How To Use HP System Recovery To Restore Your Computer

Hewlett Packard has made it convenient to an HP system recovery to your original factory settings. We recommend you follow the instructions below if trying to recover with the disks that came with your PC when you first opened the package.

HP system recoveryIf your HP computer did NOT come with disks, it’s quite possible the HP system recovery files are on a hidden partition on the drive. In this case, you should follow the START menu to restore your PC to factory condition.

As always, if you do not find what you’re looking for, visit our message boards.

HP System Recovery With Disks

This guide explains how to reset the HP Pavilion’s software to its factory state. All work stored on the hard drive could be lost, so make sure to back up any important data. Please read through this tutorial and choose the best option for you.

Data could be lost on hard drives added after the purchase of this system, so unplug the IDE cable to that drive before beginning any of these processes.

Some HPs that ship with Microsoft Windows XP do not come with recovery CDs. They use a hidden space (partition) on the hard drive to store the recovery information. Some like this feature, some do not. However, you can purchase disks for a minimal cost. Go to the HP web site to order.

CAUTION: If Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) has been or will be installed, download and install the SP1 software patch before proceeding to prevent boot up issues.

HP System Recovery from the Windows XP desktop

  1. Disconnect all peripherals and internal non pre-installed devices from the PC, except the monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
  2. From the Windows XP desktop, click Start, All Programs, and then HP Tools.
  3. Select HP PC System Recovery. The Recovery screen will appear with the
    question Do you really want to start HP PC System Recovery?
  4. Click Yes, to continue the recovery process.
  5. When the Recovery screen appears, click Next, and then click Yes to perform a normal, non-destructive
  6. To perform a destructive HP system recovery, click Advanced, and then click Yes.

Recovering the system without using Windows

  1. Disconnect all peripherals and internal non pre-installed devices from the PC, except the monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
  2. Turn on the computer.
  3. When the initial blue HP screen appears, press the F10 key repeatedly until a recovery menu appears. The progress indicator that first appears does not indicate that a recovery is taking place. The progress indicator represents the time before the recovery process
    is started.
  4. When the Recovery screen appears, click Next, and then click Yes to perform a normal, non-destructive recovery.
  5. To perform a destructive recovery, click Advanced, and then click Yes.
  6. After the HP System Recovery is complete, and the computer starts successfully, update the computer software as follows:

HP System Recovery using the recovery discs for Windows XP

  1. Do not insert any discs into the HP Pavilion before starting. Disconnect all peripherals and internal non preinstalled devices from the PC, except the monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
  2. Turn the computer on and press the F1 key when the first logo screen appears.
  3. Press the Right Arrow key until Boot is highlighted.
  4. Press the Down Arrow key until Boot Device Priority is highlighted. Remember where CD-ROM is listed.
  5. Press the Enter key, then press the Down Arrow and highlight the listed CD-ROM drive.
  6. Press the Plus (+) key until the CD-ROM is at the top of the list.
  7. Insert the first recovery disc into the CD-ROM drive.
  8. Press the ENTER to save settings and exit. A recovery screen appears.
  9. Read and respond to each recovery screen that appears. When changing discs, do not
    press the OK button. Instead, wait for the drive to read the disc and it it’ll automatically continue the recovery.
  10. After the recovery is complete, restore the CD-ROM boot-device priority back to its original setting, as follows:
    1. Turn the computer on and press the F1 key when the first logo screen appears.
    2. Use the Arrow keys to select Boot Device Priority under the Boot menu.
    3. Press the Enter key, and then press the Down Arrow to highlight CD-ROM drive.
    4. Press the Minus (-) key until the CD-ROM is listed in its original location.
    5. Press the ENTER to save settings and exit.
    6. Restart the computer.
  11. After the HP System Recovery is complete, and the computer starts successfully, update the computer software as follows:

    1. Update the system virus definitions.
    2. Get the latest critical system updates using Microsoft’s Windows Update.
    3. Update the HP software on the system.

If you need additional help with your HP system recovery, read our other HP articles. You can also post your questions about HP system restore and recovery option in the comments below.

About the Author: Dave

David is a tech professional with over fifteen years of experience in the IT fields of hardware, software and system administration.


