Resetting Windows

What happens if Windows won’t start?

No, it’s not the end of the world (or even civilisation as we know it, Jim)

Uh ohIf Windows won’t start up, and the hardware and drive are otherwise OK, a number of options are presented on-screen. These include attempting to “repair” Windows, and “restoring” Windows to a previously saved “state”. Try these first and hope that one of them works. If none of these options works, the nuclear option is to “reset” Windows. This used to be referred to as “refreshing” Windows. Both are just euphemisms for reinstalling Windows.

Reset this PC
If all the other recovery options fail, this is the nuclear option

Resetting Windows will give you a nice, pristine copy as downloaded again or as copied from a hidden part of your hard drive. This new copy will, of course, need to be updated to make sure it incorporates all Windows updates. This updating takes place automatically when resetting. It is not too difficult to follow the instructions to do all of this and, thankfully, you are not presented with lots of horrible technical decisions to make, whose ramifications you don’t understand.

However, there are two very, very, important things you need to understand before reinstalling Windows:

  • Keep my files
    “Keep my files” is recommended

    You will be asked whether to keep your data or wipe it out and start again. The “data” that windows is talking about is all your own files – eg Word documents, Excel Spreadsheets, Outlook pst files, pdf files and so on. The only reason I can think of that would cause you to deliberately wipe your data is if you’ve actually given up on the machine and are only reinstalling Windows so as to pass a clean working machine to someone else.I have never experienced Windows losing data when the user has asked for it to be retained but, if you are particularly cautious, you may wish to investigate the possibility of removing the drive, attaching it as an external drive to a different machine, and making a backup copy of your data before resetting Windows.

  • Whether you choose to keep or dump your data, the resetting process will definitely lose all your installed programs. Any of those programs that came pre-installed on your machine will probably be re-installed, but you are on your own with everything else. So, if, for instance, you had Microsoft Office installed before, you will need to re-install it – and Adobe Reader, Zoom, Teams, Malwarebytes, Chrome, and all the other dozens of programs that have accreted to your machine over its lifetime.So, you will need to work out how you acquired your programs (eg purchase of a CD, download) and whether you need to find user names and passwords to re-acquire and re-install them. This will work for most programs, but it’s just possible that you were previously using a program that you can’t re-acquire. The example that springs readily to mind is Microsoft LiveMail. You can not acquire this program from Microsoft any more. I have seen references on the internet to sources of potentially dodgy downloads of LiveMail, but I wouldn’t trust them.

All in all, resetting Windows is not a proposition to relish. You really do want one of the other options to work first, without having to resort to resetting. There is one benefit, though, that can go a long way to compensate you for all of the grief, and that is that your computer will probably be quite a bit faster and trouble-free once you’ve got everything back together again. The reason for this is that the reinstallation process seeks to get rid of the problem that prevents Windows from starting by “throwing a six and starting again”. By using that method to get rid of the big problem, you will also clear out a load of old clag and attendant minor problems at the same time.

(Last updated 16/07/2021)