It's a good idea to factory reset your computer when you need to sell, give away, or throw it away, regardless of whether it's a Mac or a Windows PC. It doesn't matter if you use it every day for work or just to watch a movie. Your device is intended to contain all kinds of personal and sensitive information.
One of the best ways to clean your hard drive is to reset your Windows PC, and if you're using Windows 10, it's relatively easy to do. Just make sure to backup important documents, videos, game saves, images and other essential data.
If you need to factory reset your laptop or PC and restore it to its original default settings, this article walks you through the reset process and will work on any Windows 10 laptop, PC or tablet.
Here are some “Q&A” tips you should know before restoring your Windows 10 operating system. You can also go straight to the restore process if you wish, but do so at your own risk.
What's the difference between a Windows 10 reset and a fresh start?
A Windows 10 recovery is designed to reinstall the Windows operating system in its original OEM state at the time of purchase. Therefore, all PRE-INSTALLED third-party applications and licenses provided with the device will be reinstalled.
A fresh start of Windows 10 is similar to a reset, except it does NOT preserve OEM and pre-installed third-party software and licenses - reinstall Windows 10 from scratch.
Note: Windows version 2004 (not a year old) and later have merged the “Fresh Start” option into the “Reset my PC” option.
Is it good practice to reset Windows 10?
Yes, it's a good idea to reset Windows 10 if possible, preferably every six months whenever possible. Most users only resort to a Windows reset if they have problems with their PC.
However, tons of data is stored over time, some with your intervention but most without it.
The most commonly collected data includes operating system activities and personal information. Actions like browsing history, social likes, social sharing, news views, search history, viewed videos, automatic document saves, temporary backup files, PDF view history, and other are stored in the system and used for specific purposes.
Data can accumulate rather quickly and keep spinning and slowing down the more you use your PC. If left unattended, data can be obtained from malware, spyware, and other means. Resetting your PC (as you might your Android smartphone) ensures optimal performance and stability on an ongoing basis.
Does a Windows 10 reset save documents, music, pictures and contacts?
Yes, Windows 10 retains personal folders such as Documents, Videos and Contacts while performing a Windows 10 reset. However, you MUST specify that you want to save your personal data when prompted. If not, the reset will erase everything except the OEM / pre-installed software and start from scratch.
Does Windows 10 reset keep game data?
Typically, a Windows 10 reset does NOT save game data or games. The process is meant to provide a clean Windows OS, but offers an option to save some data, such as documents, images, etc. Games installed independently or installed by third parties will not be backed up.
If you have games from the Microsoft Store, the save data may be recovered when you reinstall them, but this depends on the game's features and options. Microsoft does not personally manage game saves in the Microsoft Store.
It is always best to back up all important game data before restoring your PC and this will require unique research and methods based on the game saves and settings you need to preserve.
Does a Windows 10 restore save custom drivers?
No, a Windows 10 restore doesn't keep any drivers. The operating system reinstalls the default drivers or the ones that Microsoft has in its database, so you will need to reinstall the third-party or custom drivers.
Does restoring my PC in Windows 10 require updates again?
Yes, a Windows 10 reset doesn't preserve updates, so you'll need to reinstall them. However, the latest featured update includes all previous updates so it's not that bad.
Now that the essential FAQs have been eliminated, here's the information you've been waiting to see!
Using the Reset your PC option in Windows 10
It is important to note that the reset option may use the original OEM license if you have upgraded your version of Windows 10, for example from Home to Pro. If this scenario applies to you, try changing the license in the Settings menu.
If that process doesn't work (most likely it won't), you will need to perform a clean install / update using the latest license and software. Here are the steps to reset your Windows 10 device.
- Start by clicking Settings icon in Start menu.
- Then, select Update and security. Alternatively, type "Reset " without quotes in the Cortana's search box.
- From the menu Update and security, select Restoration from the menu on the left side of the screen.
- This option will bring up a new page with additional options: Reset this PC , Go back to the previous version of Windows 10 e Advanced startup. To reset your PC, we recommend that you select the first option.
- You will now have two options: (1) Keep my files(2) Remove everything . The first choice will keep your personal files and is suitable for generally updating settings and removing installed apps. The second choice will also be everything.
- If you decide to use the Keep my files , you will be presented with a list of apps that will be deleted and asked to confirm the reset. If you choose to remove everything, go to the next step.
- If you select Remove everything , the other option involves further questions. You will be asked to confirm the deletion of personal data and whether you want to delete all data on the operating system drive or on all drives.
- For Windows with May 2020 Update or later , you will have two options to reinstall Windows 10: (1) Download cloud (2) Local reinstallation . The cloud option reinstalls Windows 10 with the latest version. The local option uses existing installation data from the device.
- Finally, you will be given an analysis of what will happen to your laptop if you reset it to factory settings. If you are satisfied, click Restore and the process will begin.
When the restore is complete, you will see one or more HTML files on your desktop, listing all the deleted applications, so you can decide what to reinstall from scratch.
Also, Windows 10 stores all old data in the folder windows.old, so you always have the option to extract from as well. Just remember that most applications won't have license information in Windows Explorer, but you can still search for important data.
Depending on your choices and the speed of your system, the reset will take up to an hour. You will know that the process is finished when you are prompted for the license agreement.
If you're not ready to reset yet, but will be in the future, you can set Windows 10 to back up your files and automatically keep them updated, between now and when you want to factory reset your laptop.
However, the backup option is not for licenses and programs; is for personally saved data. Some third-party backup programs offer an independent file selection that allows you to restore installed programs (and in some cases licenses).