  1. This information was not useful for my in restoring my HP 5135 laptop. I will never purchase an HP laptop again after my experiences.
    1. I made recovery disks the first day as instructed, labeled them and saved them for a future emergency.
    2. After 18 months the OS began hanging up after MUP.sys loaded and would not go forward past this point.
    3. Following the directions, I tried to use my recovery disks only to find that
    a. The F key on the recovery disk recommendation did not activate going to the recovery disks.
    b. Web searches gave me a clue to try other keys. After about 40 attempts it went to a recovery screen. The instructions with my laptop docs were WRONG – the indicated keys (F11) did not activate the recovery screen.
    c. Following the directions the system told me that the Recovery disks did not support my model! (Excuse me? WTF?)
    D. Starting over, I tried numerous F keys until finally got to the recovery screen again. This time I did NON destructive reload of the OS only, leaving my data.
    E. Voila, restart, except…….. USB ports not recognized. The message was not “New hardware found,” but rather: “The USB hardware has malfunctioned….” Turns out the drivers for USB to storage devices, thumbdrives and external drives IS NOT INCLUDED!
    F. Attempted to get to the recovery screen, which required numerous attempts – literally about an hour of retries.
    G. Got to recovery screen, finally. This time did DESTRUCTIVE reload (wipes everything and starts fresh). SAME RESULT – no USBs (except optical mouse).
    H. Got an IT expert to track down drivers. He gave up.
    G. Attempted to do another total destructive reload. UNABLE TO GET TO THE RECOVERY SCREEN!

    HP did not test the recovery system with any sense of completeness. The “protection” I thought I had, simply does not exist with this HP Pavilion. I will NEVER buy an HP laptop again.

    Note: I am not a tech or geek. However, I am smart, in fact, in my earlier life I visited most HP facilities selling them the equipment to make their chips! I know about 100 engineers at the fabs so I was loyal. But sorry, no more loyalty here. When a reasonable person follows the directions and they are repeatedly wrong —- buyer beware!

    1. You’re right, Steve. The process should be easier and work as HP intended. I have had experiences in the past with all major manufacturers–good and bad. At the end of the day, there is no substitute for a real Windows disk.

  2. I got hit with the System Security virus on my 2004 HP Home Edition with XP Windows (M370n). I can’t get any of the recovery disks to work. What can I do?

    1. Boot to safe mode with networking by tapping the F8 key when booting. Visit and download their free software. Install, then run the scan from safe mode.

  3. Dave and Steve … Same thing happened to me with my new HP g60t-200 laptop. I have as of today 32 Emails to tech support with the same issues and no resolve. I have a 320 gig drive however it only shows up as a 298 gig drive so is it possible that there is a hidden partion on the drive that has corrupted windows recovery files? I wish HP would just sell machines with software disks instead of these goofy images. Thanks for the info guys.

    1. Gordon, it’s not unlikely for a 320 gig drive to show up as much less, as formatting of the drive gives you less space…

      But you really should be able to make the disks as long as the recovery partition is good. It only gives you one chance, too. So if you already made the disks or the process fails, you will need to obtain the disks from the manufacturer. I am with you, too. I wish computers shipped with both a Windows disk and a driver and applications disk. Dell use to do this, not sure if they still do unless you specifically request it.

  4. I installed windows seven on my hp pavilion 6820ee then the windows seven is down and I want to make the recovery from hp recovery partition and when I press F11 on startup nothing happens pls help

    1. Windows 7 may have overwritten the HP recovery partition. Do you have any disks? You can always manually reinstall if you have them. If not, you’ll need to order them from HP–give them a call.

  5. Pat I assume that you cannot even got to the control panel, programs and features to uninstall the program, it will give you a screen to buy it online, If you are able to uninstall it then great, uninstall it. Install a new anti-virus, ( YOu can try the free AVG and scan your computer). If AVG detects it its good, or you will have to back up data and format your computer. ( Note Data you back up even that may have this virus. So beware! After formatting it. Install the most upto date anti-virus and then copy the backupdata on the computer.

  6. Hey Gordon,
    It Happens sometimes, Dont worry, what is the size of Partition Drive D on your computer? Sometimes 12 to 14GB itself is taken by the operating system. Did you make recovery disks at the very first time or no? Because recovery disks can be made just once.

  7. well i want to get my computer back to a certain restore point i created because i recently bought the sims 3 and it wont work now because my computer is screwing up, i wish to have it restored, by using the hp recovery system. is that a good idea?

    1. Sure, if you have the disks, I think it’s a perfectly fine option. Just make sure you have backups, as this process will wipe your drive.

  8. After a few years our computer was really messed up from my kids downloading tons of crap. I decided to do a system restore from the desktop. It worked fine except for all of the unneeded factory installed programs being restored as well. (AOL, games, etc.) I uninstalled all of those and noticed that the computer was running incredibly slow. I decided to try to restore it again. During the recovery process, my daughter shut off the computer. You guessed it. Computer screwed! When It would try to boot up it would just say that there was a missing partition that I needed to reinstall. I ordered the recovery disks from HP and tried them today. The first one seems to work just fine. It brings up the recovery screen then asks me to put in the second recovery disk. The second one starts out ok as well. That is, until it reaches %48 completed. Once it reaches the %48 mark it doesn’t go any further. I fell asleep and it ran for several hours and it still didn’t get past %48. I’ve tried it several times now and have followed the directions above but still no luck getting past %48. Any ideas kind and learned people?

    1. Martin. Sorry to hear that you’re having issues. I hate to say this, but you might have an issue with the hard drive. Hard drive have a lifespan of around five years or less…I would recommend downloading and burning a CD called Ultimate Boot Disk. It has hard drive utilities on it that might confirm this. If you’re not up to that, you might call HP back and tell them the disks they sent were no good, please send them again–hey, it’s worth a shot.

      You might want to continue this on our tech forums, where other techs hang out.

  9. I work in a computer repair shop and got a HP DV5000 laptop today for a reload. Tapping F11 during POST didn’t bring up the Recovery screen. Booting into Windows, I didn’t find an HP Tools menu option or anything in System Tools etc. that would lead me to Recovery. I’m glad I wrote down the folloing command some time back.

    %HP_RECOVERY%\minint\system32\start.exe /run

    where %HP_RECOVERY% is the logical drive that contains the recovery partition. In my case it was D:

    From within Windows, click on Start, then click on Run…

    In the Run box, I typed

    d:\minint\system32\start.exe /run

    Viola! That started HP’s Recovery program and it is working as I type this. For the fix-it-yourselfers, this should fix you right up.

    If you don’t have the recovery partition anymore, you’re beyond simple help and you need a pro like me.

  10. We had to perform a destructive recovery on our hp pavilion a600n, after recovery the Microsoft software package (xcel, word etc) is no longer functioning. It keeps asking for the product key. The computer was preloaded with the software and there is sticker with the XP product code on the computer, but nothing for the Microsoft Office software. It is prompting me for a 60 day trial of office editions 2003, which I do have the key for. I want my regular version of this software back that I already own not a 60 day trial of something they want me to buy. Any suggestions?

    1. If the software was a trial and you later purchased it through the trial, you will probably have to contact Microsoft and give them your trial product key and they should be able to confirm you did purchase it and give you a new product key.

  11. We’re having issues with this too. We had to replace a hard drive and have recovery disks we purchased from HP (couldn’t find the ones we made anywhere). . . F11 is not bringing up the boot menu. Neither do any of the options that come up with the HP logo screen. I basically have a totally clean, wiped computer and the disks to restore it but I can’t get that to work. HELP!!

    1. If you have the disks, you should be able to boot directly to them to perform the restore. If you cannot, try and get into the BIOS and make sure the boot sequence is set for the CD Rom drive first.

