How to factory reset your Windows computer in 4 ways

Factory reset is the core solution to many Windows problems. If your computer is much slower than before, you have a malware infection that you can’t remove, or plan to sell your machine, resetting is the most convenient option.

Depending on your setup and the version of Windows you have installed, you have several different ways to factory reset your Windows laptop or desktop. We will show you how to reset your Windows 11, 10, 8, or 7 PC as easily as possible.

Before resetting Windows, make sure you make a backup!

Before we look into how to factory reset Windows, you should make sure that you have a recent data backup. Performing a factory reset erases all of your installed programs and, in some cases, your files.

Make sure you know what to back up from your PC, and once you have a secure copy of everything, you can start reinstalling Windows.

1. How to do a factory reset of Windows 10 or Windows 11 using the built-in method

Factory resetting Windows used to be an inconvenient process, but Microsoft introduced an easier method in Windows 8. This is also included in Windows 10 and Windows 11, and in most cases is the best way to factory reset Windows computers.

To access this Windows reinstall option on Windows 10, go to Settings > Updates and Security > Recovery. You will see a title for resetting this PC; Click the “Start” button below to get started.


If you’re using Windows 11, go into settings > system > recovery. Click “Reset PC” next to “Reset this PC” and you’re good to go. The steps from here are the same for Windows 11 and Windows 10.


Keep your files or delete all of them?

When you factory reset Windows 10 or 11 in this way, you’ll have two initial options to choose from. Keep my files or delete everything.

Select Keep my files to set your operating system options to defaults and remove all installed applications (such as browsers, Microsoft Office, and games), but keep your files (such as documents and music).

As the name suggests, “Delete Everything” is a complete factory reset: it restores all options to factory defaults and deletes your files and apps. After that, Windows will be like on a brand new PC.

Although the Keep My Files option will keep your personal data, you should still back it up before using it to prevent errors.


Cloud download with local reinstallation

On modern versions of Windows 10, and Windows 11, you’ll have to choose how to reinstall Windows. There are two ways. Cloud download or local reinstallation.

Local reinstall uses files on your current system to build a new copy of Windows. While it makes it unnecessary for you to download any files from the internet, it won’t work either if your Windows installation gets broken.

With Cloud Download, the process will instead be downloaded via the Internet from Microsoft for a new copy of Windows. This will reinstall the version of Windows 10 or 11 you’re currently running (plus any minor updates), so it won’t upgrade you to a newer feature update.

Downloading Windows requires several gigabytes of data, so if your connection is limited, be careful. However, if you have a fast network connection, this option may be faster than reinstalling locally.


Option to reset Windows 10 and 11

Next, you’ll see a “Extra Settings” menu with a “Current Settings” section with a summary of what you’ve selected so far. There is also a “Change Settings” link that you can click on to get more options.

If you previously chose to keep my files, you’ll have two options under Change settings. One is the redundant “Download Windows” option for cloud or local reinstallation.

Another appears in the latest versions of Windows 11 and Windows 10: Restore Pre-installed Apps? Turn it off and your factory reset won’t include any apps that appear with your initial setup. Disabling it is a good way to avoid bloated Windows software provided by hardware manufacturers.

When you select Delete Everything, there are other options. Enabling “Clear Data” erases everything on the drive to reduce the chances of someone recovering later. Although this process will take some time, if you want to get rid of your computer, you should use it. If you want to keep your machine, there is no need.


Open Remove files from all drives to remove everything on all the drives that you connected to your computer. This includes external hard drives and recovery drives. Because you may have backups and other important files on these drives, you should not use this unless you want to permanently delete everything related to your computer.

Confirm the Windows factory reset operation

When you are satisfied with the above options, click Confirm. The last screen before starting the factory reset is called Ready to reset this PC.

You’ll see a list of actions that the process will perform. If you want to double-check which apps will be affected by this process, click To see which apps will be removed.

Finally, confirm the action by tapping Reset and wait for the process to complete. If you’re doing a factory reset of your laptop, make sure you plug it in to avoid losing power during operation. Once done, you will need to go through the Windows Setup program again.

If you stick with the Windows 10 operating system, make sure you take the recommended steps after reinstalling.

2. Manually reinstall Windows using Windows installation media

If you are not using Windows 10 or 11, want to factory reset Windows 10 or 11 without a settings menu, or for some reason do not want to use the other methods above, you can always factory reset Windows using the installation media. This allows you to install a brand new copy of Windows on your COMPUTER and erase everything on your current PC.

