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How to Factory Reset Windows 10

People using Windows 10
Folks celebrate the launch of Windows 10 in Sydney, Australia, in 2015. You may feel like celebrating, too, after you perform a factory reset on your computer. James D. Morgan/Getty Images AsiaPac

Is your computer running more slowly than usual? Do certain programs not run properly? Well, that may be due to an issue with your computer. Instead of bringing it to your local computer repair place, you might be able to fix things by performing a factory reset.

If so, you can save money on repair costs, all while keeping your computer in peak condition.

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What Is Factory Resetting?

Techopedia defines factory reset as removing user data from an electronic device and restoring it back to factory settings. Usually, people factory reset their computer to either fix a problem or remove all their data from the machine.

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Why Factory Reset Your Computer

While most people only factory reset their computer when they experience problems or no longer need it, there is a case for doing it more often, like every six months.

As you use your computer, it stores all sorts of data to use during operation. Some data, like Word or Google documents and spreadsheets and downloaded photos, we choose to store. However, there's a long list of data our computers store without us even knowing. This includes:

  • Browsing history
  • Search history
  • Social media shares
  • Document autosaves
  • Temporary backup files

While storing all this data may be beneficial to the running of your computer, it can lead to some problems. Over time, the accumulation of data will slow your whole system down, which can lead to some frustration. However, frustration is the least of your worries as this data is more vulnerable to being stolen by malware, spyware or hackers.

As such, regularly doing a hard reset of your computer can improve its performance and security.

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Factory Resetting Windows 10

Since factory resetting your computer will wipe all of your data, it's best to back up said data before starting the reset.

Once you back up all your data, follow these steps to reset your desktop or laptop in Microsoft Windows 10:

  • Press the Start button, which is the Windows logo found at the front end of the taskbar, to open the Start menu.
  • Select the Settings gear icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the Start menu. This will open a Settings window.
  • Select the Update & Security option in the Settings window.
  • Select the Recovery tab from the left-hand column. This will open the Recovery page in the Settings window.
  • Press the Get Started button under the Reset this PC heading. This will open a Reset this PC window.
  • On the Reset this PC window, you will see two options: Keep my files and Remove everything. The Keep my files option will leave your personalized files intact while reverting apps and settings to their default configuration. The Remove everything option will return Windows 10 to its factory settings.
Windows 10 factory reset screenshot
One of the big things you'll need to decide ahead of time: keep your files or remove everything?
Screenshot by HowStuffWorks.com
  • After selecting to keep or remove your files, the Reset this PC window will display what will happen once you confirm the reset. Select Next to continue with the process. Select Back to return to the previous choice. Select Cancel to terminate the process.
  • Select Reset to initiate the factory reset.

If you're locked out of your computer or Windows isn't booting properly, you can get to the Reset this PC window by selecting "Troubleshoot" in the Advanced Startup Tool. You can reach the Advanced Startup Tool by either:

  • Restarting the computer while holding the Shift key or
  • Power-cycling the computer three times

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How Long Should It Take?

The time a factory reset takes will vary depending on how much data needs to be reset. Despite this variance, TechRepublic estimates two hours when selecting the Keep my files option and up to four hours if you select the Remove everything option.

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