  12. Hey Leslie
    I am a tech and have just joined the ‘not happy’ crowd. Thinking I could just buy an off the counter HDD and use the recovery disks was my downfall. I had to buy the same HDD from HP that was in it so I could use the recovery disks. But guess what?, yep the 320 GB HDD is no longer available, so they shipped me a fully installed 500GB HDD as replacement. So now I have bought the recovery disks and paid three times the amount for a HDD than what it is over the counter and the Recovery disks will NOT work on this drive. No probs there I will just create the disks from the HDD.
    This system of recovery is rediculous, time consuming and impractical! HP and other brand name computers are well made but what a load of tripe when something goes wrong or you need to upgrade. By the way when I installed the new HDD it came up with a ‘Code Purple’ which meant I had to take it to an authorised service centre to get info ‘written to the bios’ as there was a change in the hardware that could not be automatically recognised and used. Overall a very bad experience and one I will not encourage my clients to replicate in the future.


  13. I couldn’t get the recovery disks to load. I read your site and tryed the safe mode internet and downloaded malware. Thanks for the tip

  14. So, I have one for you. Did a complete restore due to computer not responding at all. Even after reboot. Did not make disks from computer, (bad me). Had to order disks from HP. I have a a1517x, with a build ID of 63NAemMPA3. When I received the disks, I looked at the build ID to confirm that I got the right CD’s. I was sent 63NAemMPA1. After 3 hours of chatting online with HP, they tell me there is no diffence between the build ID’s. So how I don’t believe this because I have spent about 30 hours on this computer and it still will not complete the setup. IT WILL restore, but when windows does come up, it goes to a blue “Please wait” screen that runs for a while, then hangs. Like all the rest of you waiting for the machine to load, I fell asleep. Still nothing in the morning. HP SUCKS. How can a CD cost anyway?

    1. You may have a problem with the hard drive. I’m not sure if there is a difference between the builds or not, but if they said it should work, then it should. You might want to join our forums so we can help more.

  15. Mark,
    You are a genius. I am a missionary working in the Philippines and there was no way I could order a recovery disk from HP in less than a month. Just like you said there was nothing in the menu and F 11 did not work. Your suggestion did work. Thanks so much

  16. I have an HP Pavillion dv6275us and my problem is a black screen at boot-up. Is there any where I can find a recovery disk that fixes the monitor display/video for this computer? The video will flash on but only on part of the screen.

    I thought it was the video card/drivers – am I mistaken?

    I REALLY need some help on this one, because the HP support person was not much help beside telling me to take it to a service location.


    1. Uma, please join our free forums. This might take a lot of back and forth to resolve and that is the best place to do it. There is a link at the tp of our page.

  17. I have my dv-3 with 320gb harddisk. The vista was pre-loaded on C: and the recovery is on D:.

    If I want to create additional partition to store the vista backup ( i’ll use Ghost to create a GHO files), what steps shall I perform by using those partition software eg. Partition Magic / Gnome Partition etc.?

    I am not sure if I should create a Primary drive or Extended drive.

    Is the C: and D: are both Primary when shipped? Shall I create an extended drive on C:? Can anyone pls advice me.

    I think the HP recovery program is not useful. I had tried to restore once and it takes 3-4 hrs to complete every installation. I’d rather ghost the C: in 20 mins and restore whenever requires.

    1. You should be able to do what you want with Partition magic. I would just make sure the recovery partition keeps the same drive letter D:. But I would really just by another hard drive if you’re looking for a place to store data. Hard drives are checaper than partition magic, these days.

  18. The hard drive on my HP Pavilion Notebook died and HP sent me a new one. I am using the recovery disk they sent to recover the system. It has been running for 4 hours and the system is telling me it is going to take 15 hours more. Is this reasonable? I recently performed a similar operation on a Lenovo PC and it took less than an hour.

  19. Have an HP 2005 Media Center PC. Computer got infected…tried a restore. Looked like all was well but then got the code purple. Found my Windows XP Pro disk which I thought was for that computer (it was not) It reformated my hard drive and now I have a computer that runs but no drivers for many things like… sound… and no preinstalled applications that I use. Looked for the right disk…apparently after some research I found out I was supposed to make a recovery disk…which I did not. At least I made regular backups on the removable hard drive and I can see all my data is there. Will ordering a recovery CD set from HP put my computer back the way it was originally with the right operating system, all the correct drivers, and all the preinstalled applications? Recovery CD’s are only 15-30 bucks so it seems worth a shot.

    1. Yes, the recovery disks should work. If you had Office installed, however, that might have come on a different disk. Do you have a recovery partition on the drive? Open My Computer and check. If that partition is still intact, you might be able to recover from there, too.

