How to factory reset Windows 10 and wipe all data

How do you wipe a computer clean to sell it? How do I wipe my computer and delete everything? Moreover, how do you do a factory reset for Windows 10? These are all legitimate questions to which you’re probably looking for answers. Good news: you’ve come to the right place. This tutorial shows you how to delete everything on Windows 10, effectively wiping Windows 10 to factory defaults. This action is especially useful when you receive a computer with Windows 10 from someone else, and you want to start using it like it was new, making sure there are no leftovers. Such a “Remove Everything” type of reset is also what you need if you want to wipe out all data on your PC when selling or simply giving it away. If you’re sure that you no longer need any data from your Windows 10 PC, here’s how to factory reset Windows 10:

NOTE: If you want to reset Windows 10 and keep your files, you should read this guide instead: How to reset Windows 10 without losing your files.

Why would you want to factory reset your Windows 10 PC?

In Windows 10, the Remove Everything way of making a reset is the most drastic you can perform. It is the equivalent of a fresh installation of Windows 10. There will be no traces left of previous activity. It includes the deletion of all personal files, all applications, and all the settings changes made in Windows 10.

The options you have for resetting Windows 10

If you are sure that this is what you want, and you are ready to reset your Windows 10 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 10

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 cleaning the drive adds time when resetting 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 10. We cover them both in the following sections of this tutorial. The second method may be helpful if you have trouble signing into Windows 10.

1. How to factory reset Windows 10 and delete everything (from Settings)

The first thing you do is open the Settings app. A fast way to do that is to press the Windows+ I keys on your keyboard. In the Settings app, go to the Update & security category.

Open Update & Security in Settings

On the left side of the window, click or tap Recovery. 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”. This is what you’re looking for. Click or tap the Get started button.

Get started with the reset process in Windows 10

Windows 10 asks whether you want to keep your personal files or remove everything on the PC. Because you want a factory reset, choose “Remove everything (Removes all of your personal files, apps, and settings).”

Choose Remove everything when resetting your PC

If you have a computer with multiple partitions, you are also asked whether you want to remove the files only from the drive where Windows is installed or from all drives. Make the choice that best suits your situation.

Then, the “Reset this PC” wizard asks you “How would you like to reinstall Windows?”. Choose the option that suits you best:

  • Cloud download: during the reset, Windows 10 downloads the files it needs to reinstall from Microsoft’s servers
  • Local reinstall: Windows 10 reinstalls itself using its locally stored files without downloading anything

Choose Cloud download or Local reinstall

Then, the Additional settings step of the wizard comes in. By default, the Windows 10 factory reset wipes everything on your drives, but doesn’t fully clean them. That means that the old data on them can still be retrieved with the help of specialized data recovery applications. If you’re resetting Windows 10 so that you can start fresh, you can leave everything as is and continue with the reset process. However, if you’re selling your PC or giving it away, you might also want to fully clean its drives. To do that, you need to press the Change settings link.

Change settings on Additional settings

If you want to clean the drive in addition to removing your files (to make it nearly impossible for anyone to restore your files), enable the Clean data switch at the Choose settings step and then press Confirm. The main downside of choosing to wipe everything is that Windows 10 takes much more time to reset your PC.

Choose between just removing files or fully clean your drives

Then, Windows 10 needs a few moments to get everything ready. When it is prepared, it lets you know about it and shows you the impact of the reset process. Resetting removes:

  • All the personal files and user accounts on your PC
  • All apps and programs
  • Any changes made to settings

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

Ready to reset this PC

Windows 10 needs another minute or two to prepare things. Then, when it is done, it automatically reboots your PC.

Resetting this PC

Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and wait for Windows 10 to reset itself. Depending on your computer’s hardware configuration, this step might take a while.

Progress on resetting this Windows 10 PC

After a while, Windows 10 begins to reinstall itself.

Windows 10 is being reinstalled using factory settings

When the installation is done, Windows starts asking you to customize the installation. You have to set things like the language and keyboard layout and create user accounts, just like on a new PC with Windows 10 freshly installed. If you need help with the personalization process, read how to install Windows 10, starting with the section named “How to customize your Windows 10 installation (setup steps).

2. How to factory reset Windows 10 and wipe all data (from the Windows Recovery Environment)

This method of factory resetting Windows 10 from the Windows Recovery Environment is handy when you have trouble signing into Windows 10. 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 Windows 10 from the sign-in screen

After Windows 10 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 10 is installed or from all drives. Make the choice that best suits your needs. Then, Windows 10 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. Next, you are asked to decide if you want to clean the drive in addition to 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 10 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 10 to reset your PC. Depending on your computer’s hardware, this step might take a while.

Resetting this PC progress

After a while, Windows 10 begins to reinstall itself.

Reset this PC reinstalls Windows 10

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 10.

Why did you factory reset Windows 10?

We hope that this tutorial has helped you make a successful and complete reset of your Windows PC or device and that it works just like new. Before closing this tutorial, tell us why you performed a complete reset of Windows 10 and why you chose to remove everything from it. Was it because you decided to sell your PC or give it to someone else?

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