When your laptop acts listless after you install new software or update Microsoft Windows, or you decide you don't want the demonstration version of a game you tried as an experiment, Windows can help you return your computer to its previous state, or to a fresh copy of Windows with or without your personalized setup. These rollback options can't cure every problem, but they can help you revert to a prior configuration in a matter of minutes.

Refresh Windows

To return your operating system to its original configuration without losing your preferences and working files, choose to refresh your laptop's copy of Microsoft Windows. This process removes any applications you installed that didn't originate within the OS itself or on the Windows Store. Click on an unoccupied area on the Start screen and select "Change PC Settings" from the menu that appears. Within the list of General settings, the option to "Refresh Your PC Without Affecting Your Files" starts the process. When it completes, it leaves behind a list of any applications it removes. You may need to reinstall drivers for peripherals and other devices after a refresh procedure, because it yields a new copy of Windows that lacks updates.

Reset Windows

If you just acquired your Windows laptop and want to put it back in factory condition, minus any software you installed, preferences you set and files you created, the Windows Reset command accomplishes your objective. From the General options you access from the same "Change PC Settings" menu choice that yields the Refresh setting, choosing "Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows" triggers a complete system reset. This selection also provides you with the option of using a secure-erase procedure to wipe out your personally identifiable information, which adds to the duration of the reset process. Reinstall any drivers that the reset copy of Windows doesn't include in their most-current form.

Use a Restore Point

System Restore turns back the clock, returning your laptop's operating system to the condition in which it existed on a previous date, although the procedure doesn't neutralize or remove malware and doesn't substitute for protection against it. The act of installing software or OS updates automatically creates a restore point, which represents the pre-installation configuration of your system. You can add restore points whenever you choose. Enter "Recovery" in the Windows Search box that comes up when you click in an unoccupied corner of the Start screen. The "Open System Restore" option brings up the System Restore wizard, from which you can accept the most-current restore point or choose one from a different date.

Change the Date

To alter the system date and time so the computer behaves as if you've jumped into a time machine, click on the time display in the lower right corner of your screen. The Change Date and Time button leads to the Date and Time Settings dialog box, through which you can change either or both of these attributes. Note that some software won't operate correctly if you fail to set the date and time to their current values. This includes time-limited demonstration software, which may terminate your preview usage if you attempt to extend the demo period through system-date manipulation. The same date-accuracy provisions can apply to software that relies on authorization or activation to run.