  20. I was trying to do a system recovery on my hp desktop when it asked for Disk #2 i couldnt find it. how can i get this disk ASAP or is there something else that I can do?

  21. Thanks Dave. I have Office on a separate Disk and I have the product key so no problems there…but the XP Pro I installed moved the HP recovery partition from Drive D to now a Drive I. I dont think I did that! I can see that there is 6.96 gigs used on that drive with .93 gigs available so I’m pretty sure thats the recovery. System Diagnostics says its HP recovery…but it looks as if I have no way to access it. F10 on start up does nothing…F11 goes to the BIOS as well as F1. I am confident that on reinstallation of the xp pro I only deleted the C partition…and then created a new one. It seems like I can get to system restore that will only let me go back to the day I installed XP..which was Monday. I would really like to access that I Drive but either no one can or I just lack the technical skills. I may just have to order the recovery set…which I know HP still has. As you wrote the recovery disks “should” work. Thoughts?

  22. I would like to re-install windows vista on my hp pavilion dv6 laptop.
    The recovery partition allows me to do so but also installs a lot of unnecessary programs.
    I have already downloaded every driver mentioned on the HP website related to my laptop.
    Is it possible to use a windows vista dvd so I can do a clean install and still get anything to work properly?
    If so, will this install still allow me to use my recovery partition in the future?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Yes, you can use a Vista DVD to do a clean install and yes you will be able to use the recovery partition as long as the new Vista install doesn’t overwrite it. You will see both partitions when you begin the install, just make sure you leave the second, smaller partition in tact.

      Once you reinstall the drivers, you should be fine.

      BUT, there is also a program call decrapifier that removes that extra junk. You might want to run that and see if you’re satisfied with the results before you go through the trouble of reinstalling Windows.

  23. Thanks a lot for your advice Dave!
    Will definitely give that decrapifier a try.
    Also good to know I could always do a clean install in case I’m not satisfied by the result.

  24. Hi dave, my uncle had a hp pavillion a320n and he burned some recovery cds with it. Well it crashed from a virus and stuffed it down in the basement. Well I am trying to recover it and am unsuccessful. I put in the first recovery cd and it brings me to an hp pc system recovery blue screen with 4 icons on the left side that say 1:selecting recovery options, 2: hard disk preparation, 3: copying files, 4: finalizing recovery. Well when it went to this screen it asks if I want to recover so I chose ‘yes’ well it asks for cd # 3 so I put in the 3rd cd and it goes to copying files icon on the left and has a file copy window showing progress. Well it got stuck on 5% and the it says this: ‘C:\Preload\Base_12.INP This file cannot be recovered’ and it gives the option of abort or retry. When I retry it pops up with the same message and when I do abort it asks that the recovery is incomplete and it gives the option to continue recovery or restart. Well I go to ‘no’ to continue recovery and it goes about %10 more and then the same error with the C:\Preload\Base_12.INP. It does it multiple times and it just wont recover. What can I do about this? I just want it to be running fresh with xp since he gave me the hp (he replaced it with an emachines).

    1. You may want to post on our forums…
      But it sounds like there is a problem with the CDs themselves. Does the machine have a recovery partition? Sometimes you can just use that by tapping F10 at boot. Otherwise, maybe try an alternative OS like Unbuntu. Does it still boot to the virus-riddled OS?

  25. I think the harddrive is completely formatted. I cannot get it to recover from the recovery cd’s either. Using f10 will bring me to the recovery screen as well, but it says something that the “recovery is still incomplete.” and it will go through that and ask for the cds. When it gets to that third disk it gives the error that C:\preload\base_12.inp is missing. It doesnt boot to anything. You start it up without anything and it says ntldr is missing.

  26. I recently did a clean install of windows 7. I was wondering if there was any way to access the programs on my hp recovery discs. I only want to install one of the programs that came with my system. I miss the days when computers used to ship with actual hard copies of their installed software.

    1. I don’t think so. This is one of the methods they use to make sure the program doesn’t get used on multiple machines. What program was it? Maybe we can find an alternative for free or cheap.

