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How to factory reset on Windows 10

Restoring a Windows computer back to its factory settings is a great way to tackle speed and performance issues that have built up on the system over time. If you find your PC is working slower than expected, it may be time to consider a factory reset. Read on to learn how to take a Windows 10 system back to its original factory settings.

What does a factory reset do?

A factory reset - also referred to as a Windows system restore - returns your computer to the same state it was in when it rolled off the assembly line. It will remove files and programs you’ve created and installed, delete drivers and return settings to their defaults. 

There are many reasons why you might want to restore factory settings on your Windows 10 PC. Over time, programs and files you no longer need to build upon your computer, taking up space on your drive and utilizing processing power. Resetting Windows gives you a fresh start without any extra programs or files, reclaiming drive space and improving the performance of your computer. 

A system restore will also get rid of malware on your computer, as well as making it safe to be sold or given away. All of your files and programs will be deleted, so you won’t risk accidentally giving away any personal or private information. 

In the past, the only way to get a fresh Windows installation on your computer was to re-install Windows from an installation medium such as a CD. In Windows 10, Microsoft has built a reset option into the operating system, allowing you to get a new Windows installation with just a few clicks.

First, backup your disc drive

It’s important to regularly backup your computer so you don’t lose any important files, and especially important before you restore a computer to factory settings. Resetting your computer will remove all your files and programs, so a backup is essential if you don’t want your files to be deleted. 

If you just want to easily keep a hold of your photos, documents, and other files, you might consider using a cloud-based backup service like Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive. You can set up these services to backup your folders automatically, and they will also allow you to access your files on the go from any device with an internet connection. All of them have free plans that give you a couple of GB (gigabytes) of free storage, with paid upgrades giving you up to TM (terabytes) of backup space. 

If you want to backup your entire drive, you can do it easily in Windows 10 with the system image feature. All you need is a place to save your backup - the safest place is an external drive or network location, which you should keep in a secure location away from your PC. If you do happen to delete something by accident during this process, file recovery tools like Recuva may also help.

  1. Open the Windows start menu by pressing the Windows key on your keyboard (normally between CTRL and ALT), or by pressing the Windows icon on your taskbar (usually in the bottom left of your screen).

  2. Type in ‘Control panel’ and open the search result that pops up.

  3. Click on ‘System and Security’.

  1. Click on ‘Back up and Restore (Windows 7)’. (Don’t mind it saying Windows 7 here - Microsoft planned to replace this feature with the File History system in Windows 10 but ended up with both).

  1. Click on ‘Create a system image’ in the left pane.

 

  1. Under ‘Where do you want to save the backup,’ choose your backup destination.

  1. Click ‘Start Backup’.

Once you have created a backup, you can restore your computer to the same state it was in when you made it. This means you can upload and access your files after something has gone wrong with your computer or if you lose important files when resetting it.

  1. Click the Settings icon in the Windows start menu.

  1. Click ‘Update & security’. 

  2. Click ‘Recovery’ in the left pane.

  3. Under ‘Advanced startup,’ click ‘Restart Now’.

  1. Your computer will reboot to an ‘Advanced options’ screen. Click ‘System Image Recovery’ and follow the instructions to recover your system from the backup you created using Windows system restore. 

How to factory reset Windows 10

This section offers a step-by-step guide for how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings:

  1. Click the Settings icon in the Windows start menu.

  1. Click ‘Update & security’.

  2. Click ‘Recovery’ in the left pane.

  3. Under ‘More recovery options’, click ‘Learn how to start afresh with a clean installation of Windows’. 

  1. Click ‘Yes’ to the prompt. This will open Windows Defender Security Centre.

  2. Under ‘Fresh start,’ click ‘Get started’. 

  3. Here you can either choose to keep your files by clicking ‘Keep my files’ or to do a full factory reset by clicking ‘Remove everything’.  

  1. If you chose ‘Remove everything,’ you will get a screen asking whether you want to clean your drive. If you just want to clear up your PC quickly you can click ‘Just remove my files,’ otherwise click ‘Remove files and clean the drive’ as it will ensure that everything from the drive is gone and returned to factory conditions. This is especially important if you are selling your PC or you think it might be infected by malware. 

  1. If you get a warning about Windows not being able to roll back to previous versions, just click ‘Next’. 

  2. Under ‘Ready to reset this PC,’ click ‘Reset’. 

  3. Under ‘Choose an option’, click ‘Continue’. 

If you chose to clean your drive, the reset process can take a considerable amount of time. You might want to start it in the evening and leave it running overnight. 

Once your computer has been restored to factory settings, you can start reinstalling all your favorite programs and moving back files from your backup. 

It’s a good idea to reset your computer to factory settings every couple of years, but there are a lot of things you can do to maintain it in good shape after you have reset it. Programs like CCleaner can clear up space from temporary files and disable startup programs that are slowing down your computer, helping to keep everything in good working order.

 We hope that helps! If you have any comments, please tweet us. We're @Piriform.

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