How To 'Refresh' Your PC When Windows Says There's A Problem

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

Windows has a propensity to accrue digital dust and grime that can bog down the system, and reinstalling the operating system is a nice catch-all cure for anything that ails it.

Newer versions of Windows include a handy refresh option that lets you keep your personal files, but removes your apps and reinstalls Windows. This saves you from a lengthier backup and restore, and it cuts down on reconfiguring your device after you’ve reinstalled the OS — it just doesn’t always work.

Ironically, many of the issues that force users into trying a Windows refresh can also prevent it from working. I recently ran into this very scenario while attempting a routine refresh of my desktop, and I don’t seem to be alone. The annoying error message “There was a problem resetting your PC, no changes were made” seems to be common across many forums and Reddit threads.

I finally found the solution that worked for me after some trial and error, but that’s the catch: There are multiple solutions to the myriad causes behind the “There was a problem resetting your PC” error message, but none of them are cure-alls.

You might have to work through multiple methods until you find the right one. To help with that process, I’ve combed through the various viable solutions on the internet and collected them here in hopes that it will ease the process for you.

Before we get to those, however, I strongly recommend you back up important files before trying the following recovery options. Even though a Windows refresh can save some of your personal files, it’s wise to back up your files elsewhere in case something goes wrong and you need to resort to a delete-everything-and-install-Windows-from-scratch option.

Fixing a Windows refresh using the Command Prompt

There are actually multiple ways you can use Command Prompt to fix the “problems resetting your PC” error. Start with the first method, and move down until you find one that works.

For each set of commands listed below, start by opening the Start menu and typing “Command Prompt” into the search bar. Right-click the Command Prompt icon and select “Run as Administrator.” Once Command Prompt is open, try the following commands:

Method 1:

In Command Prompt, type:

  1. sfc /scannow

  2. Press Enter to run the scan. Wait for it to complete, then close Command Prompt.

  3. Give your PC a reboot, then try the refresh process again. If it works, great! If not, move on to the next set of commands.

Method 2:

Input each of these commands one at a time, hitting enter after each:

  1. cd %windir%\system32\config

  2. ren system system.001

  3. ren software software.001

  4. Reboot your device, then attempt to reset/refresh Windows. If it doesn’t work, try the next set of commands:

Method 3:

Again, use each command one at a time:

  1. reagentc/disable

  2. reagentc/enable

  3. Reboot your device, then attempt to reset/refresh Windows once again. If it still isn’t working, we still have one more set of commands to try out before moving on to other solutions.

Method 4:

  • Type wmic logicaldisk get deviceid,volumename,description

  • You’ll be shown a list of your PC’s various drives. Enter the letter of the drive where Windows is installed on your PC (if you don’t know, run the command dir [letter] (for example, dir C, if you have a C drive) to see a directory for the drive. You should see “Windows” listed in one of them; use that drive for the next command).

  • sfc /scannow /offbootdir=[letter]:\ /offwindir=[letter]:\Windows (Example: sfc /scannow /offbootdir=C:\ /offwindir=C:\Windows)

  • Reboot your device one last time, and give the reset/refresh a final try.

Using System Restore or your Windows installation media

If you’ve tried all the system commands (or didn’t want to go that route and skipped ahead), the next set of solutions should do the trick.

System Restore

If you’ve previously created a Restore Point or Windows Backup, you can use System Restore to roll back to that older system image and then try a Windows refresh.

Go to Control Panel > System and Security > System > System Protection. If “System Restore” is clickable, then there is a viable restore point. Click it and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the restore. If it’s greyed out, then this option is unavailable. Note that this is not available for all versions of Windows.

Use installation media (USB/DVD)

Use this guide to create a Windows install disc or USB drive. Follow the instructions until you reach the point where you can select to either reset/refresh, or do a clean install. Attempt the reset/refresh options first.

For what it’s worth, none of the above options worked for my particular issue, so this is how I solved the problem. I still recommend trying the above methods first, since they require less time. However, if the reset/refresh options still don’t work even with this final step, then the only option is to use the installation media to do a clean Windows install and start from scratch, as per the guide linked above.


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