Resetting Windows 7: how it works

There are lots of good reasons to reset your operating system. Perhaps you want to delete all of the personal data on your Windows computer before selling it. Maybe your computer has become infected with a harmful virus while browsing and there’s no other way of getting rid of it. Or your PC’s performance has diminished after years of use. If you want to solve problems in the Microsoft operating system, improve performance, and delete files for good, it’s worth resetting Windows 7. We’ll show you how it’s done.

What options do you have to reset Windows 7?

If you want to carry out a reset and return Windows 7 to its factory settings, you have a few options. The best one will depend on the outcome you’re looking for. The Windows system allows you to reset it without losing your personal data, to return to the factory settings, or to reset using a download manager.

When you reset, you have the option of simply resetting the system files or of taking Windows back to system recovery points defined in advance. These possibilities make sense if you’d like to restore the system to an earlier state. And finally, the system can also be returned to the exact state it was in when it was brand new (its factory condition). That will also mean losing all files and programs, though, unless you have already backed these up. Below we will go through the options above step by step.

Note

Microsoft discontinued its official support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. Technical support and security updates are no longer available for the product. Professional support for companies, which includes a fee, is an exception to this and will remain valid until 2023. If you don’t use this support, it is definitely a good idea to switch to a newer edition of Windows. You can find out more about this in our extensive article on the end of support for Windows 7.

Reset Windows 7 and keep some of your files – how it works

It is only possible to truly reset the Windows 7 operating system by re-installing it. Sometimes a re-installation can’t be avoided. Harmful software, hardware problems or performance issues often make a complete reset necessary. At the same time, important files should be kept. In this case, the system and your personal files can be very easily backed up using a tool provided by Windows.

Ideally, you should make these back-upsat regular intervals so that the desired files can be secured and you can refresh your operating system at any time you need to. Resetting with this back-up tool works as follows:

  1. In the control panel, find the option “System and Security”. Click on “Backup and restore” and then on “Set up backup”.
  2. Select the drive where the back-up is to be set up and the files that you want to secure.

Windows 7 will then automatically secure the selected files. Should you have to reset the system in an emergency, you will be able to recover this back-up at any time. To do this, follow these instructions:

  1. From the different system recovery points, select the one that you would like to return to.
  2. As soon as the earlier state has been restored, go back to the control panel, where you will be able to find your back-up in “Backup and restore”.
  3. You can now recover all of the backed-up files via “Restore my files”.

Another way of maintaining files is with manual back-ups on external hard drives or USB sticks.

Reset Windows 7 with a download manager

The Windows Media Creation Tool does make it possible to reset the operating system, but at present, it is only available for Windows 10 and Windows 8.1. If Windows 7 needs to be reset, you will require a download manager that works like the Windows ISO Downloader. The program may not be developed by Microsoft itself, but nonetheless uses officially licensed downloads from Microsoft. With the help of this tool, it is possible to create a copy of Windows 7 that can be transferred to a data carrier or played using a VirtualBox installation.

Tip

To download Windows 10 or 8, you can use the Windows Media Creation Tool. As a Windows 7 user, you can also switch to Windows 10 for free. With newer versions of the operating system it is much easier to recover the factory settings, whether you are resetting Windows 10 or Windows 8.

Guide to resetting with the ISO Downloader.

  1. Install Windows ISO Downloader.
  2. On the Microsoft website, you can select the version of the operating system for which to download the ISO tool.
  3. Download links will now be created both for the 32- and the 64-bit version.
  4. Start the download.
  5. Note that you need to have a license in order to use it, as it is downloaded legally via Microsoft.

To reset Windows 7, you’ll still need to download and install the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool. You now have everything you need to create an installation/recovery medium for Windows 7. To do this, proceed as follows:

  1. Open the program Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool.
  2. You can then select the ISO file downloaded in the first step, and click on “Next” to continue.
  3. Now choose a medium where you wish to save the ISO file. For this, click on “USB device” or “DVD”.
  4. Connect the respective storage medium to your device and “Begin copying”.
  5. The storage medium will now become a bootable recovery medium that you can plug in or insert before turning the computer on. When booting you can then access the Windows 7 version reproduced on the medium and start the system recovery. This is particularly helpful if your operating system is so damaged that you can no longer start Windows in the normal way from the hard drive.
Tip

You can find a detailed guide on creating a bootable start-up medium in our article on booting via a USB stick.

Factory resetting Windows 7 – with or without an installation disc

If you still have the original installation CD for Windows 7, simply boot from the disk as follows:

  1. Open the boot menu when the computer starts – depending on the computer or BIOS version, use the keys F12, F8, DEL or ESC.
  2. In the boot options, select the CD/DVD drive where the disk is stored.
  3. Now carry out a complete re-installation of Windows. To do this, follow the instructions on the installation CD.
  4. The installation might take some time.

If an installation of Windows 7 saved by the manufacturer is stored on the computer, it can also be restored to its factory settings without a CD using the following instructions.

  1. Select the category “System and Security” in the control panel.
  2. In the section “Backup and restore” you can find “Recover system settings on your computer” and then click on “Advanced recovery settings”.
  3. Then, you need to click on “Return your computer to factory condition”.
  4. Reset the computer according to the instructions.
Note

If you factory reset Windows 7, all of your personal files will be lost.

This method doesn’t work if the option “Return your computer to factory condition” doesn’t appear. In this case, you can reset it in recovery mode. The following steps are also necessary:

  1. Restart in recovery mode: When restarting, you will receive information on how to get to the mode at the bottom of the screen – normally using an F-key like F11 or F9, with notebooks this will sometimes be in combination with the ‘Fn’ key.
  2. In recovery mode, use the arrow buttons to select the option “Recovery”.
  3. Now click on “Next”, confirm by clicking “Next” again and, if possible, disconnect the keyboard and mouse from the computer.
  4. The factory settings will then begin to be restored.

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