How to Reset Windows 10 Notebooks, Desktops and Tablets

Getting back to the factory settings on your PC used to be very difficult. Smart people got their new PC home and created a restore disc that allowed them to reinstall a factory image of what should be on their PC. People even smarter than that waited until they installed everything they needed on their PC, then created an image of their notebook or desktop’s entire hard drive so that they could easily go back to it later with software like Acronis TrueImage. Windows 8 made both of these processes irrelevant, mostly. Windows 10 changes how that process works.

Owners of Windows 10 notebook, desktops and tablets don’t have to create a restore disc. Theoretically, they don’t even have to back up their information – though they should in case something ever goes wrong. With a push of a button Windows 10 users can keep their apps and files and reinstall Windows around them, fixing any issues that they have. If that isn’t enough, they can wipe their files and Windows together, giving them a completely blank slate.

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Here’s how to reset Windows 10 notebook, desktops, tablets and more.

Before We Begin

Before we begin, know that what you’ll see in this tutorial is very specific to Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest operating system update. The feature exists in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, but finding it is a completely different experience. You can read about resetting those versions of Windows here.

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Read: How to Reset Your Windows 8.1, Laptop, Desktop, Tablet or 2-in-1

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Also note that you should absolutely have everything you need to get your notebook, desktop tablet or Windows 2-in-1 back up and running. That includes the software you regularly install on your computer. Don’t worry about anything you can download over the internet; you’ll be able to grab things like Google Chrome and iTunes directly from their respective sites. You will need the disc that came with your copy of Microsoft Office, for example.

Reset Windows 10

Press the Windows key on your keyboard or the Windows button on your tablet or Windows 2-in-1. You can also click on the Windows button in the left corner of your screen too.

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Tap or click on Settings in the bottom-left corner of the Start Menu just above the Power button.

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Note that if you’re in Tablet Mode on a Windows 10 2-in-1 or pure tablet your screen will look slightly different from what’s pictured here. Instead, you’ll need to tap on the menu button in the top-left corner of your screen and select Settings.

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Tap or click on Update & Recovery in the Settings app.

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Now tap or click on Recovery in the Settings app. It’s the fourth menu option on the left side of your screen.

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Welcome to the Recovery area. Microsoft has moved all the recovery settings from Windows 8 to this new screen. In doing so, it also tried to simplify the entire process. Previously, Microsoft sorted options into two buttons one for Resetting your Windows PC and another for Refreshing your Windows 10 PC. Refreshing your PC meant keeping your files and reinstalling Windows. Resetting your PC meant getting rid of everything and starting completely over.

Now there’s just one button because Microsoft dynamically guides you through the process instead of confusing you from the outset with two very similar terms.

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Tap or click Get Started to begin the process of resetting your Windows 10 PC.

Now you have two different options. Actually, there’s three depending on whether your device came with Windows 10 out of the box or whether you added it through an update later on.

Keep my files does just as its name describes. If you choose the setting you can reinstall Windows 10 without having to back up any of the pictures, videos, music and documents that you have stored on it. You absolutely should back up these things just in case, but you shouldn’t need to use that back up. Keep My Files requires a certain amount of free space on your device. As such, it may be unavailable to you if your PC is stuffed with a lot of files. If you get an error message asking for more storage when you choose this option you’ll need to back up your files and choose the remove everything option. You could also delete any files that you aren’t using on your PC and try the option again. This option will take longer than the other options.

Remove Everything deletes every file, every setting from your PC and gives you a blank copy of Windows 10 to work with. You’ll need to add any files you have backed up to your notebook, desktop or tablet again.

A third option that only users who upgraded to Windows 10 see is Restore Factory Settings. This option removes everything from your PC and takes you back to the previous version of Windows that was installed. If that’s Windows 7, you’ll get Windows 7. If its Windows 8, you’ll get Windows 8.

In all three cases you absolutely want to make sure that your device is plugged in before choosing an option. If you aren’t, Windows 10 won’t let you continue until you do. Be sure to keep the device plugged in the entire time you’re restoring your device.

Good luck resetting your Windows 10 notebook, desktop or tablet.