Windows 11 users should follow our guide to create a Windows 11 bootable drive from which you can then install a new copy of Windows.

For Windows 10, see How to install Windows 10 from a bootable USB drive. This will walk you through the process of loading the Windows 10 installer on a USB flash drive, booting from it, and erasing your current installation with a new copy. It’s free, and it’s easy, as long as you have a spare USB drive.


If you want to reinstall Windows 8.1 from scratch, you can use Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 download tool. This lets you download an ISO to burn onto a flash drive or DVD so you can reinstall Windows. Simply insert the USB drive or disc containing your install media, then boot from the removable device. You’ll be greeted with the Windows setup screen, which you can proceed through to install a clean copy. Remember that doing this will remove everything currently on the drive where you install Windows.

Since Windows 7 has been out of support for years, Microsoft no longer offers the official Windows 7 download. We recommend that you upgrade to a modern version of Windows; Don’t download Windows 7 from a random website as it may contain malware.

Note that the method #1 above allows you to reinstall Windows in an efficient way without having to manually create a USB installer, so they are more convenient.

3. Factory reset Windows 10 or 11 from the power-on state using advanced methods

While the methods listed above will work for most users, there are some advanced methods to reset Windows if you need to.

To run a Windows factory reset at startup (for example if you can’t get into Windows properly), you can initiate a factory reset from the advanced boot menu.

If Windows is working properly, to launch this menu on Windows 10, access settings > Updates and Security > Recovery. Under the Advanced Startup section, click Restart Now to restart to Advanced Startup. On Windows 11, access the settings > system > recovery, then tap Restart Now next to Advanced Startup.

Alternatively, you can open the Start menu, expand the power menu there, and then hold down the Shift key while you hit the restart button. If you can’t do both, you can try pressing F11 at startup, which will turn on advanced boot on some systems. If this is not possible, Windows will start the advanced boot on its own after three failed boots.

Once “Advanced Startup” is turned on, select “Troubleshoot” and then “Reset this PC” to complete the factory reset procedure that is almost identical to article 1 above. You can choose the advanced options to get more options, but none of them will let you factory reset Windows 10 or 11 unless you have a saved system image.


Otherwise, you may be able to boot into the BIOS and directly load 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 manufacturer bloatware. While it’s not ideal, it can work if you have no other options.

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, and you’ll have to do it before you have a problem. If you didn’t already make one, you’re best off making a new Windows install disk, as described in #2.

4. Factory Reset Windows 10 Using the “Fresh Start” Option (Old Versions)

If you’re on an old version of Windows 10, Microsoft offers a different way to factory reset your computer, called Fresh Start. Starting with Windows 10 version 2004, this option was replaced by the process described above, so use that if you’re on a modern version.

To access Fresh Start, on the Settings > Update & Security > Recovery page, click the Learn how to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows link at the bottom. This will open the Windows Security app, showing the Fresh start option. Click Get started to proceed.

Note that if you’re on at least Windows 10 version 2004, clicking this link text will open Microsoft’s Fresh Start page in your browser instead.


Here’s how Fresh Start works:

Fresh Start always keeps your personal files, with no option to remove everything and do a full factory reset.

Fresh Start downloads the latest version of Windows 10 from Microsoft, with no option to reinstall from local files.

Because of this, Fresh Start avoids clutter by removing all non-standard Windows apps, including manufacturer bloatware. The only exceptions are Microsoft Store apps that were installed by the manufacturer, which stay.

Finally, Fresh Start keeps “some Windows settings,” but doesn’t specify which ones. The above reset process does not keep any of your settings.

All in all, “Brand New Launch” downloads a new copy of the latest Version of Windows 10, keeps your files and some settings, and doesn’t leave any manufacturer’s bloated software except for the Store app. In contrast, the standard reset option lets you choose whether to keep your files, not save any settings, install the same version of Windows, and lets you choose how to reinstall the operating system.

Keep in mind that after reinstalling in this way, you may need to enter the license key for the premium application again and may need to update the system driver.

By now you should know how to factory reset your Windows PC

You have several options to factory reset your Windows PC. If you’re using Windows 10 or 11, the built-in factory reset option is quick and easy. If you wish, all modern Windows users can download a mirror from Microsoft and clean the installation in this way.

Whether you need to reset it completely before selling your notebook or just want to refresh your PC to boost performance, one of these methods will let you reset Windows as quickly as possible.