How to Wipe a Dell Laptop

Reset to factory settings and start from scratch on a Dell laptop

What to Know

  • Search for Reset this PC or go to Settings > Recovery > Reset this PC.
  • Factory Reset Windows from boot using Windows Recovery Environment > Troubleshoot > Reset this PC.
  • Open the Windows Recovery Environment from Settings > Recovery > Advanced startup > Restart now.

This article will show you the multiple methods to factory reset a Dell laptop, though these can be applied to all Windows computers. The instructions apply to Windows 11 and 10.

Reset the Dell Laptop From Windows Settings

Consider wiping a Dell laptop by resetting it when all other troubleshooting methods have failed. Here's how in Windows 11:

  1. Go to the Windows Start Menu and select Settings.

    Settings in Windows 11 Start menu
  2. Select Recovery.

    Recovery in Windows 11 System Settings
  3. Select Reset PC.

    Reset PC in Windows 11 Settings
  4. Choose Keep my files.

    Keep my files in Reset This PC for Windows 11
  5. Pick how you want to reinstall Windows. Choose Cloud Download or Local Reinstall.

    Cloud Download and Local Reinstall in Reset This PC in Windows 11

    Windows 10

    Although Windows 10 looks a little different, the steps for resetting your PC are basically the same.

  6. Select Start and type “reset” in the search bar.

  7. Select Reset this PC system setting from the search result. Alternatively, go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery.

    Reset this PC highlighted in Windows 10 Search Result
  8. Under Reset this PC, select the Get started button.

    Get Started button highlighted for Reset this PC
  9. The Reset this PC dialog will start the process of reinstalling Windows. You'll see two options. Select Remove everything to wipe the Dell laptop clean and reinstall Windows. This step is the nuclear option, as it removes your files, all custom settings, and any apps your PC manufacturer installed. Alternatively, select Keep my files to reinstall Windows and keep your files.

    Choose an option on Reset this PC dialog
  10. Next, Windows offers two choices on how to download the OS. Select Cloud download if you're connected to the internet. Cloud download is helpful if your local copy of Windows is corrupted. Select Local Reinstall to reinstall Windows from your device. This option makes for a faster install that doesn't require an internet connection.

    Reinstall Windows Choice Screen
  11. Next, the Additional settings screen appears to help you make more choices about your data. Select Change settings.

    Reset this PC Additional Settings with Change Settings highlighted

    By default, Reset this PC will remove your files but doesn't securely erase them. It also only deletes data from the drive where you have Windows installed.

  12. The Choose Settings screen appears. If you enable the switch for Clean data?, Windows will wipe everything on the drive securely and reduce the chances of data recovery. This process will take time but will make any sensitive data unrecoverable. It's not necessary if you don't plan to give away your laptop.

    Clean my data switch toggle highlighted in the Choose Settings screen
  13. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the reset process. The PC cleans data, and then Windows is reinstalled. It can take an hour or more for the process to finish, and your computer will restart a few times to complete the fresh installation.

If your Windows came with pre-installed Dell apps, then these manufacturer apps will be restored.  

Reset the Dell Laptop From the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE)

There are three different ways to activate the Windows Recovery Environment and use it to reset the PC.

  • Automatic: Windows displays the Windows Recovery Environment as a troubleshooting step after the third boot failure. 
  • Push-Button Reset: From the sign-in screen, press Shift and select the Power button > Restart on the lower-right corner of the screen.
  • Settings: Go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Advanced startup. Select the Restart now button.

Windows boots into the Windows Recovery Environment and prepares for further choices from you. 

  1. On the Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot.

    Troubleshoot highlighted in WinRE Screen
  2. Select Reset this PC.

    Reset This PC highlighted in Windows 10 troubleshooting
  3. Select between Keep my files or Remove everything.

    Windows Recovery Environment
  4. Windows will ask you to choose between a Cloud download or a Local reinstall. As before, a local install of Windows is faster and doesn't require an internet connection.

    Installation choice for Windows 10 in the Windows Recovery Environment

Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the reset process. This takes some time, and your computer will restart.

What Is a Factory Reset?

Wiping a Dell laptop is the final troubleshooting solution when things go wrong with Windows. It's also a recommended step when you want to give away your old laptop.

A factory reset restores a PC to the same state it was in when it rolled out of the manufacturer’s assembly line. Almost all electronic devices have this capability, and you can't undo it once you start. So, make sure to back up your files. A Windows factory reset will wipe your Dell laptop of all installed programs and files, so you don't want to lose data. 

Windows will work like new once all the updates are in place. There are two points to consider:

  • A factory reset alone won’t solve performance issues since problems in the hardware can make your new OS installation error-prone too. 
  • A factory reset will wipe data from the hard drive, but this data may still be recoverable to specialized data recovery software used by professionals.

How Do I Delete Everything Off My Dell Laptop?

The above methods help you keep your operating system intact while giving you the choice of a clean Windows installation. There may be situations, however, where you would want to delete Windows. Maybe, there is sensitive data on your Dell PC, and you want to make it unrecoverable before you sell the laptop or scrap it. Also, wiping the hard drive clean might be one of the options to remove ransomware from your compromised PC. 

You can wipe your hard drive with the help of native and third-party specialized tools. This extreme step will delete everything from your laptop and make it impossible for any file recovery program to reconstruct the data. The formatting methods do not depend on the make or model of the Windows laptop you own. 

Keep your Dell laptop connected to the power source through the entire reset and reinstallation process.

  • How would I wipe my Dell Laptop if I've forgotten my administrator password?

    For a Windows 10 or Windows 8 Dell laptop, you don't need an admin password to reset the device to factory settings. From the Start menu, access Reset This PC and follow the instructions.

  • How would I wipe a Dell laptop running Windows 7?

    To wipe and factory reset your Windows 7 Dell laptop, boot up the device and go to Control Panel > System and Security > System. Select System Protection > System Restore. Choose Recommended Restore to opt for the most recent restore point, then select Next > Finish. Select Yes to start the restore process.

Was this page helpful?