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When you are dealing with a problem on your computer, you are often advised to update, reset, restore or even reinstall Windows. You may know that some of them will fix your problem while keeping your files and others will remove everything from your computer.
And depending on the situation, one may be more effective than the other. But which one should you use?
To answer your question, let’s explore some scenarios to see which is the right way to go. It’s actually quite simple once you know the difference between restore, update, reset and reinstall.
Your system keeps crashing
The problem: You use your computer as usual, then out of nowhere the system starts behaving. It boots fine but occasionally crashes for no apparent reason. You haven’t installed new hardware recently, but you remember installing new software or updating drivers around the same time the crashes started.
The solution: This is a situation where system recovery shines. System Restore creates snapshots of your system state (only critical system files are tracked) and allows you to restore your system to a previously saved state.
That’s exactly what we want. Our system worked well, but not anymore. The most likely culprit is a corrupt system configuration, which should be fixed by reverting to a previous configuration that was not a problem.
However, this only works if you create restore points! If you don’t have one, Windows doesn’t know of any previous states to return to. If you run out of restore points, you’ll have to revert to a really old system state, which can cause compatibility issues with other changes that have been made to your system since then.
We recommend creating automatic restore points once a day and providing enough system space to store several of them at the same 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, there are a few changes you can make. Worst-case scenario, you should go ahead and perform a Windows update.
You have persistent malware
The problem: You recently ran an anti-malware scan and detected some threats on your system. You’ve quickly and decisively taken all the necessary steps to remove malware from your system – you’ve made sure you’ve done everything from removal to disinfection – but no matter what you do, the malware stays.
The solution: There are some instances where System Restore might delete malware, but these situations are rare. Stubborn malware used to require a complete reinstall, but now our lives are easier Windows updatewhat is the right choice here.
Windows Refresh is similar to reinstalling the entire Windows system, except none of your personal files are deleted. This is ideal for a permanent malware infection as it updates the system files without affecting most of your data.
There is one downside to Windows Refresh, however, and that is the fact that it uninstalls any programs you have installed (modern apps remain) and installs any programs that came with your system that you may have uninstalled at some point.
A small consolation: Windows Refresh keeps a list of all uninstalled programs on your desktop, so you can go back and install them manually. After updating, your system should be malware-free, but we recommend running another scan afterwards.
You want to sell your computer
The problem: You have a computer that you no longer need and you think cash is more useful, so you decide to sell it. Whether you’ve only used it for five days or for five years, it contains some personal information that you don’t want the buyer to see.
The solution: This scenario fits perfectly Windows reset. Unlike the previously mentioned Windows update, Windows Reset resets the entire installation and erases all your personal files and folders. In other words, it really is a “reset”.
Before proceeding with this, always back up your data in case you need it later. Save it to a USB drive or external hard drive if you don’t have a lot. Cloud storage is another good choice unless privacy is absolutely critical.
Well, as helpful as Windows Reset is, it’s not enough if you’re selling or giving away your computer. A tech savvy user may be able to erase some data from a hard drive even after Windows has been wiped and reset.
And that’s why you need to erase your hard drive. When you delete a file, it’s still on the hard drive; Windows simply marks it as “deleted”. To really delete something, you have to overwrite it enough times that it’s unrecoverable. Once atomized, your computer can safely be given away.
Your system does not start
The problem: If you’re unlucky, you might wake up one day and find that Windows won’t boot at all. Without access to Windows, you don’t know how to perform the restore, update, or reset procedures. Is your system dead and beyond repair?
The solution: Not quite. Depending on how corrupt your Windows configuration is, you may be able to boot Advanced boot options. This menu allows you to run update and reset without actually booting the operating system.
If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to grab your Windows installation disc and run it. It should recognize that Windows is already installed and give you the option to repair the system. If you don’t have an installation disc, you can create a bootable USB stick, CD, or DVD instead.
If you get this far and your system is still broken, you have no choice but to take the last resort: a full Windows reinstallation.
Make your Windows PC as good as new
In 99% of cases, running the restore, update, or reset procedures will fix the problem without much incident. In the rare event that your system isn’t up and running, a clean install will always work as a last resort. Either way, you should be good to go now!
If your computer is still not working and you’re not finding any software-related issues, it might be time to check for faulty hardware.
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