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I am trying to restore a Windows 7 (Ultimate) PC to its factory settings manually, basically by uninstalling everything in the Add/Remove Programs dialogue box, deleting all personal files and running CCleaner. This is going to take a while.

I can't do a clean install because I don't have physical access to the computer, do any good tools exist for restoring Windows 7 to its factory settings when a clean install isn't an option?

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I wouldn't rule out a clean install just yet. It can be done without physical access, although it's a painful procedure. By the way, how do you plan on controlling a clean Windows 7 machine with no physical access? – Marcks Thomas Nov 25 '12 at 11:13
Practically, you simply can't go backwards with no consequences. There are always leftovers that you don't know about and can't get rid of them. I'd go with marcks suggestion to make a clean installation (BTW, I don't think it's this painful - it only takes several CLI commands in a WinPE) – EliadTech Nov 25 '12 at 12:46
@EliadTech: Booting WinPE is already tricky itself. No physical access means no way of inserting a bootable medium. There are ways around this, but since almost any error can halt the process and get you stuck with no means of controlling the machine remotely, this is hardly something I'd want to attempt if physical access is not an option. – Marcks Thomas Nov 25 '12 at 15:00
Adding another boot entry to the BCD and placing a VHD or WIM isn't that tricky. He can test it first in a VM. Unless he had some problems booting his main OS normally there's no reason why WinPE would get stuck. Anyway, he still didn't answer as to why clean install isn't an option... – EliadTech Nov 26 '12 at 6:32

System Restore to the first restore point found should be a cleaner and better option than manually removing program files: even after uninstall and possibly even after using CCleaner, some applications will leave traces in the registry or on the filesystem which might degrade performance. Creating restore points involves taking record of system settings including registry/drivers/software. Hence the first restore point should roughly equal factory state.

An even better option would be a restore from a 'System Image' as created by the Windows 7 Backup and Restore Control Panel item: those images are exact copies of your entire disk.

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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. – ChrisF Nov 25 '12 at 10:53
hmm, I do think using System Restore is a valid solution to the authors question. Do you mean I should rephrase to 'Use System Restore', or do you think this is not a proper solution? – stijn Nov 25 '12 at 13:07
I think that the answer requires more information to explain why you think that a System Restore is a valid solution. – ChrisF Nov 25 '12 at 13:11
Hmm,I had system restore turned off from the beginning for performance reasons, if anyone is looking for closure on this anecdote I just did things the ol' fashioned way, uninstalled everything with add/remove programs, and ran ccleaner and defraggler, worked pretty well. – JMK Jan 10 '13 at 17:31

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