, use the Advanced Boot Options menu, accessible by pressing F8 quickly and repeatedly before Windows loads. The Advanced Boot Options menu contains an option to Repair which leads to an option to Restore to factory settings.

      If your system has a SSD hard drive, it may boot so quickly that it doesn't have time to register your pressing F8, so accessing the menu will be difficult if not impossible. Some newer systems, though, automatically go to the Advanced Boot Options if they sense trouble booting to Windows.

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