How to factory reset Windows 10

Clean up before selling your computer

How to factory reset Windows 10
Image Credit: TechRadar

There are plenty of reasons to factory reset your Windows 10 computer. The top one is perhaps the desire to wipe all the information off your machine, which you can then recycle or sell.

You may also want to factory reset your computer to clean it up for future use. While this does help get it back to running like new, Microsoft has some simpler options built into Windows 10 that can efficiently reset the machine while also allowing you to keep your files.

We’re here to guide you through the process of removing everything for a complete Windows 10 factory reset. But, if you'd like to keep your files, at any step that says to "Remove everything," you can instead select the option to keep your files.

Performing a factory reset from within Windows 10

To get started, log into your Windows machine and access the Windows Recovery tool. If your computer is not functioning properly or you've lost access to your account, we'll have alternate steps for you further in.

If you're ready to access the tool through Windows, here's what you need to do.

windows 10 factory reset

Image Credit: TechRadar

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Step one: Open the Recovery tool.
You can reach the tool a few different ways. The quickest is to open the Windows search bar by pressing the Windows Key, typing "Reset" and selecting the "Reset this PC" option.

You can also reach it by pressing Windows Key + X and selecting Settings from the pop-up menu. From there, choose Update & Security in the new window and finally select Recovery on the left navigation bar.

How to factory reset Windows 10

Image Credit: TechRadar

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Step two: Start the factory reset.
It's really this easy. From the Recovery tool, find the section with the heading "Reset this PC." It will be the very first one. Underneath it, you'll see a button that says "Get started."

Click on "Get started," and a new window will pop up that will prompt you to choose whether to "Keep my files" or "Remove everything." For a proper factory reset, choose "Remove everything." If you just want to refresh your machine, keep your files and continue using it yourself, choose “Keep my files.”

(Note: Make sure your computer is charging, as Windows 10 may not allow a reset for a device that isn't plugged in.)

Once you select the option you want, Windows will prepare the reset.

If you chose to remove everything, Windows will prompt you one more time. You'll have the option to simply remove everything using the "Just remove my files" option, or your can have Windows also wipe the drive by choosing the "Remove files and clean drive." The latter option is more secure, as it reduces the chances of someone recovering the data from your computer. Definitely choose this option if you're selling or recycling your computer

(Note: If your computer has multiple drives, Windows may ask whether you want to erase them as well, or whether you want to erase only the drive where Windows is installed.)

Performing a factory reset without logging in

If you can't log into Windows 10, don’t worry. We have an alternate route for you to factory reset your machine. The result will be the same as the above method, but the way to get there will be slightly different.

windows 10 factory reset

Image Credit: Microsoft

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Step one: Access the Advanced startup tool.
You have two ways to access the the Advanced startup tool.

If your computer starts up and you can reach the Windows log-in screen, do this: press the on-screen power button, and while holding the Shift key, press the restart button. Your computer will reboot into the Advanced startup tool.

If your computer won't boot into Windows properly, you can reach the Advanced startup tool by power-cycling your computer. This is done by powering up the computer then holding the power button to shut it down before it fully boots. Perform this process three times. On the next startup, your computer should boot into the Advanced startup tool.

Step two: Go to the reset tool.
To get to the tool, you need to perform a factory reset by choosing Troubeshoot > Reset this PC in the Advanced startup tool.

Step three: Start the factory resets.
To begin the reset, select "Remove everything." (Or select "Keep my files," if you prefer.)

You'll have the option to "just remove my files" or "remove files and clean drive." Again, the latter will be the more secure option, if you don't plan to keep your computer. It will write over any of the data on the drive, making it harder for someone to recover any of your old data.

(Note: If your computer has multiple drives, Windows may ask whether you want to erase them as well, or whether you want to erase only the drive where Windows is installed.)