Reinstalling Windows is an easy way to fix a PC that’s been giving you problems. It can resolve most common issues including lagging to mysterious app crashes. With Windows 10, it’s easier to do than ever before. Here’s how to get that brand new PC feeling on your machine.
Microsoft went ahead and made it insanely easy to reinstall Windows 10 by building the option right into the operating system. Some of you probably remember the old days, when it was much harder and required system discs, hard drive reformatting, tedious backup processes, and service packs. Luckily for us, Microsoft realized reinstalling Windows is a great way to fix a broken PC.
In modern Windows parlance, a reinstall is usually called a reset. Back in the distant days of Windows 8, there was another option called refresh, that put Windows back to square one, but kept all of your personal files and Windows Store apps in place.
In Windows 10, there’s only a reset option, and you get the opportunity along the way to decide whether or not to keep your documents and other files. It’s a bit simpler to understand, but there are still a few different routes to take.
There are lots of reasons you might perform this task, but the most common is just to clear out a lot of cruft and unnecessary files from a system and start again with a speedy, fresh installation. If that’s something you think you’d be interested in, then read on.
Before you start doing any anything, you need to make sure you have backups of your most precious files. Even if you opt to keep your files during the reset, there’s always the chance something can go wrong, unlikely as it may be.
In today’s cloud computing age, the easiest option is to pay Microsoft, Google, or Dropbox for some online space and throw everything that’s yours in one particular folder, ready to be downloaded again. We won’t go into detail about backup strategies here, but we’d recommend that you have one.
Irrespective of personal files, a reset wipes out apps that haven’t been installed from the Windows Store (those universal, tablet-friendly ones). That means your Steam games, Photoshop, iTunes and the like, so again make sure you’ve done your research about what you need to get these up and running.
Depending on the software, you might have to deactivate your license before a reset (see the aforementioned Photoshop), otherwise it looks like you’re setting it up on an additional computer.
This might all sound rather too complicated to bother with, but it shouldn’t take long to figure out where your apps and files are. The theory is that one of your applications might be causing a problem with your system, so a reset takes you back to a factory state (or creates an even cleaner install, of which more below).
The easiest way to go about this is to open up the Settings pane from the Start menu, click Update & security and then switch to the Recovery tab. The Get started button under Reset this PC is your most straightforward option.
You’re then taken through a step-by-step process, and along the way you get to choose whether Windows leaves your personal files in place or wipes them too. There’s also the option to clean up your hard drive, which securely erases everything currently on the disk (handy if you’re selling your machine on).
After several more confirmation screens the reset process starts in earnest and after a certain period of time (which varies between systems) you should find yourself back with a version of Windows 10 similar to the one your computer came with. If you’ve opted to keep your files, they should be copied back in place.
With the roll out of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, there’s another, even cleaner option. Scroll down to the bottom of the Recovery tab and follow the Learn how to start afresh... link, which takes you to a download page. This tool removes all of the bloatware that originally came with your PC and lets you set up with a completely fresh, out-of-the-box Windows 10 experience.
Again, you get the option to keep or ditch your personal files, a term which isn’t very well defined by Microsoft but typically means everything saved to your user account, the desktop and other non-system folders. Remember your desktop applications and their settings are wiped either way, so you’re going to have some reinstalling and reconfiguring to do.
The second option is slightly more involved and slightly more thorough, but whichever one you go for, you should be able to get your computer running like new again with just a few clicks of the mouse.