  27. I have a HP S7750uk desktop running vista. It has a recover partition on the harddrive (D). if i want to install windows 7, but leave the recovery partition intact, if i dont like windows 7 or have any driver issues. can i use the recovery partion to put it back to vista, with all driver intact.

    1. I don’t see why not, but I would also make sure you burn the recovery disks using the HP utility in your start menu, just to be safe. In your case, I would also upgrade and not do a clean install–just in case there is something on the primary partition the recovery partition looks at.

      With that said, Windows 7 is better than Vista, so I doubt you’ll be going back.

  28. Dave,

    My sister has a HP M7360n pc and it continauly reboots at the window splash screen. I had her turn off the automatic restart and she gets the following error.

    “STOP: c000021a (Fatal System Error)
    The Windows Logon Process System process terminated unexpectedly with a status of 0xc0000034 (0x0000000 0x00000000). The system has been shut down.”

    The c000021 error points to a domain logon according MS website but it does not show the 0xc0000034 part. She does not logon to a domain and she cannot reach the restore function. As usual she never made recovery disk so I’m wondering if you would have insight to getting it back up to at least save her data.

    1. Have you tried tapping F8 at the start of boot to see if you can get in through any of the other boot options, like Safe Mode.

      Also, you might want to check the BIOS startup options to make sure there is noting weird going on there. Make sure the hard drive is set to boot first.

  29. I’ve upgraded my HP laptop to windows 7. The recovery partition containing Vista is now worthless. Can I somehow get Windows 7 on that partition in order to recover to it if I ever have problems?

    1. I would keep the partition and keep the disk. If you did an upgrade instead of a clean install, you will not be able to get the pre-installed software (if there was any) unless you have that partition sitting there. I also do not know of a way to create a Windows 7 UPGRADE recovery option.

  30. I did a recovery on my PC using a disk that we made. Everything goes okay until I get to the end where is says Please Wait. No green light flickering on the computer. If I shut it off and turn it on it will give me the sessage that something has not been installed and tells me to start run again?

    1. Sounds like a driver issue. make sure all external devices or anything new inside the computer is removed before you begin the process. This is typically a USB problem, so unplug any printers, etc.

  31. Dave:

    Got the thing to go (da, me) but another problem occurred. No PCI modem anymore. I use DSL but I am connected by an ethernet cable to my computer. Can I just go with a external wireless card like my son?



    1. You could, but you can also fixe the wired connection. If you look in the control panel under System, then hardware, then device manager, you probably see unknown devices. One is your network adapter. You need to get the driver from a disk or use another PC to download it from the manufacturer’s website. You can even try deleting it from here and reboot. It might decide to load the driver on its own.

  32. My Hard Drive crashed and through warranty the shop put a new hard drive in. I was told to get the recovery CDs for my computer and that all I had to do was put them in and turn my computer on. I did that and it loaded the cd and reboot the computer. It came up and there was one icon on the desktop. I thought it was done. but then I noticed a little progress bar and it slowly went across reboot the computer and another icon was added to the desktop. After a couple of reboots I went to bed and it is now the morning and the computer is still rebooting over and over. It doesn’t look like it is adding more icons but I wonder how long is this going to continue?

    1. It certainly shouldn’t take that long. It should only take about an hour. I am shocked they didn’t do this for you. I would take the disk out and see if you get to the normal desktop. If you continue to have problems, make them send the tech back out.

  33. HP claimed to have identified the correct Recovery Discs for my Media Center m7470n and I paid for them. They did not even load. All I get is that “These PC recovery discs do NOT support this PC model… So I called HP tech support and they said I can either pay to ship the computer to them, plus pay for them to work on it and send it back, or SIGN UP for some kind of tech support that they will Bill Me for. Now, if they had a clue what they are doing, they would already be able to correct their mistake or at least explain it, support it, or offer a refund. They refused to do anything except try to force me to buy tech advice when they already demonstrated a complete lack of competence and comprehension already. I bought an HP computer with Media Center on it. I should be able to reinstall that OS as I have all the proof and documentation. HP wants me to forever avoid any further trust in them, their products and their personnel, and have made quite a convincing case for doing so.

Comments are closed.