Tech Tip: Windows 10: When to Restore, Reset or Recover

Q. Can you explain just what a recovery drive will do as opposed to a system restore point or a recovery image? How do these features differ from Reset PC? If my Windows 10 Surface Book crashes, which feature do I try first?

A. Microsoft provides a slew of troubleshooting options to aid ailing Windows computers, but choosing which one to try first requires close observation of the situation. Minor glitches may be fixed by rolling back to a previous restore point, but a nonstarting computer might need more assistance.

A system restore point, which Windows automatically creates once a week or before software updates and installations, is a snapshot of the computer’s settings at that moment — hopefully when things were working well. If you have just installed a program, a driver or a patch and Windows is behaving erratically, it may be a problem with the new software. Reverting to a previous restore point may be enough to get your system functioning properly again.

Recovery drives are USB drives you make that have Windows system files and tools installed on them. You need to create the recovery drive ahead of time, before the computer starts having problems. If Windows cannot start up properly, you can plug in the recovery drive, boot the Surface Book from it and use the tools on it to restore or reset the system.

Choosing to reset the Surface Book reinstalls Windows 10 on the computer, and gives you the option to keep your personal files while removing any apps, drivers and settings changes you previously made to the machine. You can also choose to reset the PC and remove all of your files, apps and settings to wipe it clean before reinstalling Windows. (Depending on the version of Windows you are using, you may also see a Fresh Start tool that reinstalls and updates Windows while keeping your files and settings.)


Windows 10 offers several ways to get your computer working again if its system software is acting up. Credit The New York Times

If the computer is too disabled and you cannot open the Settings to get to the reset option (or anywhere else), press the Windows and L keys to jump to the sign-in screen. Hold down the Shift key, then go to the Power menu in the lower-right corner and choose Restart. When the computer has restarted, choose Troubleshoot and then Reset This PC.

If you did not create a recovery drive ahead of time and the Surface computer will not start up, you can download a system recovery image on another computer to use for reinstalling Windows. Because the system recovery image is a factory-fresh version of the system (installed on a USB drive or DVD), all your personal files and programs will be wiped out unless you have backed them up elsewhere.

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