How to Factory Reset Windows 10

Resetting your computer can fix serious issues

What to know

  • Make sure to back up any important information before factory resetting Windows 10.
  • Go to: Windows Settings > Update and Security. In the Recovery section, select Get Started and follow the on-screen instructions.

This article will cover how to safely factory reset Windows 10 while making sure all of your most important information is protected.

Before You Reset Windows 10

Before you perform any kind of major factory reset or format of your PC, it's important to back up your most important information. There are some reset functions that save certain documents, and that can make restoring your data quicker, but it's not worth risking losing everything because you selected the wrong option, or didn't put your data in the right folder.

To make sure your most important information is safe, be sure to back up all of it to an external drive, or cloud storage service before you reset Windows 10.

How to Factory Reset a Computer in Windows 10

Factory resetting Windows 10 can take a while to complete, depending on the speed of your processor, memory, and storage drive, but the process of starting it is very quick and easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Open the Windows 10 Settings Menu by pressing Windows Key+I. Alternatively, search for Settings in the Windows 10 search bar and select the corresponding result.

    The Settings App in search on Windows 10.
  2. Select Update and Security at the bottom of the menu.

    The Update & Security preference pane in Settings on Windows 10.
  3. Select Recovery in the left-hand menu.

    The Recovery preference pane in Update & Security on Windows 10.
  4. Under the heading Reset this PC, select the Get Started button.

    The Get started button inside Recovery on Windows 10.
  5. You'll be presented with two options. The first, Keep my files, will only remove all installed programs and settings, but will maintain all personal files. If you have a lot of personal files and want them around after the reset, select this option. The second option, Remove Everything, will clear the drive completely before reinstalling Windows. Only select this option if you don't have anything on the drive you want
    saving, or are happy to restore it yourself after a clean install.

    If you are resetting the computer in order to recycle, sell, or giveaway your laptop or computer, it's important to select the second option, to make sure none of your personal data can be recovered by a third party.

    Options for resetting your PC on Windows 10.
  6. Select whether you want to use a local ISO of Windows 10 to reinstall the operating system, or whether you want to download it from the cloud.

    A cloud download will require an additional 4GB of storage space.

    Options for reinstalling Windows on Windows 10.
  7. If happy with your choice, select Next.

    Confirming your selection for resetting Windows on Windows 10.
  8. Review all of your choices so far, and if everything seems in order, select Reset to begin the factory reset.

    The final reset button in Windows 10.

    Your PC will then restart and start removing data and reinstalling Windows 10 from scratch. The entire process can take up to an hour, so be prepared to wait if your PC has a big, and particularly old, storage drive.

    Once it's finished, you'll be able to log back in to Windows where you'll find a single or group of HTML files on your desktop which will detail everything the factory reset process deleted. That may make it easier to remember what you need to reinstall yourself later.

    What Can a Factory Reset Fix?

    There are many ways you can reset windows to a previous state, from a system restore, to a clean format, but a factory reset is a useful option because it's faster and more hands-off than other methods.

    If your PC has pernicious bugs or errors which you can't seem to clear up, or you're dealing with a particularly nasty malware infection, a factory reset can be a great way to clean house and start from scratch.

    A factory reset is also a great way to speed up your computer again if it's become slow after many years of use. It's always worth giving it a go before deciding to upgrade, as you can save yourself a lot of money by rejuvenating your old system instead of immediately replacing it.

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