How to reset Windows 10 to its factory defaults and keep your files

If Windows 10 breaks and nothing seems to work well any more, you might be tempted to contemplate reinstalling it from scratch. However, that would mean that you must go through a rather elaborate process in order to save your files and then to reinstall Windows 10. Fortunately, you don't necessarily have to do so, because Windows 10 gives you the option to reset it to its initial state, and keep your personal files in the process. Given the fact that this is also a lot faster than formatting your system partition and installing Windows 10 from scratch, what more could you ask? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to its initial state and keep your files, using the Reset feature:

Why would you want to reset your Windows 10 PC?

The answer is simple: you've done all the troubleshooting you could think of, but there's still something on your Windows 10 PC that doesn't work like you want it to. If you have no other ideas on how to make it behave and repair the issues that are bothering you, resetting Windows 10 could be the answer.

However, before going ahead, there are a few things you should be aware of:

  • Resetting your Windows 10 PC means that all the system files will be deleted and then restored to their originals.
  • All your desktop applications will be removed from your PC, so you'll have to reinstall and reconfigure each of them after the reset process is done.
  • You will be able to keep your personal files, a.k.a. not lose them during the process, but by personal files we are only referring to the files stored in your user folders: Desktop, Downloads, Documents, Pictures, Music and Videos. Files stored on other disk partitions than the "C:" drive will be left intact too.

If you are OK with all of the above, please follow the steps in the following sections of this tutorial.

How to start the reset process in Windows 10

The first thing you'll have to do is open the Settings app. A fast way to do that is to click or tap on its icon from the Start Menu.

In the Settings app, open the Update & security category.

On the left side of the window, click or tap the Recovery section.

On the right side of the Settings window, Windows 10 displays a section called Reset this PC which tells you that "If your PC isn't running well, resetting it might help. This lets you choose to keep your files or remove them, and then reinstalls Windows". That's exactly what we were looking for, so click or tap on the Get started button.

How to reset Windows 10 and keep your personal files in the process

After you press the Get started button, Windows 10 asks you whether you want to keep your personal files or remove everything on the PC.

Because you want to keep your personal files, you should press the "Keep my files (Removes apps and settings, but keeps your personal files)" button.

Then, your PC will need a few moments to get everything ready.

When it's ready, your Windows 10 PC will let you know about it. If you're still sure that you want to reset it, click or tap on the Reset button once more. But, take note that this is the last moment in which you can change your mind and cancel the reset.

Windows 10 will need another minute or two to prepare things. When it's done, it will automatically reboot your PC.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and wait for your Windows 10 PC to reset itself. Depending on the power of your computer's hardware and speed, this step might take a while, meaning many minutes.

After a while, Windows 10 will begin to reinstall itself.

When the installation is done, you can log in with your user account.


Although resetting Windows 10 will take a while, doing it might help you resolve any issues you were fighting with on your PC or device. You will have to reinstall all your applications and drivers, but at least you will not lose your personal files. Have you used this feature from Windows 10? Do you find it useful, or do you prefer clean installs no matter what?