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Reset Windows 10 to factory settings: my personal adventure with ASUS X541UV

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In this small article I want totell you my little adventure trying to reset Windows 10 in my ASUS notebook X541UV to its factory settings. Perhaps this story be not interesting for anyone but me, but if someone among you have got into this issue trying to reset Windows to factory settings, this article might give him some help. At least I hope.

A small backstory

After having downloaded and installed the famous Fall Creator Update in my dual boot Asus X541UV, I have realized the new Windows version was eating too much of my RAM. In addition, I have seen several programs running slower than before so I have decided to rollback to previous Windows version. I did easily following these simple steps:

  1. Click Start button and choose Settings
  2. Choose Update & security
  3. In the left side bar click Recovery
  4. In the right panel look for Go back to the previous version of Windows 10 section and click Get started button
  5. Follow the instructions.

You can find a more detailed walkthrough here: http://www.thewindowsclub.com/rollback-uninstall-windows-10-creators-update.

But once the rolling back process has been successfully completed, I have realized Windows still ran slow: applications froze and mouse got stuck every 10/15 seconds… So, after having surfed the web for hours to find a “quick” fix to these problems, after having applied tons of totally unhelpful tweaks (I would have liked to save my Linux Mint installation), I have decided to reset Windows and the PC to its factory settings. Sob, it was from the times of Windows Millennium I didn’t a factory reset!

The problem

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Performing a factory reset on Windows 10 is quite different from doing it with old versions of Windows: I didn’t have any WIndows installation CD, nor a reset CD provided by Asus. I had anything but a small Recovery partition (only 499 MB) on my 1 terabyte hard drive. But how to access that partition? After a quick search I found that in order to reset Windows 10 to factory defaults you have to follows the following steps:

  1. Click Start button and choose Settings
  2. Choose Update & security
  3. In the left side bar click Recovery
  4. In the right panel look for Reset this PC section and click the Get started button
  5. Follow the instructions

What any article I have found on the web tells is that, after having clicked the Get started button, you are prompted to choose if keep your apps and files or erase everything. Some author mentions a third option, Restore factory settings, but in my Asus X541UV this option was missing.

I worked up my courage and I clicked Erase everything: Windows asked me to wait while it got things ready… Some incredibly long seconds went away and then… whoooops, Windows asked me to insert the installation media!!! And the recovery partition?! Why don’t you use that?!

Making a long story short

Okay, keep calm, I said to myself. But that has been the starting point of a nightmare of a week of trials and experiments. Reading articles, posting question in Q&A websites, going back and forth from Windows and Linux. Through Linux, I checked the partition and I made me sure it wasn’t corrupted. I have mounted it and explored its contents:

  • Recovery
    • Logs
    • WindowsRE
      • boot.sdi
      • ReAgent.xml
      • Winre.wim
  • System Volume Information

So, my searchs told me thgat Windows should look at this partition, using ReAgent.xml to find the Winre.wim file whcih is the factory defaults image to restore. But this didn’t happen. I’ve been told everything, even that the partition was corrupted for sure because its size should have been about 25 GB not only 500 MB or so.

I used the Microsoft Media Creation Tool to create an bootable image in my pendrive so to boot the system and access the recovery partiton from there, launching the restore process, but it didn’t work; I formatted the pendrive and created a bootable WindowsPE image to try the same experiment but with the same result: Windows still asked for an installation media everytime I tried to launch the reset process.

The solution

Do you want to know what did the trick? I don’t know what’s happened, but Windows just expected to find the Winre.wim file in C:\Windows\System32\Recovery folder and since that file was missing in that directory Windows asked for an installation media. So I have copied the Winre.wim file from the recovery partition to what I thought it should be its default location, C:\Windows\System32\Recovery folder and… voilà, Windows stopped asking for the installation media and I’ve finally been able to restore my factory settings.

But that’s not all, folks. My recovery partition still looks good but within the C:\Windows\System32\Recovery folder there is no more any Winre.wim file! ReAgent.xml file seems to correctly point to the recovery partition but… the original issue is still there! If I try to reset my computer it asks for an installation media again 🙁

What happened? Seriously, I don’t know. I should copy the Winre.wim file to C:\Windows\System32\Recovery folder again and retry to reset my computer, but frankly I don’t want. I have already reinstalled my favorite tools, partitioned the hard disk and reinstalled Linux. I don’t want t redo anything again.

So, to summarize, the moral of the story is: if you’re trying to reset Windows to factory settings and it asks for an installation media try to follow these steps:

  • check if you have a recovery partition
  • if you have, access it using a Linux live distro (Ubuntu or Linux Mint are really good)
  • when Linux is loaded, select Disks from the menu
  • locate your recovery partition: select it with a mouse click and then mount it using the Play button you find below the disk list
  • access the recovery partition, look for the Recovery/WindowsRE/Winre.wim file and copy it to a folder accessible from Windows or directly to the C:\Windows\System32\Recovery folder
  • Restart the PC to go back to Windows and try the standard procedure to reset:
    • Right click on Start menu
    • Click Settings
    • Select Update & security
    • Select Recovery in the left panel
    • Look for Reset this PC section in the right panel
    • Click the Get started button

Hope sincerely this can help someone to get the job done 🙂

  1. NeoBeum NeoBeum

    You’re missing the Recovery Boot images, and also the Asus Factory Tools.
    They are only visible in WinPE – Out of Box, and they are added to the provisioning package after first power on setup completes.
    There are an extra 3 nested wim images nested in the original factory Winre.wim located in the factory Recovery partition in the original disk configuration from the factory floor.

    If the missing files were still present, there would be an extra menu option to restore factory image in your screenshot of Windows Recovery.
    This is the Push Button Reset/Factory Wim you are missing, or unable to unpack because of Microsofts fail updates

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