How to remove the Factory Settings Restored warning on pinball machines

When your Williams / Bally pinball machine shows 'Factory settings restored' on its display when you turn the machine on, you have a problem. You are probably aware of that fact as you cannot just start a game. Please don't just open the coin door, fiddle around with the self-test buttons and start a game.. and next time you switch on the machine, do the same procedure, over and over.

Adjustment failure pinball error
Williams System 11 games show 'Adjustment Failure' (or 'ADJUST FAILURE' on games with smaller displays), WPC games warn for empty batteries with 'Factory Settings Restored'.

What the machine is trying to tell you is that its batteries are dead and the game has lost its memory.
All electronic pinball machines have batteries in them. These batteries are used to keep track of high scores, audits like number of games started and coins dropped, settings like date and time, if the game is on free play, what difficulty and number of balls are set, and much more.
Most of these settings will not matter in home use (except for free play, number of balls and your personal high scores), most audits matter only when the game is being used commercially. In home use the error may not seem severe enough to stop you from going around it every time when you switch the machine on, and not act on it, by either calling a repair person or investigate the problem yourself.
I've seen a many people go through the menu settings each time to clear the factory settings restored error and put some credits on the machine. You quickly get used to bad habits.

The 'factory settings restored' message is serious and may not be ignored !
Old batteries will go empty and start to leak over time. It is not a matter of 'if', but 'when'. Leaked batteries will damage the (expensive) cpu board they are mounted on and in time your pinball machine will not work anymore.
The first months after you see this error message come up when you switch the machine on, it is annoying but you can get around it. You are still able to play your pinball machine by going into the settings menu each time.

But the leakage spill will corrode the battery holder, and then get onto the cpu board itself. At first it may just look bad, but after a while components will actually get damaged.
Ignore the error and one day your pinball machine will not start at all anymore. Wait long enough and the cpu board may even be damaged beyond repair ! And if a replacement cpu board for your game exists (which does not exist for expensive WPC-95 pinball machines such as Cirqus Voltaire, Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness), it will cost a lot (up to $300). This damage and associated expensive repair costs could have been easily prevented !

If you're lucky the batteries will go empty fast and the game will warn you with the 'factory settings restored' error.
If you're unlucky, the batteries will leak but remain enough of a charge so the game still boots.
The damage will become bigger before you notice what's going on. On WPC games the ICs that are located under the batteries deal with the switch matrix input, so damage will most of the time first occur there. Switches that don't work register anymore during gameplay, or the test-buttons inside the coin door that suddenly don't do anything anymore, can also be caused by batteries damage.

Leaking batteries become a worse problem nowadays as WPC pinball machines become older. When I got into this hobby over 10 years ago, leaked batteries happened sometimes but were rare. When you went to inspect a pinball machine to buy, condition of the batteries was something on your list to check for, but rarely it was an issue.
Nowadays the youngest WPC95 pinball machines are 12 years old. The most popular Williams/Bally games with the largest production runs (like Funhouse, Addams Family and Twilight Zone) average between 15 and 20 years ! Ten thousands of these pinball machines around the world still have their original batteries installed. By now these are empty and start to leak (or have leaked already for a few years).

Leaked batteries became a serious problem the last years. Many pinball repair persons often encounter them when doing home repairs. Some repair persons told me they find leaked batteries on half of the repairs they do on Bally / Williams games.

Check batteries

So how can you prevent leaked batteries and their damage ?
At least check the batteries in all your pinball machines often. Among pinball owners the common rule is to check and replace batteries at least once a year. Some people have a fixed date for it, like New Year, or their own birthday. That way they remember and not miss a year.
Don't think you are safe for a year when you have just replaced the batteries. Check them again a few weeks later. Sometimes new batteries have a defect and start to leak fast - after about a month you may see they have leaked onto the battery holder (but not yet on the board itself). And whilst they already leak, they may still hold enough power so you don't get the factory settings restored error. By the time you get this error and inspect the batteries, it may be too late and the cpu board is damaged after all.. So check yearly, and inspect them again a few weeks after replacing.

