How to factory reset Windows 11 and remove everything

Do you want to know how to delete everything on Windows 11? Are you looking for the easiest way to wipe Windows 11 to factory settings? If you answered yes, then you’ve come to the right place. In this tutorial, we guide you through all the steps required to remove everything from Windows 11, which is essentially the same as clean installing Windows 11 on a new PC. Without further ado, here’s how to factory reset Windows 11:

NOTE: If you want to reset Windows 11 and keep your personal files, instead of deleting everything, read this tutorial instead: How to reset Windows 11 without losing your files.

Why would you want to factory reset your Windows 11 PC?

Choosing to factory reset Windows 11 is one of the most radical things you can do. It’s just another way of saying that you’re wiping your computer clean, and it’s something you should do if you intend to sell your PC or want to start fresh with a clean Windows 11 installation. Because yes, factory resetting Windows 11 is the equivalent of a fresh installation of the operating system. Previous activity and data go away, leaving no traces. Everything’s wiped clean: all your personal files, all the installed applications, and all the settings you’ve changed in Windows 11.

The options you have for resetting Windows 11

If you are sure that this is what you want, and you are ready to reset your Windows 11 installation, you are left with one more choice: “Just remove your files” or “Clean data.” The second option does what the first one is doing (removing the files), but it also adds a cleaning operation that prevents anyone else in the future from recovering your data.

How to clean your drives in Windows 11

When you or someone else starts using the PC, the reset results are the same. The difference appears when someone uses a file recovery tool: standard recovery tools cannot find your old files and settings. Keep in mind that the “clean data” choice takes longer to reset your PC. This is because cleaning drives is a tedious operation that involves rewriting blank data several times onto them. Depending on the performance of your PC, this cleaning can add several hours to the reset process.

When you are ready to start, there are two ways to initiate the reset of your Windows 11. We cover them both in the following two sections of this tutorial. The second method may be helpful if you have trouble signing into Windows 11.

1. How to factory reset Windows 11 and delete everything (from Settings)

The first step is to open the Settings app, and a fast way to do it is by pressing Windows + I on your keyboard. In the Settings app, select System on the left sidebar and click or tap Recovery on the right side of the window.

Open System > Recovery in Settings

On the Recovery page, scroll until you find the Recovery options section. The first option in it is “Reset this PC” which tells you that you can “Choose to keep or remove your personal files, then reinstall Windows. This is what you need to factory reset Windows 11. Press the Reset PC button next to it.

Press the Reset PC button

Then, Windows 11 starts the Reset this PC wizard, and the first thing it asks you is to choose whether you want to keep your files or Remove everything. Since you want to do a factory reset of Windows 11, select the second: “Remove everything (Removes all of your personal files, apps, and settings).”

Choose Remove everything to factory reset Windows 11

If you have more than one drive or partition on your PC, next, Windows 11 asks you if you want to wipe the data only from the system drive (where Windows 11 is installed), or from all drives. Choose what you prefer.

Next, Windows 11 wants to know how you’d like to reinstall it during the reset process. You can choose one of two ways:

  • Cloud download: during the reset, Windows 11 downloads the files it needs to reinstall from Microsoft’s servers
  • Local reinstall: Windows 11 reinstalls itself using its locally stored files without downloading anything

Choose Cloud download or Local reinstall

Then, the Reset this PC wizard gets to the Additional settings step. As you can see in the next screenshot, by default, the reset process deletes everything but doesn’t clean your drives. In other words, it runs a quick erase on the selected drives during the process, but some of the old data on them can still be recovered using specialized data recovery applications.

If the reason you’re resetting Windows 11 is that you want to start fresh, but you’ll keep your PC, it’s OK to leave this setting as it is. However, if you’re factory resetting your Windows 11 PC because you intend to sell your PC or donate it to someone, you should probably choose to also clean the drives on it, so that none of your old data can be recovered. For that, click or tap on Change settings.

Change settings on Additional settings

At the Choose settings step of the wizard, enable the Clean data switch, so that the reset cleans your drive(s). Then press Confirm. The downside of cleaning your drive(s) is that Windows 11 needs a lot more time to factory reset.

Choose between just removing files or fully cleaning your drives

When Windows 11 is ready to reset, it shows you what will happen during this time:

  • It will delete all the personal files and user accounts found on your PC
  • It removes all the apps and programs installed
  • It resets any settings you might have changed in Windows 11

To continue, click or tap the Reset button, but keep in mind that you can’t go back after you’ve made this decision: Windows 11 will factory reset even if you change your mind later on.

Ready to reset this PC

After a minute or two during which Windows 11 prepares, your PC will automatically reboot.

Preparing to factory reset Windows 11

After restarting your PC, Windows 11 starts the actual factory reset process. This part can take a long time, but that depends on your computer’s hardware configuration.

Progress on resetting this PC

After the reset is done, Windows 11 reinstalls itself. If your PC doesn’t have powerful hardware, this step can take tens of minutes, so have patience.

Windows 11 is being reinstalled

When Windows 11 finishes installing, you need to customize it, just like when doing a fresh install of the operating system. That means that you need to choose the language and keyboard layout, create new user accounts, etc. If you need guidance with the personalization process, read the “How to customize your Windows 11 installation (setup steps)” chapter from this tutorial: How to install Windows 11 from USB, DVD, or ISO.

2. How to factory reset Windows 11 and wipe all data (from the Windows Recovery Environment)

This method of factory resetting Windows 11 from the Windows Recovery Environment is handy when you have trouble signing into Windows 11. One of the fastest ways to get to it is from the sign-in screen: press and hold the Shift key while clicking the Power icon and then Restart.

Restart your PC from the sign-in screen

After Windows 11 restarts, click or tap Troubleshoot.

Choose Troubleshoot to reset your PC

Then, on the Troubleshoot screen, choose “Reset this PC.”

Choose Reset this PC on the Troubleshoot screen

Next, select “Remove everything (Removes all of your personal files, apps, and settings).”

Choose Remove everything on the Reset this PC screen

If you have a computer with multiple drives or partitions, you are also asked whether you want to remove files only from the drive where Windows 11 is installed or from all drives. Make the choice that best suits your needs. Then, Windows 11 wants to know whether you prefer to reinstall it using the Cloud download or Local reinstall method. Select whichever way you like by clicking or tapping on it.

Choose between Cloud download or Local reinstall

Your PC needs a few moments to get everything ready, so be patient while it restarts and gets things ready. Next, you are asked to decide if you want to clean the drive on top of removing your files. The cleaning provides more security for the confidentiality of your data, and it makes it nearly impossible for someone else to restore your files. The downside is a much longer time spent by Windows 11 resetting your PC. When you are sure of your decision, click or tap the option you prefer.

Just remove my files or Fully clean the drive

If you are still sure that you want to reset it, click or tap the Reset button. However, note that this is the last moment when you can change your mind and cancel the reset.

Start the resetting process

Wait for a few minutes for Windows 11 to reset your PC. Depending on your computer’s hardware, this step might take a while.

Progress on resetting this PC

After a while, Windows 11 begins to reinstall itself.

Windows 11 is being reinstalled

When the initial installation is done, Windows starts asking you to customize the installation. The steps are the same as when performing a fresh installation of Windows 11.

Why did you factory reset Windows 11?

We hope that this tutorial helped you factory reset your Windows 11 PC. Before leaving, would you mind telling us why you chose to do that? Why did you want to wipe your PC clean? Are you selling or giving it away? Or did you want to start fresh because it no longer worked right? Let us know in the comments below.

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