What’s the easiest way to restore my machine to original factory settings if I didn’t get discs?

//
Hi, Leo. In the past, manufacturers, particularly laptop manufacturers, such as Acer, used to provide a number of CDs that would allow the new user to at least do two things, for example: repair his operating system but retain all of his private data or secondly restore his computer back to what it was when he first started it up. In later years, those discs weren’t provided but the manufacturer would advise the user (in a manual that may have been overlooked) to create his own discs by using the software that was included in the installed package. Not only would the OS be included on those discs but all the other software and drivers that had originally been installed. Is there a simple program one can get ahold of that folks could use to create discs that can be used in this way?

The short answer is absolutely yes. Not directly in the way you describe, but to the same effect.

And anyone who knows me already knows what I’m about to say.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

The problem: no discs

These days you’re not getting system discs with your machine and in fact, even if you are given the option to create discs, those discs typically do not include the operating system and all the applications anymore. They’re simply something that accesses a recovery or restore partition on your machine to reset the machine to its initial state.

That all works, and works fairly well, unless the hard disk itself is what has failed. Because if the hard disk is gone then of course that recovery partition that was part of it is also gone.

Now, what I strongly advise people to do, of course, is backup regularly. That part’s easy.

What I’m hoping is that everybody has some kind of a backup regimen so that when things go wrong and they find themselves in a problematic situation, they can restore their data and hopefully their operating system to the state it was in within a few days, or at least within a certain or reasonable amount of time.

For example, in my case if the hard disk in my machine were to blow up this afternoon, I could restore to the state that it was in last night when its most recent backup was taken.

The solution: a backup image

That same backup technology, however, can be used very effectively to save the state of a machine you just got.

I now recommend that one of the first things you do when you get a new machine is to create an image backup of it. Ideally you’d do so before you do anything to it – although there’s an argument to be made that doing so after you’ve set it up and taken all of the Windows Updates is also an appropriate time.

What’s important about this image, though, is that you then save it somewhere secure, exactly as if it were the initial installation media that you used to get with the machine. That way you’ve got it some days, months, weeks, even years from now when you suddenly decide that, “You know what? I really need to restore this machine to factory settings.”

The way you do that is to restore the machine to that very first image you took. It’s actually a very simple procedure with most backup programs and it actually does accomplish pretty much exactly what you’re setting out to do. You want it set to the way you got it the day it arrived. And as long as you take a backup of what it was like on the day you got it then you’ll always be able to restore the machine to that state.

11 comments on “What’s the easiest way to restore my machine to original factory settings if I didn’t get discs?”

  1. As part of setting up my Sony Vaio laptop it allowed me to create 3 rescue DVDs. I had to use those to restore my computer to factory state when my Macrium Reflect failed to work because I didn’t back up the system reserved partition. It was my fault as it was included in the default as I thought I could skip backing it up to save space. So I restored to factory state using the Sony rescue disks and ran Macrium’s restore and was able to get my system back to the previous night’s state. Bottom line, don’t neglect to create the OEM rescue disks and to back up the system reserved partition.

  2. HP asked me to make the DVD’s. I used them on a new hard drive and it worked just fine. If what you say is true, how is someone supposed to install a new hard drive? Not everybody can make an image. like you did. HP, even restored the D partition, as if I just pulled the machine out of the box.

    • Many people don’t find out that important things are missing until it’s too late. Then they need to contact the computer vendor to get new installation media.

  3. Mark Jacobs, what is a “hidden partition” that you had mentioned? Also, if the partition is truly “hidden”, then how do we select it to include in our backup image? Thanks…

    • @Yeppers I was incorrect in my wording. I should have said “system reserved” instead of hidden. It’s visible, but I had deleted it thinking then when I installed Windows 7 Pro over the OEM version, I wouldn’t need that partition any more. I had hidden it myself. It shows up as the e: drive on my machine now.

  4. I guess I’ve been fortunate to never have run into the “the recovery CD/DVD assumes that you still have an accessible recovery partition on the HD” scenario, even on those systems with the recovery partition. That said, I have also had the unfortunate experience (several times) where the manufacturer-supplied recovery CD included a version of XP without SATA support, for a machine that came from the factory with SATA drives. (Everything ran fine when booting from the CD, but after it did the base install and you had to reboot from the HD, it would bluescreen on startup with “unaccessable boot device”.)

    I happen to prefer Clonezilla because it’s free and I’m no put off by the text-based Linux program, though I now see that there is a free version of Macrium as well which can be used for image backup/restore.

  5. Never had a recovery/backup program that worked 100%. Macrium, Acronis, etc… I rely on Factory OS install disks from the manufacturer, plus my own personal back up(s) on external hard drives to re-install my up to date files, programs, music, & movies
    If the machine doesn’t come with factory OS install disks, I request them after registering my pc with the manufacturer. Over the years they’ve started to charge 15$ – 20$ to mail them out to you. It’s worth it. J.

    • I actually do recommend this approach (getting the factory disks). However I do hear of situations where they are simply not available, period.

      • when i paid for and got recovery disks from hp they didn’t work. they mess up on the windows both xp and vista. so now i have two computers i can’t use. and in the state of maryland they won’t let me take them out and shoot them.lol

  6. My Sony vaio laptop got hacked months ago..didn’t notice..it’slike a team or group of hackers..when I realized my identity was stolen..emails hacked..Facebook hacked..iPhone hacked..wifi hacked…passwords hacked…can’t access my main email..do you know what’s the funny part???…that everything u said about system restore or default..factory new…making a disk..backup..cd..the small partition on the disk…I did it with him…through team viewer…he’s a master mind trust me…he already had everything set..and I was thinking could he really help me?..so what he did was use me to finish it off..my laptop is kind of old…I’ve factory restored like 5 times and when I come to see…all his programs and apps are downloaded again..he has aloooooot of stuff downloaded to my laptop…when I try to uninstall he doesn’t let me…he uses like legitimate stuff (some) to use it against me..he has a disk on my disk…he even has administrator keys ..on my laptop comes up like 40 users..but 4 main ones that I didn’t create..he has me on parental control,but then again as an administrator also,but he overdrives me..I don’t have Internet..because of him…and when I turn on my laptop..is like a mirror..everything I do on the page or see…I can see it like in another screen behind mine at the top..so he sees everything…he has it all covered…I’m desperate…he took my life…everything…it’s like working on Internet explorer and window..like copied to look legit..but is not…I mean who thinks can go head to head with a person like this??????..I can surely tell you he’s one of the best..my brother is a computer and software engineer and he doesn’t see nothing wrong..that’s how good this guy is…check this out..I work offline and when I click on vaio help…he would be the one answering me from a vaio page..he plays with my mind..I’m literally falling into depression…from me he can hack more than 800 people..pleeeeeeease!!!…somebody help I’m gng crazy…please!!!!!…I’m begging

  7. My daughter has a Sony Vaio that has no disks and the system recovery media to restore the computer is not working. We can’t get to the main screen due to a blue screen that says failure to configure. I am trying to put her computer back to factory settings, please help

Leave a reply: