Reimaging is considered the last resort when troubleshooting computer problems. In reimaging a computer, all the data is deleted on the drive where the operating system is installed leaving only the operating system.
You need to install everything again on the computer. To learn how to reimage a computer for Windows 7, 8.1, 10, 11, Mac, or Linux, follow this guide.
What is the Difference Between Reimaging and Formatting a Computer?
Some people consider reimaging and formatting as the same but they are not although both involve deleting all the data on the drive C (where the operating system is usually installed).
- What is Reimaging a Computer?
- What is Meant by Reformatting a Computer?
What is Reimaging a Computer?
Reimaging is similar to the factory reset feature on smartphones. It deletes everything on the drive where the OS is installed but leaves the operating system functioning in factory settings.
All the data, applications, and settings are deleted, but you keep the operating system so you don’t need to activate the operating system again. This takes less time compared to reformatting.
You need a recovery disc or drive for reimaging in some cases. Most computers come with a recovery drive that you can insert and reimage the computer or apply any other troubleshooting solutions.
What is Meant by Reformatting a Computer?
Reformatting means deleting everything on the drive where the OS is installed including the operating system. In reformatting, you practically install a new copy of the operating system on your computer.
You would need to activate your operating system again as well. You also need an installation drive or disc of the operating system you want to install. Reformatting is more time-consuming than reimaging. It is also known as reinstalling an operating system on a computer.
Common Reasons for Reimaging a Computer?
- Removing viruses, malware, or other harmful programs that aren’t uninstalling.
- Deleting or repairing corrupted system files.
- Returning the computer to its original state for selling.
- Removing everything from the computer and applying a set disk image to the computer in educational institutes so they are easy to update and new students can use it.
- Deleting the data of a terminated employee and setting the computer up for a new one in a business setup.
How To Reimage a Computer?
- Backup Your Data Before Reimaging a Computer
- Reimage a Computer Running Microsoft Windows 7
- Reimage Your Windows 8.1 Computer
- Steps to Reimage a Computer Running Windows 10
- Reimage Your Windows 11 Computer
- Reimage a Mac Computer (macOS 12 Monterey)
- Reimage Your Mac (macOS 11 Big Sur or Earlier)
- Reimage a Computer Running a Linux-Based Operating System
1. Backup Your Data Before Reimaging a Computer
As all the data will be lost after a reimage, you need to backup important data. As the reimaging process is limited to one local drive, if you have more than one local drive, move the files you want to keep to the other drive. However, a better option is to move your important files to cloud storage like Google Drive or iCloud.
2. Reimage a Computer Running Microsoft Windows 7
Reimaging or factory resetting is a bit tricky in Windows 7. It only works if you saved a Windows 7 system image at some point in time when the operating system was working fine. If you haven’t, then you can’t reset your Windows 7 and the only option you have is to reformat with Windows 7 or a newer Windows version.
2.1 Recovering Windows 7 from a System Image
To reimage your Windows 7 at a later time, you have to create a system image that you can revert the changes back to later. A good practice is to create a system image after installing a fresh copy of Windows 7.
Creating a system image in Windows 7:
- Open Control Panel.
- On the search bar, type ‘backup’, and press enter.
- Select ‘Backup and Restore’.
- From the side panel, pick ‘create a system image’.
- It will open a wizard. Select which hard disk, DVD, or network location you want to save the system image on. If you have a USB, choose ‘On a hard disk’ and then select your USB drive.
- On the next screen, select both ‘System Reserved’ and ‘C:’ drives.
- Now you’ll see a preview of the settings you made. To confirm, click ‘Start backup’.
- When the backup completes, you’ll see an option that asks if you want to create a system repair disc. Select ‘Yes’.
- Choose the drive where you want to save the system recovery disc and select ‘Create disc’.
To restore Windows 7 using a system image:
- Restart your computer and press the F8 key when it’s about to load Windows.
- It’ll take you to Advanced Boot Options. Choose ‘Repair Your Computer’.
- Windows will load the recovery options.
- After this, Windows might ask you to enter log-in details into your Windows administrator account.
- Now, it’ll open System Recovery Options. Select ‘System Image Recovery’.
- A wizard will open. Choose ‘Select a system image’.
- Insert your USB or disc that has the system image saved and select it.
- On the next screen, select ‘Advanced’ and make sure that both the boxes are checked. Click ‘OK’, and then ‘Next’.
- In the final step, Windows will show you the selections you made. Click ‘Finish’ to start the reimaging process. It can take from a few minutes to a few hours.
- Once done, reboot your computer.
2.2 Install a New Windows 7 on Your Computer (Reformatting)
The above method works only if you saved a system image before. If you didn’t, the only method to delete everything on your Windows is to reinstall Windows 7. To proceed, you need to have a Windows 7 installation disc or USB flash drive with Windows 7.
(If you’re reinstalling Windows 7 and your computer has 4GB RAM or more, we recommend installing Windows 10 instead.)
Perform a clean installation of Windows 7:
- Plugin the USB drive that has Windows 7 on it.
- Turn on your computer. Do as instructed when you see ‘Press any key to boot from CD or DVD’ to boot from the installation media.
- Windows will load files. Then, you’ll see the Windows installation setup. Choose your language, time, and keyboard, and click ‘Next’.
- On the next screen, press the ‘Install Now’ button.
- Read the terms and then click the checkbox ‘I accept the license terms’.
- Choose ‘Custom (Advanced)’.
- Select the drive on your hard disk where you want to install the Windows and select ‘Next’.
- The setup will show that it’ll format the drive and all the data on it will be lost. Confirm to start the Windows installation process.
- Your system may reboot a few times. Follow the on-screen instructions to set up your new Windows 7.
3. Reimage Your Windows 8.1 Computer
Resetting or reimaging Windows 8.1 is easier as compared to Windows 7. Follow these steps:
- Move your mouse to the right side of the screen to bring the Start options, and select ‘Settings’.
- Choose ‘Change PC Settings’.
- On PC Settings, pick ‘Update and Recovery’ from the side pane.
- Choose ‘Recovery’.
- Under ‘Advanced Startup’, click ‘Restart Now’.
- Your computer will restart in Windows recovery mode. When you see the blue screen and some options, select ‘Troubleshoot’.
- On the next screen, pick ‘Advanced Options’.
- Now, choose ‘System Image Recovery’.
- Windows will prepare for recovery.
- On the next screen, you’ll be asked to enter the password of your admin account.
- After this, a wizard will show the system image backup settings. Click ‘Next’.
- Choose ‘Next’ again.
- Click ‘Finish’ on the next screen.
- It’ll confirm that your data will be deleted. Choose ‘Yes’.
- Windows will begin reimaging your computer.
- When it’s done, restart your Windows computer. It will look as if you installed fresh Windows on it.
4. Steps to Reimage a Computer Running Windows 10
Windows resetting options were improved with Windows 10 and 11. We’re sharing some methods to reimage your Windows 10.
4.1 Reimage Windows 10 from the ‘Reset this PC‘ Option
Here’s how to reimage your Windows 10 PC from Settings:
- Click the Start button and select ‘Settings’.
- Choose ‘Update & Security’.
- Select ‘Recovery’.
- Under ‘Reset this PC’, choose ‘Get Started’.
- It’ll open a PC reset wizard. Choose ‘Remove everything’ to delete everything on the drive where Windows is installed.
- Select ‘Local reinstall’ or click ‘Additional Settings’ to change some selections.
- Choose ‘Next’.
- Now, confirm the settings by selecting ‘Reset’.
4.2 Reimage Windows 10 When Logged On from the ‘Advanced Startup’ Option
Another way of resetting or reimaging your computer running Windows 10 is:
- Navigate to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery.
- Under ‘Advanced Startup’, choose ‘Restart Now’.
- Now, follow the instructions that are given in the Windows 8.1 section (Method 3).
