How to reset a Windows 11 PC to factory settings

Windows 11 reset to factory settings
(Image credit: Future)

On Windows 11, if you had the same setup for a long time or are experiencing problems with your laptop or desktop computer, the "Reset this PC" feature can help to revert the system to the factory default settings to fix the most common problems and improve overall performance.

The "Reset this PC" feature allows you to reinstall Windows 11 with multiple options to start from scratch with a clean copy. For instance, you have an option to restore the factory settings keeping your settings and files, and there is another option to remove everything to resolve problems, such as issues starting up or shutting down, excessive memory usage, performance running apps, battery draining quickly, or removing tough malware.

The feature even offers an option to use the original image instead of a custom manufacturer recovery image that may contain unwanted bloatware and configurations.

This guide will walk you through three different methods to reset Windows 11 to its factory settings by keeping your files or erasing everything.

How to factory reset Windows 11 preserving files

To reset a Windows 11 laptop or desktop to its factory default settings without losing your files, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Recovery page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Recovery options" section, click the Reset PC button for the "Reset this PC" feature.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Keep my files option.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Select the option to reset Windows 11:
  • Cloud download: Download a fresh copy of the installation from the cloud and reinstall Windows 11. However, this option will not restore the tools, apps, and configuration that came with the original image provided by the manufacturer.
  • Local reinstall: Uses the files already available to reset the computer. If this is a branded device (such as Dell, ASUS, Lenovo, etc.), this process will restore the factory drivers, settings, and tools.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Review the apps to reinstall after the reset to factory settings.
  2. Click the Next button.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Reset button.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, the computer will reset to the factory settings preserving your files.

After factory reset

After the reset is complete, it's a good idea to check for updates to ensure that Windows 11 is not missing any security patches or drivers. Also, you may need to reinstall any of your previous applications as necessary.

Check for updates

To install updates for Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Windows Update.
  3. Click the Check for updates button.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you complete the steps, Windows Update will download the latest patches and driver updates (if available).

Check for missing drivers

To check for missing drivers after completing the reset of Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Confirm that there's no branch called "Other devices," which usually lists devices without drivers.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

If you have one or more devices with missing drivers, check the computer manufacturer support website to download and install the latest drivers available.

The last thing left to do is reinstall any previously installed app on your computer (if applicable).

How to factory reset Windows 11 using remove everything option

To use the reset feature removing everything on a computer that you use for working at home or gaming, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click the Recovery page on the right side.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Under the "Recovery options" section, click the Reset PC button for the "Reset this PC" feature.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Remove everything option.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Select the Cloud download or Local reinstall, depending on how you want to reset the system.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. (Optional) Click the Change settings option.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Turn on the Data erasure toggle switch.
  • Quick note: Use this option if you are preparing the computer for sale. Otherwise, the default reset settings are recommended if you are trying to refresh the installation.
  1. (Optional) Turn on the Data drives toggle switch to erase the Windows 11 installation drive and any other storage drive connected to your computer.
  2. Click the Confirm button.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Review the apps to reinstall after the reset to factory settings.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Reset button.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

After you complete the steps, the process will erase the drives depending on your configuration and install a clean copy of Windows 11.

After factory reset

If you are selling the device, you don't need to do anything else. However, if you start over with the device, there are some extra steps, including checking for updates and missing drivers, and you want to reinstall your applications and restore your files from backup.

Checking for updates

To install updates for Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Windows Update.
  3. Click the Check for updates button.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, Windows Update will download and install any missing updates and drivers (if available).

Check for missing drivers

To check for missing drivers after the "Reset this PC," use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the app.
  3. Confirm that there's no branch called "Other devices," which usually lists devices without drivers.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

If you have components without drivers, check the computer manufacturer support website to download and install the latest drivers available.

Restore files from backup

If you have a backup of your files, now is the time to restore them. The recovery process will be different depending on the file backup method.

For example, if you use OneDrive, the files may already be syncing on the computer; however, if they are not, you may need to reconfigure the app again.

If you backed up your files manually to an external drive, connect the portable drive, and use these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer.
  2. Click on This PC from the left pane.
  3. Under the "Devices and drives" section, double-click the storage with the file backup.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Select the files and folders.
  2. Click the Copy button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Open the destination folder.
  2. Click the Paste button from the command bar.

Once you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the steps to restore additional files. If you are missing any applications, now is the time to install them.

More resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources: