Restore a PC to Factory Settings Without Windows CD/DVD

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If your Windows PC does not boot, crashes, or you simply want to clean it up, you may be interested in restoring its factory settings. If you do not have the Windows CD/DVD to format, reinstall, and repair XP, Vista, Windows 7, or even Windows 8, this process may be slightly complicated. However, it is not impossible.


Locating Windows PC Restore Option

N.B. Recovery or restoration CDs/DVDs provided by most manufacturers and the Windows CD/DVD that you buy separately in a computer store are not the same thing; this article refers to the former of the two.


Some manufacturers, such as Acer, Packard Bell, Hewlett Packard (HP), and Dell, no longer provide a recovery CD/DVD. In this case, it's up to you to burn it with special software on your PC. On Acer, the software is called Acer eRecovery, and on Packard Bell, it’s called Packard Bell Recovery Management (or Smart Restore on older models). For other manufacturers, refer to the user manual of your PC. If you no longer have it, you can often download it on the manufacturer's website.

Restoring Windows PC to Factory Settings Without CD/DVD

If the PC does not boot anymore and it is no longer possible to create the Recovery CD/DVD, it is possible to restore the PC to the factory settings on some PC builders via a reinstallation partition. This, however, will erase all documents saved on the device. To start this reinstallation from the reinstallation partition, you need to press a manufacturer-specific key on the boot screen (manufacturer's logo).


Acer: [Alt + F10]
Asus: F9
Dell: [Ctrl + F11]
HP: F10 or F11 (The key varies depending on the model.)
IBM ThinkPad: Enter
Packard Bell: F9 or F11 (The key varies depending on the model.)
Sony VAIO: F10
Toshiba: F8

If you have not created the Recovery CD/DVD and you have deleted the recovery partition, the only way to restore the computer will likely be to find the Windows CD/DVD compatible with your Windows license or to order it on the manufacturer's website. These typically cost between $50-90:


If you used a key other than the one you already had, you will have the option to change it because you have your own key. As a last resort, create a copy of your system on a CD/DVD or on hard disk.

N.B. Downloading Windows on P2P networks (i.e. eMule, FrostWire, etc.) is illegal, even if you have a license.

Image: © Microsoft.