4.3 Reimage Your Windows 10 Computer When It Isn’t Booting (Without a Windows Disc)
Corrupted files or some other problems can damage the boot files and prevent the Windows from booting. If this is the case with your computer, follow below to reimage your PC:
- Turn on your computer and when you see the Windows logo, long-press the power button to turn it off.
- Repeat Step 1.
- Power the PC on again. This time, Windows will load the Automatic Repair options (the blue screen).
- Choose ‘Advanced Options’.
- Pick ‘Troubleshoot’.
- Now, select ‘Reset this PC’.
- Select ‘Remove everything’.
- Choose ‘Local reinstall’.
- On the next screen, both options will reimage your Windows 10. Select ‘Just remove my files’ if you will keep using the PC and choose ‘Fully clean the drive’ if you are giving the PC to someone else or selling it.
- Select ‘Reset’.
5. Reimage Your Windows 11 Computer
The steps for resetting a Windows 11 PC are similar to Windows 10.
- Open Settings.
- Select ‘System’ from the left pane.
- Choose ‘Recovery’.
- Next to ‘Reset this PC’, click ‘Reset PC’.
- On the blue screen, choose ‘Remove everything’.
- Select ‘Local reinstall’.
- Click ‘Next’.
- Finally, click the ‘Reset’ button.
If you can’t boot to Windows 11, use the steps shown in section 4.3.
6. Reimage a Mac Computer (macOS 12 Monterey)
Monterey provides simple resetting options to quickly factory reset your Mac.
- Back up your files.
- Now, navigate to ‘System Preferences’.
- On the menu bar, click ‘System Preferences’ and select ‘Erase All Content and Settings’.
- Follow the on-screen instructions.
7. Reimage Your Mac (macOS 11 Big Sur or Earlier)
For Big Sur and earlier versions of macOS, resetting the OS is a bit tedious. Follow below:
- To boot into Recovery Mode, shut down your Mac. Turn it on by pressing the power button and the Command + R keys.
- Once in the Recovery Mode, we need to wipe the computer’s hard drive. Select ‘Disk Utility’.
- Pick your primary hard drive from the side pane, and then click ‘Erase’.
- On the next menu, select ‘Security Options’ and choose the number of times your data should be overwritten. This step is only for mechanical hard drives (HDDs). If you’re using an SSD, skip this step.
- Select ‘Erase’.
- When the data is erased, we need to install macOS. If you booted from a recovery partition, choose ‘Reinstall macOS’ to begin the reinstallation. However, in case you used a USB disk, click Continue > your hard drive.
8. Reimage a Computer Running a Linux-Based Operating System
Linux operating systems don’t have a factory reset option. However, you can use the Resetter tool for resetting your Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, and other Linux operating systems.
- Get Resetter from GitHub.
- Install the deb file.
- Type ‘Resetter’ in the Terminal to run it. (It only runs in root mode.)
- Select ‘Automatic Reset’ or ‘Custom Reset’.
The difficulty level of reimaging a computer depends on the operating system you have installed on the computer. Make sure you backup your data before starting the process.
When Should You Reimage Your Computer?
You should reimage your computer if you want to:
– Get rid of viruses or corrupted files
– Sell your computer
– Set up the computer for new students in an educational institute.
– Set up the computer for a new employee in an office.
How Do I Reimage Windows 10 Without A Disk?
To reset Windows 10 without a disk, navigate to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Get Started > Remove everything > Local reinstall > Next > Reset.
Do I Need Disc To Reset Windows 10?
To reset your Windows 10 PC, you don’t need an installation disc. Simply go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Get Started and begin the process of resetting your computer.
How Do I Wipe My Windows Computer Before Selling It?
To wipe your Windows 8.1, 10, or 11 computer before selling:
– Turn off your computer. Turn it on and long-press the power button when the Windows logo appears.
– Repeat the above step.
– Turn on the computer again. It’ll load Windows Automatic Repair.
– Select Advanced Options > Troubleshoot > Reset this PC > Remove everything > Local reinstall > Fully clean the drive > Reset.