How to Factory Reset Windows Vista

By Andrew Schrader

Resetting Windows Vista to its factory settings may become necessary if your computer has become corrupted by malware, or if you want to reconfigure an older computer. This fairly common process has three parts: backing up files and data, restoring your software and system, and restoring your personal files and data. You can choose selective files to back up, although you can also back up your entire computer.

Back Up Files and Data

Click the "Start" button in the lower-left corner of your computer's main screen and select "Control Panel."

Click "System and Maintenance" and select "Back Up and Restore Center." Type your password in the User Account Control window, if needed, and click "Continue" to launch the "Where do you want to save your backup?" window.

Choose "On a hard disk, CD, or DVD" or "On a network," depending on where you want to save your files. Specify the location on the next screen. If choosing a hard disk, such as a USB drive, plug in your drive to your computer, turn it on, and choose it as your backup location. Click "Next."

Select the boxes next to the type of file you want to back up in the "Which file types do you want to backup?" window and click "Next."

Leave the default settings alone in the "How often do you want to create a backup?" window. Click the "Save settings and start backup" button and wait for your files to back up. If you chose to back up files to blank DVDs, follow the onscreen prompts to eject and insert discs as needed.

Restoring Your System

Remove all peripheral devices connected to your computer, including hard drives, printers, scanners and network cables. If you backed up your data on a disc or hard drive, safely eject it.

Restart your computer. As the computer starts, hold down "F8" on your keyboard until the Advanced Boot Options menu appears. If you do not see the Advanced Boot Options menu, restart your computer and hold down "F8." Repeat this step until you enter the Advanced Boot Options menu.

Press the down arrow on your keyboard and select the "Repair Your Computer" option. Press "Enter."

Choose your language setting and press "Next."

Log in as an administrator when prompted, and enter your password. Click "OK."

Click "System Restore" or equivalent and click "Next."

Check the box for "Yes, reformat hard drive and restore system software to factory condition," and click "Next."

Wait for restore operation to complete. Click the "Finish" button to restart your computer.

Restoring Files and Data

If restoring files and data from a backup made to a hard drive, plug your drive into your computer and turn it on. If restoring from CDs or DVDs, insert your first disc into your computer's disc drive.

Click the "Start" button and select "Control Panel."

Click "System and Maintenance" and select "Back Up and Restore Center."

Select "Advanced Restore," located in the "Restore files or your entire computer" field to launch the "What do you want to restore?" window.

Click the "Files from a backup made on a different computer" button. Select "Next."

Browse your hard drive or backup disc's contents and locate your backup files via the pop-up window. Highlight its icon and click "Next."

Select the "Restore everything in this backup" option from the "Select the files and folders to restore" window and click "Next." Wait for your files to restore on your computer.


If backing up to multiple CDs or DVDs, make sure to label each disc to avoid confusion during the restoring process.


Any information you do not back up will be lost while resetting Windows Vista.