Bloated Win­dows oper­at­ing sys­tem

Over time, Win­dows can be­come so bloated and messed up that the only thing to do is to start again from scratch. Here’s how you do it

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The more you add and in­stall ap­pli­ca­tions and use Win­dows, the more or­phaned files you get, the more startup ap­pli­ca­tions you have hog­ging re­sources, and the more bloated your PC gets. Some­times it makes more sense to start again. If you’re run­ning Win­dows 7 you can only do this by do­ing a clean in­stall. If you have Win­dows 8 or Win­dows 10, it’s bet­ter news: you can re­store your com­puter from in­side Win­dows. Here’s how to do it.

Win­dows 8

While it’s gen­er­ally very easy to re­store Win­dows 8, the util­ity can run into prob­lems if you’ve up­graded to Win­dows 8.1. This is be­cause the up­grade doesn’t re­fresh the files that Win­dows needs to re­store fac­tory de­fault set­tings – an­noy­ing, huh? For­tu­nately, Mi­crosoft has made it fairly straight­for­ward to down­load and cre­ate your own Win­dows 8 or Win­dows 8.1 in­stal­la­tion discs, so we can show you how to get around this.

Start the re­store process Go to the Start screen and type Re­move to bring up the search box. In the re­sults that ap­pear, you’ll see an op­tion called ‘Re­move ev­ery­thing and re­in­stall Win­dows’. Click this to start the clean-up util­ity, which you’ll use to flash your com­puter back to fac­tory de­faults.

The Win­dows 8 app that starts gives you two clean­ing op­tions. The first is a re­fresh, which will leave your per­sonal files alone, but clears out your ap­pli­ca­tions and set­tings; the sec­ond op­tion re­moves ev­ery­thing and gives you a clean in­stal­la­tion of Win­dows. This is the choice to make if you’re get­ting rid of your PC, or it’s so hope­lessly slow and clut­tered that you want to go back to day zero with it. Both work in roughly the same way, so select the op­tion that ap­plies to you; the rest of this guide fol­lows the ‘Re­move ev­ery­thing and re­in­stall Win­dows’ op­tion.

Fix the ‘Some files are miss­ing’ er­ror If you up­graded from Win­dows 8 to 8.1, you may find that you get an er­ror mes­sage telling you that “Some files are miss­ing”. It tells you to in­sert your Win­dows in­stal­la­tion disc, which you mostly likely don’t have.

For­tu­nately, there’s a way round this prob­lem. Down­load the Win­dows 8 Up­grade tool (­load). When you run the file select the ISO file op­tion to down­load the Win­dows 8.1 disc im­age to your hard disk. Next, find the ISO file, right-click it and select Mount. Now, re-run the Re­move ev­ery­thing util­ity and you’ll no longer get the er­ror mes­sage.

If this doesn’t work, it’s be­cause the app doesn’t re­alise you have a Win­dows disc in­stalled. This is easy to fix: re­boot your PC, mount the ISO file that you down­loaded and then run the Re­move ev­ery­thing tool.

Re­set your com­puter You’ll now see a mes­sage telling you that all your files and ap­pli­ca­tions will be re­moved and that your PC’s set­tings will be re­stored to their de­faults. Click Next to con­tinue. If you have more than one drive in your com­puter, you’ll be asked if you want to clean only the drive where Win­dows is in­stalled or all drives. Select the one that ap­plies to you. If you only have one drive, you’ll go straight to the next op­tion.

You’ll now see two choices: ‘Just re­move my files’, which deletes your files but not se­curely; and ‘Clean the drive fully’, which per­forms a full se­cure wipe. The lat­ter op­tion takes longer, but is the right choice if you’re go­ing to be sell­ing your com­puter or throw­ing it away, as it stops any­one from re­cov­er­ing your pri­vate data. With the first op­tion your files are just marked as deleted, but still ex­ist and can be ac­cessed on the hard disk by any­one us­ing re­cov­ery soft­ware.

This is your last chance be­fore your com­puter is wiped. Win­dows will tell you what you’re go­ing to do; if you’re sure you’re ready, click Re­set and your com­puter will re­boot and re­set it­self back to its fac­tory de­faults, ready for you to start from scratch or pass on to an­other per­son. If you’re keep­ing your com­puter, you’ll need to re­in­stall all your ap­pli­ca­tions and any files you need from a backup.

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