Windows 8.1 – Restore, Refresh or Reset (July 2015)

Restore, Refresh or Reset

By Don Trauger – Kennett

Published July 2015 in the Guide and Digest

When a Windows version 8/8.1 computer faces a major software problem 3 options may have to be considered. They are Restore, Refresh or Reset. Windows is somewhat smart in that it can detect a problem by diagnosing the computer then followed by an automatic repair. If it can be repaired automatically then that should be the end of the problem. However, what happens if the automatic repair fails to correct the problem? Read further to find out what to do.


If it fails to boot and you see repeated failed attempts with the automatic repair, then you must find a different way to correct the problem. Here’s what every Windows 8/8.1 computer user MUST do. Purchase a USB flash drive which is 16 GB or larger in size. On a working computer, insert the flash drive into a USB 2.0 port in the computer. A USB 2.0 port will have a black insulator inside the port connector. On newer computers you will also see USB ports that have a blue insulator. These are 3.0 high speed ports. For compatibility reasons avoid using the 3.0 ports for this procedure. Turn on the computer and boot to the Desktop screen, right click the 4 pane white window icon in the lower left corner. In the menu, left click Control Panel. If you see View by: “Category” in the upper right section of the window, click Category and select Large icons. Next, click the Recovery icon. Under Advanced recovery tools, click “Create a recovery drive”. Select “Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive”. Click Next. You will see a message that the drive needs to be 16 GB (or larger) and that it will delete any files that may exist on the flash drive. Under available drives, you should see the flash drive labeled RECOVERY. Click Next. You will see a repeated warning message about file deletion on the flash drive, then click Create. This will take 10-15 minutes to complete. Click Finish. Remove the flash drive and store it in a safe place. Do not use it for any purpose other than repairing the PC.


Now that you have a tool to correct startup problems, how do you use it? First, you may have to tell the PC to boot from the flash drive instead of the hard drive. Normally it wants to boot from the hard drive but if it’s not working properly you need to tell it to boot from your flash drive. This can be done either by pressing a function key or going into the Bios to make the change. You may need to consult your documentation or find out how to do this for your particular brand of PC. It’s good info to know ahead of time.


When you have a major PC malfunction and it can’t be repaired automatically, turn off the PC, insert the startup flash drive you created and it should boot from the flash drive. After it boots, click US, thenTroubleshoot, Advanced options and click System Restore. You will be able to select which restore point to use for the restore operation. Normally pick the latest one when the computer was working normally. This operation will not delete any of your files or programs that you have saved or installed. After you see successful completion you can remove the flash drive and reboot the computer.


There are 2 other remedies that can also be implemented. Without clicking Advanced options, you should see Refresh your PC and Reset you PC. Refresh would be utilized if a System Restore failed to work. Warning – refreshing your PC will save your files but you will have re-install any programs that you installed such as your printer or programs downloaded from the Internet. Resetting the PC resets the computer back to the time when you took it out of the box and turned it on the first time. Your files and programs will be deleted.


Hopefully you’ll never have to do any of this. Doing regular maintenance will definitely help keep the computer in good operating condition and avoid major repairs.


To help you with questions about this or any subject, we meet on the second Tuesday of every month at 7 PM upstairs in the Ardmore room of the Community Center.