To use “Reset this PC”, go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery in Windows 10, or Settings > System > Recovery in Windows 11. Reset this PC can be used to repair damaged Windows installations, remove pre-installed bloatware with Windows, or as a “nuclear option” to remove most malware.
Windows includes a “Reset your PC” option that quickly restores Windows to its factory default settings. It’s faster and more convenient than reinstalling Windows 10 or Windows 11 from scratch.
How restarting your PC works
When you use the “Reset this PC” feature in Windows, Windows is reset to its factory default state. If you bought a PC and it came with Windows 10 or Windows 11 installed, your PC will be in the same state that you received it. By default, all manufacturer-installed software and drivers that came with your PC will be reinstalled, though you can force it to install a clean version of Windows. If you installed Windows 10 or Windows 11 yourself, it will be a fresh Windows system without any additional software.
You can choose whether you want to keep your personal files or delete them. However, all installed programs and settings will be erased. This ensures that you have a fresh system. Any issues caused by third-party software, system file corruption, system configuration changes, or malware should be fixed by restarting your PC.
If your computer came with Windows pre-installed, you may also see a third option, “Restore factory settings.” This will restore the original version that came with your PC, so if your computer came with Windows 10 and you upgraded to Windows 11, it will reset to Windows 11.
This process is very similar to reinstalling Windows from scratch or using a manufacturer-provided recovery partition, but it’s more convenient.
Note: Windows 8 had separate “Refresh your PC” and “Reset your PC” options. Update kept all your personalization files and settings, but it set your PC settings to default and uninstalled your desktop apps. Resetting removed everything including your files, just like doing a complete reinstall of Windows from scratch.
Microsoft explained what’s really going on under the hood when it originally introduced this feature. When you restart your PC and remove everything:
- The PC boots into Windows RE, the Windows recovery environment
- Windows RE erases and formats Windows partitions before installing a fresh copy of Windows.
- The PC reboots into the new copy of Windows.
When you choose to keep your files, the same steps are performed. However, before erasing your Windows partition, Windows RE scans your hard drive for your personal files and settings. It sets them aside, installs a fresh copy of Windows, and puts them back where you found them.
Whether you choose to keep your personal files or not, this process involves a whole new Windows system. That is why your desktop programs get deleted.
How to reset your PC in Windows 10 and Windows 11
To reset your PC to its factory default settings in Windows 10, simply open the Settings app and head to Update & security > Recovery. Click or tap the “Get Started” button under “Reset this PC”.
To reset a Windows 11 PC, open the Settings app, then go to System > Recovery. The rest of the process is identical.
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You can choose to “Keep my files” or “Delete everything”. If you select “Keep my files”, Windows will reset Windows to its default state, removing installed apps and settings but keeping your personal files. If you select “Delete everything”, Windows will delete everything, including your personal files.
If you just want a new Windows system, select “Keep my files” to reset Windows without deleting your personal files. You should use the “Delete Everything” option when selling a computer or giving it to someone else, as this will erase your personal data and set the machine to its factory default state. Either way, it’s a good idea to have backup copies of your important files before using this feature.
Note: In Windows 8, the “Keep my files” option was called “Refresh your PC” and the “Remove everything” option was called “Reset your PC.” Windows 10 and Windows 11 keep things simple by calling this process “Reset your PC” and asking what you want to do with your files.
You must choose between downloading a new copy of Windows from Microsoft and reinstalling Windows from your PC assets. Whether you use cloud download or local reinstall depends on your needs. If you have fast internet with no data cap, you have nothing to lose by downloading from the cloud.
If you’re okay with a factory reset, simply click through the following pages until you reach the “Ready to reset this PC” page, then click “Reset.”
If you choose to delete everything instead of keeping your files, you’ll also have the option to “wipe” your drives. Whether or not you should spend the time on that depends on a few considerations:
- Is your boot drive a conventional hard disk drive (HDD) or some type of solid state drive (SSD)?
- Were you using Bitlocker or any other type of disk encryption?
- Are any of the drives you are erasing Hard Disk Drives (HDDS)?
- Are you planning to give away, sell or dispose of your computer?
If you are wiping conventional mechanical hard drives and you are going to sell or give away your computer, and you were not using any type of disk encryption, you absolutely should use the cleanup function. The wipe function will overwrite existing data on the drive so that it cannot be recovered. Without that special precaution, it is easy to recover “deleted” data from an HDD. That means whoever ends up with your computer could possibly recover pictures, videos, passwords, and other files if you’re not careful!
SSDs pose much less of a security risk than older HDDs because of TRIM – the files you delete are usually removed from the SSD immediately, or in the worst case, deleted via a scheduled trim.
If your drive was encrypted, you don’t need to worry as much about wiping the data, regardless of whether it was an SSD or HDD. Modern encryption schemes are pretty strong, and while files can be recovered, they will be unreadable. Breaking into them would require an encryption backdoor, a supercomputer, or several trillion years of spare time to brute-force the Bitlocker recovery key into an RTX 4090.
Note: There are other attacks besides a brute force approach, but the chances of someone working that hard to get your data are very low.
How to reset your PC from the boot menu
RELATED: Three ways to access the Windows 10 and 8 boot options menu
If your Windows PC doesn’t start properly, you can reset it from the boot options menu. We have covered several ways to access this menu. However, this menu will also appear automatically if Windows is unable to boot.
Select Troubleshoot > Reset this PC to reset your PC from the menu.
How to get a new Windows 10 or Windows 11 system without Bloatware
The “Reset this PC” option is convenient, but it has a big problem: If your PC manufacturer installed a lot of junk software you don’t want at the factory, resetting your PC can get all that junk back.
Fortunately, Windows 10 and Windows 11 include an easy way to ensure that you get a fresh Microsoft Windows system. Open the “Reset this PC” utility as you normally would, but carefully look for the page that has “Change settings,” then click “Change settings.”
RELATED: How to Easily Reinstall Windows 10 Without Bloatware
Make sure to click the switch under “Restore pre-installed apps” to the “No” position, then click confirm.
Then simply proceed with the reset as you normally would: it will either download a Windows image directly from Microsoft and install it on your system or rebuild a clean copy of your existing local files, giving you a fresh Microsoft system with none of it. factory software installed.
RELATED: Should you use cloud download or local reinstall on Windows?
The hardware drivers you need should be automatically downloaded from Windows Update after you’re done. If you need a hardware driver or utility that doesn’t install automatically from Windows Update, you can find it on your PC manufacturer’s download site. Usually, you’ll want to manually download drivers for your graphics card at least. If you have a dedicated sound card, or a fancy mouse or keyboard, you’ll probably want to manually download those drivers as well.
Windows 8 allowed you to create a custom update image. Every time you update or restart your PC, it will use your custom image instead of the default one. For example, you can uninstall the bloatware that came with your PC, install important software, or change system settings, and then create an update image with the current system state. However, this option is no longer present in Windows 10 or Windows 11, but the bloatware-free option is at least a nice consolation prize.