WPC Bakcbox open
Backbox of a WPC game (Twilight Zone).
Open the backbox, and check the board at the bottom left. This board has 3 AA batteries on it. When these batteries leak, the parts underneath it will get damaged.

WPC leadked battery
Battery damage on a WPC CPU (Popeye).
Notice all the green corrosion on the parts underneath the place where the batteries were.

Solve the Factory setting restored warning message

Getting rid of the 'Factory settings restored' warning is not difficult - if there is no battery damage. It's a warning that the batteries are empty. Just replace the batteries with new ones (and make sure the battery holder is not damaged) so the cpu will not lose its settings when you turn the game off.
Once you've done this, you do have to go into the menu and change some settings (see next paragraph).

If your pinball game has battery damage, replacing the batteries will not be enough. The damage needs to be repaired.

Time and date not set warning message

Just replacing the three AA batteries is not enough to clear all error messages on a WPC pinball machine.
The next error you will see when you switch the machine on with a fresh set of batteries, will be 'Time and date not set'. To clear this error, go into the menu to 'U. Utilities', enter it and scroll through until you have menu option 'set time and date'. Select this option and set the time and date. Also go to the adjustments (A. Adjustments) and make the settings you prefer (such as free play, number of bals,..).

WPC buttons to enter menu
These four buttons on the inside of the coin door are used on WPC pinball machines to enter the menu and change settings.

To clear the error on System 11 games: replace batteries and switch the game on.
Press the center button down. Now push the right black button three times. You should see something like AD and a high number (usually around 70 or more). Press the center red button so it's in the up position. Now press the right black button again and the game should go past its highest adjustment number and go into attract mode.

When the setup switches don't work

On WPC and WPC95 games, the buttons inside the coindoor are connected to the bottom of the cpu board. The electronic components that get the input from these buttons are on the MPU board underneath the batteries.
When these buttons don't work, it's often an indication that the batteries have leaked and damaged this circuit.

Remote battery holder installation

If you really want to be safe and prevent damage, then install a remote battery holder. This will get those AA batteries off the cpu board.
Should the batteries start to leak, you don't have damage on an expensive cpu board but only on a cheap battery holder that you can replace easily. It's an obvious choice: do you want damage to occur on a $300 board or a $10 battery holder ?

remote battery holder
Remote battery holder.
You can make these yourself if you can solder - connect wires to wooden plugs that you install in place of the original batteries.
Every pinball owner should have remote battery holders installed in all their machines. They are cheap insurance to prevent an expensive cpu board repair. After installing these, I even don't replace batteries every year. I just check them and measure with my dmm how much juice they still have. Most batteries now are only replaced after 5 years.

An alternative for a remote battery holder is to install NVRAM. These are new chips that do not require a battery to store the settings. On some machines the ram chips are in sockets and can easily be replaced by NVRAM chips, on other machines they are soldered in place and not easy to replace if you don't have soldering experience.

Repair battery damage

Don't panic when you have discovered leaked batteries. Most of the time it is possible to fix the damage (maybe you can even do it yourself, or have it checked and repaired by a qualified pinball repair person). But it is important not to ignore the problem and act as fast as possible.

The problem with leaked battery damage is that it has to be neutralised completely. Just removing the source (the bad batteries) is not enough to solve it. The existing spill will continue to do it's damaging work until it is completely neutralised.

Luckily now replacement CPU boards are available, so battery damage doesn't mean the end of your game. Many years ago games were destroyed and sometimes could not be repaired (economically - a new board could cost more then the game was worth). Nowadays games don't have to be parted out, although new cpu boards can be a few 100 euro, depending on the type..

More information:
Check this article on how to open the backbox of a pinball machine in case you do not how to do this.
Read here how to identify and repair leaked battery damage.