How to Reset an HP Laptop Without a Restore Disc

By Shea Laverty

HP laptops and desktops can be restored to factory defaults using the built-in recovery partition, as well as recovery media or a Windows installation disc.

HP computers running Windows 7 and 8, both laptop and desktop, have a built-in partition for recovery without discs. If you don't have discs and the partition isn't working, you can use a commercial copy of Windows to restore your computer, minus any software pre-installed by HP.

Tip

If your computer was installed with Windows XP, the process is a bit different, as are some of the keyboard commands used to access the recovery partition.

Warning

Always back up any personal data and files that you don't want to lose, as most factory reset options delete personal data.

Recovery Partition

Booting into HP Recovery Manager

Step 1

Press Windows-X and select Search.

Step 2

Select HP Recovery Manager from the search results.

Type Recovery into the search field and select HP Recovery Manager.

Step 3

Select HP Recovery Environment or Windows Recovery Environment.

Select HP Recovery Environment or Windows Recovery Environment. Which option you see depends on when your computer was manufactured, but both perform the same function.

Step 4

Click OK to reboot.

Click OK when prompted to reboot the computer in the recovery system, or Cancel to cancel.

Resetting the Computer from Recovery Manager

Step 1

Click OK when the computer restarts in the HP Recovery Environment.

Step 2

Select Minimized Image Recovery to restore Windows without losing personal data, or select System Recovery to completely restore the computer to factory defaults.

Warning

The System Recovery option deletes all personal data and files.

Step 3

Select a backup option when prompted.

  • Back up your files first (recommended) takes you to another screen, where you can save your files on a USB flash drive or DVD.
  • Recover without backing up your files continues with the reset process without backing up your data. If you choose this option, skip to Step 7.

Step 4

Choose a backup type.

Auto Selection (recommended) scans and backs up all files of the types you specify. Types can include pictures, videos and movies, documents, emails and Internet settings and music. Check the desired file types you want to back up and click Next.

User Selection enables you to manually choose what files and folders to back up, as well as whether or not the backed up files are compressed. Compression reduces the size of the files, giving you more space for your backup. Select Compression or No Compression, then click Next.

Step 5

For User Selection only, click Browse, select the files to back up, and then click Next.

Step 6

After Recovery Manager finishes scanning available storage devices, select the location to save your backup and click Next. Click Next when the backup process is complete.

Step 7

Disconnect all wired devices from the computer, except the monitor, keyboard, mouse and power cord. Remove all media like CDs or DVDs from internal drives.

Step 8

Select Recover without backing up your files and click Next. From here, Recovery Manager begins the reset process. The recovery process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.

Step 9

Click Continue when prompted to continue the reset process. Your computer restarts several times during the process.

Warning

During the process, at no time should you unplug the computer or switch it off.

Step 10

Click Finish once the process is complete to restart your computer. Once the computer starts back up, you can begin initial Windows setup.

Every HP desktop and laptop comes from the factory with a recovery partition. The recovery partition is a special, isolated sector of the hard drive that contains a working copy of HP's recovery interface HP Recovery Manager and Windows installation data. This interface doesn't require separate discs or drives and is usually the go-to option for disc-free system recovery. To access the recovery partition, you have to reboot the computer into it from HP Recovery Manager or press the F11 key repeatedly during your computer's start-up sequence.

Tip

Using the F11 key to boot into HP Recovery Manager is the best way to access the recovery partition if Windows won't load properly.

HP Recovery Media

Creating Recovery Media

Step 1

Select Create Recovery Media or Recovery Media Creation.

Load HP Recovery Manager and select Create Recovery Media or Recovery Media Creation. Which option displays depends on when your laptop was made, but they serve the same purpose.

Step 2

Fill the check-box and click Continue.

Fill the I Accept check box and click Continue.

Step 3

Select a backup storage device and click Continue.

Insert a USB drive with at least 20GB of available space, a blank DVD or a blank dual-layer DVD (DVDDL). Select the desired media from the list and click Continue when prompted. Allow HP Recovery Manager time to complete the discs or drive installation -- this may take several minutes.

Step 4

Label the drive or discs as your recovery media so you can easily identify them when you need them.

Tip

  • For DVDs, the disc you insert is actually the first of five discs for creating recovery media.
  • For DVDDL, the disc you insert is the first of three discs for creating recovery media.

Using Recovery Media

Step 1

Disconnect all wired devices from your computer, except the monitor, keyboard, mouse and/or power cord. Remove all media like CDs or DVDs from internal drives.

Step 2

Insert the USB recovery drive, or the first of your recovery discs, and then shut down your computer.

Step 3

Start the computer back up and repeatedly press the Escape key until the screen displays the Startup Menu.

Step 4

Press F9.

Step 5

Select the appropriate boot device using the Up and Down arrow keys and press Enter to choose it. Select CD/DVD Drive for discs or USB Drive for a USB recovery drive.

Step 6

Select Run program from media when prompted by HP Recovery Manager and click Next.

Step 7

Follow the steps in the Resetting the Computer from Recovery Manager section to reset your computer.

Generally HP computers don't ship with recovery media but instead provide HP Recovery Manager to create your own recovery discs or recovery drive as a backup. Recovery discs can also be obtained by contacting HP customer support.

Clean Windows Install

If neither recovery media or the recovery media are working, use a commercial Windows installation disc to format your hard drive and re-install Windows. This method, known as a clean install, also eliminates all software pre-installed on your computer by HP that would be restored using the partition or recovery media.

Step 1

Start up your computer so that Windows starts normally, and insert the first Windows installation DVD or USB drive. Then, shut down your computer.

Step 2

Start the computer back up and repeatedly press the Escape key until the screen displays the Startup Menu.

Step 3

Press F9.

Step 4

Select the appropriate boot device using the Up and Down arrow keys and press Enter to choose it. Select CD/DVD Drive for discs or USB Drive for a USB recovery drive.

Step 5

Select your desired language and other preferences from the Install Windows screen and click Next.

Step 6

Click Install Windows and enter the product activation key that came with your copy of Windows. The activation key is either on the box that the installation DVD came in, or in a purchase confirmation email if you purchased and downloaded Windows online.

Step 7

Click I accept the license terms, then click Next.

Step 8

Click Custom on the Which type of installation do you want? page.

Step 9

Select one of the partitions and click Drive options (advanced).

Step 10

Click Delete to remove the data on the partition, and then select any other partitions. Select Delete for them as well.

Warning

Deleting partitions removes all data stored on them. Some partitions are used to store the recovery information for disc-free system restoration. If you want to preserve this information, skip this step.

Step 11

Choose a location from the list to install Windows and click Next.

Step 12

Allow your computer time to finish installation. The computer restarts several times during the process, but requires no input on your part until it boots into the initial setup screen.