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
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.
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 (tinyurl.com/Win8ISODownload). 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.