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How to Reset Windows 11

How to Reset Windows 11
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Sometimes you just need to start over and reset your Windows 11 operating system. Perhaps you made so many settings or registry tweaks that you forgot how to change them all back to the defaults. Maybe you installed some software that's messing up your system. Or maybe you want to donate or sell your PC to someone else and don't want them accessing your apps or data.

You could download a Windows 11 ISO and do a clean install, but that's not necessary. Like Windows 10, Windows 11 has a built-in function that allows you to restore your computer to its factory settings, remove all installed apps and, if you choose, delete all your data too. You can even "clean the drive" so hackers who would attempt to undelete your files after you reset Windows 11 would not be able to. 

How to Reset Windows 11

1. Open Settings.

2. Navigate to System->Recovery

System->Recovery

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3. Click Reset.

Click Reset

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4. Select either "Keep my files" or "Remove everything." If you don't want your data files erased go with the former. If you plan to give the computer to someone else, go with the latter to make sure they don't get your data. Either way, make sure that any files you want to keep are backed up somewhere before you reset Windows 11.

Choose a Reset Option

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5. Choose between "Cloud download" and "Local reinstall." If your system is basically in good shape and you just want to clear out your settings and data and start over again, Local reinstall is the way to go. If you feel like you have some corrupted system files, going with Cloud download could help you.

Choose a Reinstall Option

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6. Click Next if you are ok with the settings and don't wish to "clean the drive." 

Additional Settings

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If you are removing all files and want to clean the drive (where the erased files will be a lot harder for a hacker to recover), you can click "Change settings" and enable "Clean data?" This will add many hours to the reset time so only do it if you're really concerned that someone else is going to get this PC and run some kind of undelete software to look for your files. If you're selling or donating your computer, it may be worth it.

Clean data

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7. Click Reset.

Click Reset

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At this point, you can walk away for a while. The device will take a few minutes preparing before it automatically restarts.

Preparing to Reset

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The computer will restart and go through a resetting process that also takes a few minutes. 

Resetting this PC

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Eventually, the computer will start asking you the same questions you get during a clean install of Windows 11

8. Follow the prompts to complete the reinstall process. These will include selecting your country, keyboard layout and privacy settings, along with logging in to your Microsoft account.

Prompts

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After a few minutes more, you'll have your Windows 11 PC back at a factory state. Then, if you plan to keep using the computer (as opposed to donating or selling it), you can customize your OS by replacing the Windows 11 Start menu, bringing back the Windows 10 File Explorer in Windows 11, or changing the size of the Windows 11 taskbar

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
  • Colif
    if you going to reset you might as well clean install.

    Given its built on 10, reset always has the chance to wipe windows completely. I have seen it before (but then I only see the problems here, it might be fine in most cases)
    Reply