4 Ways to Factory Reset Your Windows 10 Computer

Ben Stegner Updated 05-11-2018

Factory resets can solve a number of Windows issues. If your computer is far slower than it once was, you’re dealing with malware that won’t go away, or plan to sell your machine, a factory reset is the most convenient solution.


Depending on your setup and installed version of Windows, you have a few different ways to factory reset a laptop or desktop. We’ll show you how to reset a Windows 10, 8, or 7 computer as easily as possible.

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First: Make Sure You Back Up!

Before you proceed with any of the below options, you should ensure you have a recent backup of your files. Performing a factory reset will wipe out all your installed programs and files, so you don’t want to leave anything behind. Check out our ultimate Windows 10 backup guide The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide We've summarized every backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More for all the methods you have for doing this.

1. The Built-In Reset Option on Windows 10

Factory resetting was once a fairly inconvenient process, but Microsoft introduced a much easier way to do so in Windows 8. It’s also included in Windows 10 and is the best way to factory reset a computer for most people.

To access it, head to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery. You’ll see a Reset this PC header; click the Get started button underneath this.

Windows 10 recovery options

Reset or Refresh?

You’ll have two options to choose from: Keep my files or Remove everything. The first option sets your options back to default and removes all your installed apps (like browsers, Microsoft Office, and games), but keeps your data. True to its name, Remove everything resets everything to factory defaults and removes your files.

Though the Keep my files option will retain your data, you should still back up before using it in case something goes wrong.

Keep my files or Remove everything

If you picked Remove everything, Windows will ask if you want to clean the drive or just remove your files. Choosing Remove files and clean the drive will securely erase the drive 4 Ways to Completely Delete Your HDD When selling an old computer, or HDD, or even if you're just looking to dispose of it, securely erasing everything on your hard drive is very important. But how do you do that? Read More so it’s harder to recover data from (this process takes some time). If you’re getting rid of your PC for any reason, you should choose this. Just remove my files is fine if you’re keeping your computer.

Otherwise, if you picked Keep my files, you’ll see a list of apps that the reset will remove. Windows will save this to your desktop after the reset finishes so you can remember what you need to reinstall.

Finally, confirm the operation by clicking Reset and wait for the process to complete. If you’re factory resetting a laptop, make sure you plug it in to avoid losing power during the operation. You’ll need to walk through the setup procedure once it’s done.

2. Use the “Fresh Start” Option in Windows 10

In the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft added a new option to factory reset your computer. It’s similar to the above but has a few small differences that make it worth a look.

On the Settings > Update & Security > Recovery page, click the link text Learn how to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows at the bottom. This will open a Windows Defender Security Center window to the Fresh Start option. Click Get started to proceed.

Windows Defender Fresh start

Compared to the above reset option, Fresh Start has the following differences:

To summarize, Fresh Start downloads a fresh copy of the most recent Windows 10 version, keeps your files and some settings, and doesn’t leave any bloatware aside from Store apps. In comparison, the standard reset option lets you choose whether to keep your files, doesn’t save any settings, and will reinstall Windows and apps based on your recovery partition.

Check out our guide to refreshing and resetting scenarios Should You Refresh, Reset, Restore, or Reinstall Windows? Ever wanted to reset Windows 7 without losing personal data? Between a factory reset and a reinstall, it was tough. Since Windows 8, we have two new options: Refresh and Reset. Which one is right... Read More if you’re not sure which option is best for you.

3. Reinstall Using Windows Installation Media

If you’re not using Windows 8 or 10, or don’t want to use the convenient methods above for some reason, you can always factory reset Windows using installation media. This allows you to install a fresh copy of Windows on your computer and wipe out everything currently on it.

For Windows 10, check out our guide to creating Windows 10 installation media, which is free and easy.

If you want to reinstall Windows 7 from scratch, you can use Microsoft’s Windows 7 download tool. This lets you download an ISO to burn onto a flash drive How to Create a Bootable USB Drive From Your Windows CD Can't use your optical drive to install the Windows operating system? Create a bootable USB drive from your Windows CD instead. Read More or DVD so you can reinstall Windows. You’ll need to provide a valid Windows 7 product key to do this.

Either way, simply insert the USB drive or disc containing your install media, then boot from the removable device How to Change the Boot Order on Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) Learn how to change the boot order of your computer. It's important for troubleshooting issues and tweaking settings, and it's a lot easier than you think. Read More . You’ll be greeted with the Windows setup screen, which you can proceed through to install a clean copy.

4. Advanced Factory Reset Options

While the three methods listed above will work for the majority of users, there are a few advanced ways to reset Windows if you’re interested.

One involves system images, which are complete snapshots of a system. If you’ve created a system image of your Windows installation in a clean state, you can restore it from the Advanced Startup menu. Access this at Settings > Update & Security > Recovery under the Advanced startup section.

Windows 10 advanced startup options

Otherwise, you may be able to boot into the BIOS and directly access the recovery partition on your hard drive, if your PC manufacturer included one. However, if you factory reset with this method, you’ll reinstall all the bloatware Why Not to Restore Your Computer to Factory Settings & What to Do Instead A factory reset restores the bloatware your system originally came with. It weighs down your system and you shouldn't have to put up with that. We show you how to avoid it. Read More , so it’s not ideal.

You can also type create a recovery drive into the Start menu to access a tool that lets you make your own. However, this requires a fair bit of space on the drive, and you’ll have to do it before you run into trouble.

Overall, if you’re using Windows 8 or 10, one of the built-in reset options is your best bet. Windows 7 users should download an image from Microsoft and perform a clean installation that way. We’ve also looked at specific ways to reset an HP laptop How to Factory Reset Your HP Laptop Wondering how to factory reset an HP laptop? Here are the methods to restore any HP computer to its default settings. Read More , if you have a computer from that manufacturer.

If things don’t appear to be working as expected, check out this list of things to check when System Restore isn’t working System Restore Not Working? 5 Fixes for Windows 7 and 10 System Restore saves your PC from disaster. But what if it System Restored failed you? We've got the fix. Read More .

Now You Know How to Factory Reset Your Computer

You’ve got several options for factory resetting a Windows computer. Whether you need to reset your laptop before you sell it or just want to refresh your PC for a performance boost, one of these methods will have you on your way relatively quickly.

Don’t forget to go through the vital steps after reinstalling Windows 10, too and hold onto this piece in case you have issues installing Windows Windows Won't Install Properly? 5 Tips to Solve All Common Issues Getting errors when you try to install Windows? Here are some common fixes and help for specific errors. Read More .

Explore more about: Computer Maintenance, System Restore, Windows Upgrade.

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