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Windows 10 and 11 reset options
Using the System > Recovery function in the Settings app is an easy way to reset your Windows 10 or 11 PC to a clean state.
Let's consider the first two Windows 10 and 11 reset options in the decision tree and how each affects your data:
- Keep my files
- Remove everything
A further decision following Keep my files determines whether preinstalled apps are restored.
The following matrix shows which data will be kept, depending on your choices:
|Keep my files >|
Change settings >
Preinstalled apps > Yes
|Keep my files >|
Change settings >
Preinstalled apps > No
|Removes personal files after Windows 11 reinstall||no||no||yes|
|Removes apps you have installed||yes||yes||yes|
|Your changes are reset||yes||yes||yes|
|Apps installed by the PC manufacturer are removed||no||yes||yes|
Remove everything > Change settings gives you two options:
- Data erasure > On removes files and cleans the drive. If you're planning to donate, recycle, or sell your PC, use this option. It can take some time (Microsoft mentions up to a couple of hours), but it makes it harder for other people to recover files you've removed.
Note: The data erasure functionality targets consumers and does not meet government and industry data erasure standards.
- Data erasure > Off only removes files. This option is less secure.
Factory reset Windows 10 and 11
You can easily reset your PC to a default state using the Settings app when you are able to log on to Windows 10 or 11. However, what if you forgot your password?
One of the easiest ways to reset your PC without a password is by issuing the Restart command while pressing the SHIFT key. This allows us to invoke the same Reset operation as from the Windows Repair menu.
On the Choose an option screen, click Troubleshoot: Reset your PC or see advanced options.
Choose Reset this PC. This option is identical to the ones we have in the settings app.
On the Choose an option screen, you can select Keep my files or Remove Everything, just as in the Settings app.
Next, choose how you would like to reinstall Windows. You can choose to download the installation media from the cloud or use local installation media.
If you plan to recycle the PC, there is an option to Fully clean the drive, making it more difficult for anyone to pull data from the hard drive. Otherwise, you can choose the Just remove my files option, which is much quicker.
Finally, we come to the Reset step. Click the Reset button to begin the process using the selected options.
Since we chose the cloud download option, you will first see the Reset operation download the installation files.
After a short time, the PC should reboot into the mini setup wizard, which allows you to set up the machine as if it is new out-of-box experience (OOBE).
Windows 10 and 11 both have an easy way to factory reset the operating system to a default state and include an option to keep your data.
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However, if you don't have a password to log on to Windows, you may need to use the Reset option found in the Repair menu during the boot process. You can easily access it with the SHIFT + restart combination. Then follow the screens to reset your PC with the options to save or delete data, depending on the desired result.