Here’s how to reset Windows 11 to its factory settings
Over time, computers can accumulate junk files that take up valuable storage space and slow down your PC. It’s just the way computers work, and the longer you use them, the more files you’ll have. Updates and apps you install can also create some problems if the installation process doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. Windows offers ways to clean up some junk files with the Settings app, but if you want a clean break, resetting your PC is the way to go. With Windows 11 now widely available and with version 22H2 coming up soon, it might make sense to perform a factory reset after you install the update. Or maybe you just want to know how to do it for later. To help you out, we’re going to show you how to reset Windows 11 to its factory settings.
Before we get started, it’s important to know that resetting your Windows 11 PC will delete all of your installed programs. It may also delete your personal files if you choose to. Make sure you’ve backed up all your data before you do this. You can put your files in a cloud service like OneDrive or use external USB storage if it has enough space.
How to factory reset your Windows 11 PC
Aside from backing up your data, you’ll need to plug in your PC to an outlet to reset it. That’s because if the PC dies during the process, it could cause serious problems and force you to have it repaired. Otherwise, the process of resetting your PC is simpler than you may initially think. Also, this guide will also work for Windows 10, which has a similar process. Here’s what to do:
- Open the Settings app.
- In the System section (it opens by default), scroll down and click Recovery.
- Now, click Reset PC to get started.
- Windows will ask if you want to keep your personal files or delete everything. Keeping your personal files will still delete all your apps and programs, and files saved in their respective folders. You can use this option if you’re going to keep using your PC, or delete everything if you’re giving or selling it to someone else.
- Next, choose whether you want to reinstall using a local recovery image or a cloud download. The cloud download option will give you a fresh image of Windows 11, which might help if your local recovery image is damaged in some way. However, it will download over 4GB of files, so you’ll want fast internet.
- Next, you’ll see a summary screen of your choices. If you chose to delete all your files, you may want to clean the drive, too. To do this, click Change settings.
- Here, you’ll see an option to clean the drive, which is off by default. If you choose to do it, Windows will overwrite your data with empty space. This makes it harder to recover your data, so it might be a good idea if you work with sensitive information or if you’re very concerned about your privacy. Note that overwriting your data can take a few hours. Choose your preferred option, then click Confirm.
- You’ll be back on the summary screen. Click Next to confirm your choices, then click Reset to begin the process. It can take a few hours depending on your settings and how fast your storage is.
That’s all you need to do to reset Windows 11. Once the reset process completes, you’ll have one of two possible outcomes. If you chose to remove everything from your computer, you’ll see the first-time setup experience, meaning your computer is ready to be used by anyone else. If you chose to keep your files, you’ll be taken to the sign-in screen for your account and boot into the desktop.
Keep in mind that even if you choose to perform a cloud download, this won’t update your PC to the latest version. There are other recovery methods that can give you a fresh install with a new version, such as using the Media Creation Tool. We have a guide on how to install Windows 11 if that’s something you’re interested in.