If your laptop is no longer working properly or it has been infected with malware that you are unable to get rid of with an antivirus, then it is a good idea to reset it back to factory settings (also known as recovery or delivery status). However, doing so will delete all of your personal data, i.e. documents, pictures, downloads, music, videos and any programs that you have installed since purchasing your machine. Before you get to work, you should first back up all data online or to an external hard drive. This means your all of your files will be secured and you can then proceed with the reset.
But how long does a factory reset take on a laptop? Well, unfortunately, this is more of a wildcard question. There isn’t a single answer to that. The whole thing can take as little as 30 minutes up to 3 hours depending on what OS you have installed, your processor speed, RAM and whether you have an HDD or an SSD hard drive. In some rare cases, it may even take up your entire day. The same goes for using the recovery partition, the timing varies from computer to computer. If you instead perform a clean reinstallation using a previously created installation disk, the whole thing can usually be done in as little as 20 minutes on a fast machine. In this process, everything gets wiped out, including the bloatware installed by the manufacturer.
If your device no longer boots, a Linux CD can be helpful. Unfortunately, installed programs cannot be saved this way. You will have to reinstall these manually after restoring the factory settings. Keep your windows activation key handy since you will need it after a fresh install.
Different Ways of Performing a Factory Reset
I will walk you through a few different scenarios that you can adhere to when trying to factory reset your machine.
Scenario # 1 – Press the Function key when booting
Some laptop manufacturers display a notice on the screen immediately after you turn on your machine. You will also see which function key you should press to get into the settings. Usually it says “Press F10 for Recovery” or something similar along the lines. You can then factory reset your device from the options provided by the manufacturer.
Situation # 2 – Press special key when the device is switched off
Some manufacturers have special keys on the keyboard. On Sony laptops this button is called “Assist” (right next to the power button), on Lenovo devices it is the “Novo button”. This is either next to the power button near the power socket or at another location. You press this key when the laptop is switched off. Only then will the device get started and a menu will be displayed that leads to the recovery function (factory settings).
Scenario # 3 – If Windows is still working (Assuming you have windows 10)
Resetting Windows via the settings is probably the easiest option. Click on the Windows logo in the lower left corner and then on “Settings”. Otherwise, the settings can also be opened with the key combination Windows + i. Now click on “Update and Security” and then select “Restore”. Under “Reset this PC” then select “Let’s go”. If you still need your files, click on “Keep my files” in the next window. This option will delete apps and settings but will keep personal files. If you no longer need your data, you can select the “Remove all” option. The PC or laptop will then be reset. This process usually takes some time.
After the process is complete, you will need to install your programs and drivers one more time. Since this can be a bit time consuming, you can get a backup program beforehand that can help you with this.
Scenario # 4 – Booting with a USB stick
If Windows does not start anymore, you can use a previously created disc repair, restore the system to a specific date or to the factory settings (illustrated guide) the startup environment.
Scenario # 5 – If nothing else works, a fresh Windows install will do the trick
If you cannot start your PC at all and also cannot get into the repair wizard, the only thing that will help is a fresh installation. To do this, switch from another device to the official Microsoft website and download the Media Creation Tool. You can then use the tool to create installation media for Windows 10. Either burn it to a DVD or drag it to a USB stick with sufficient storage capacity. Then insert the DVD or insert the stick into the USB port. During the boot process, press the F key specified by the PC or laptop manufacturer. Then select the appropriate drive in the boot menu. In the advanced startup options, click Troubleshoot, then select Reset this PC.
If reinstallation using the Media Creation Tool does not work, you can also reinstall Windows 10 using an ISO file. To do this, download the Windows installation file. The disadvantage of this method is that it will lose all of your data. Once the ISO file is downloaded, you can easily start the new installation with a double click.
One way to deal with problems starting Windows 10 is what is known as “Safe Mode”. You can find out how to get into Safe Mode in our advisory article.
You changed your mind and don’t want to reset your PC to the factory settings? If you have backed up your data to an external hard drive or other storage device in advance, you can access everything. The restore is irreversible if you performed it in Safe Mode. The restore cannot be undone if you’ve performed it through System Restore options
If you installed the Windows 10 upgrade over your existing Windows 7 or Windows 8 version at that time, the restoration of the factory settings will no longer work! In this case you may have to install Windows 10 manually.
The amount of time it will take for the entire process to go through massively depends on the input-output data rate of your machine. This really depends on whether you have an HDD or an SSD. Back in the day, HDD drives used to dominate the personal computer markets and because of that it took a long time to factory reset a laptop. These days, SSD’s are affordable and come preinstalled in most laptop computers which has brought down the factory reset time to just a few minutes.