How to factory reset Windows 10

If your Windows 10 system isn't playing ball, you can reset it back to its factory conditions

Windows 10 has been a fixture across organisations for years and is widely considered to be one of the most stable releases of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. However, in recent years its reputation has been shaken by a number of botched upgrades and faulty updates.

You might find that your operating system starts to get a little slow after many months or years of use, which usually means it performs everyday tasks and functions at a slower pace. If your device is cluttered with files or unused pieces of software, this will be especially true. Reliability and performance fall over time the more your machine is saturated until you arrive at a stage where you feel the need for a huge spring clean. If you choose to do this, you’ll need to make sure you don’t affect important files and folders during the process.

Thankfully, Windows 10 provides the option of resetting your machine back to its factory settings without deleting any important application or files. If you choose to do this, it will likely enhance your device’s performance and means it’s probable it will no longer present major obstacles to your everyday usage. Carrying out a reset not only means that issues with software and hardware drivers might be fixed, but also your computer will run smoother. You might be able to give your machine a new lease of life by restoring factory settings, providing you with an alternative to replacing it with a completely different PC.

How to perform a factory reset on Windows 10

It is a fairly straightforward process to reset your Windows 10 installation. First, open up the Start Menu and access the Settings menu, represented by the cog icon. Following that, choose “Updates & Security” from the pop-up screen and then “Recovery”.

You're then presented with three options - Reset this PC, Go back to an earlier build and Advanced startup. If you choose Reset this PC, everything will be wiped and you can start from a fresh install, while Go back to an earlier build allows Windows Insiders testers to roll back to a previous version of Windows. The third option, Advanced Startup, provides the option to boot the PC from a recovery USB drive or disc.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 PC reset process

After you've chosen "Reset this PC" - the option for reinstalling Windows 10 on your computer, you can either choose to keep your files on the machine or remove everything - the latter of which will do as the name suggests - remove absolutely everything.

It's important to note that whichever of these two options you choose, all applications will be removed from the computer and everything else will return to their defaults. Although if the first option is picked, any data will stay on the machine, you may find you won't be able to open them if you don't have the corresponding software installed.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 reset PC screen

If you chose to remove everything, you will be asked to "Just remove my files" or "Remove files and clean the drive". The latter option will take longer as the drive is properly erased. This is a good option if you are giving the PC to someone else. If you are keeping the computer, choose the former for speed.

The next window will warn you that you won't be able to roll back to a previous version of Windows. If you're happy with that, click 'next' to proceed. Then click on the Reset button and Windows will then restart and reset itself. This process will take several minutes. Lastly, click on continue when prompted.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 PC reset process

Once the PC is restarted, you can then reinstall your apps, and configure settings. If the system still crashes, there may well be a hardware problem, in which case a hardware engineer may need to inspect the system for any issues the PC might have.

How to remove bloatware from Windows 10

It is a fact of life that most Windows PC come with a stunning array of software that most users never wanted or will ever use. Luckily, Microsoft has a tool that allows a user to install a clean version of Windows without any OEM programs to clutter up your system.

To download the tool, click here. To use it, you will have to sign up to the Windows Insider programme. If you don't mind being a guinea pig, you can do this by clicking on Settings > Update & security > Windows Update > Advanced options > Get Insider Preview builds > Get started. The link above gives more details about this approach.

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