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Why You Shouldn’t Reset Your PC to Factory Settings (And What to Do Instead)

When you buy a computer from a manufacturer like Dell, HP, or Acer, it's weighed down with unnecessary junk like trial software and unsightly customizations. This is known as "bloatware", and you shouldn't have to put up with it.

After a time, the computer might run slow or throw errors and you might be tempted to restore to factory settings. However, we're going to tell you why you shouldn't do that and give you better methods to use.

Do You Need to Reset Your Computer?

The first question you need to ask is what you want to achieve by resetting your computer.

For example, if you're selling the computer and you want to nuke everything, a reset is the right choice.

However, if you're having some sort of technical problem with your computer---be it slow boot times, internet connectivity issues, bad battery life, and so on---then a reset isn't necessarily the best first step.

There are so many potential issues that are impossible to cover here, but the first thing you should do is press Windows key + I to open Settings and click Update & Security > Troubleshoot > Additional troubleshooters. Here you can target specific problems, like with your audio or printer, and Windows will try to automatically fix it.

If that doesn't help, you should browse our extensive Windows help articles. Chances are we've already thoroughly covered your problem.

Also, be wary that a reset will not help hardware issues like a noisy fan or a fried graphics card. You will need to repair or replace these components inside your computer.

What's the Problem With a Factory Reset?

"Factory settings" are exactly what they imply. It's the state that your computer was in when it left the factory. You'd be forgiven for thinking that returning your computer to factory settings is an entirely clean slate.

The first time you booted up your new pre-built computer, you entered a system with factory settings. Despite running Windows, the installation isn't exactly the same as if you had built the computer and installed the operating system yourself.

This is because most manufacturers will install or customize the system in a particular way. Sometimes this is done to make it more convenient for the user, like having all relevant drivers installed, but you can get these through Windows Update anyway.

Often it's done more for the benefit of the manufacturer than the consumer. Little things like a branded wallpaper can occur, but often you'll also find that some less useful programs have been pre-installed.

These programs could be software trials (commonly for things like antivirus) or manufacturer suites that apparently help get the best out of your system. The thing is, you didn't ask for these things to be on your computer and it's invasive to have it pushed on you. At best these programs are bloatware that take up valuable drive space, but they could also be a security risk---in 2014, Lenovo laptops were found to include malware.

As such, while a factory reset will remove all programs and data that you added since getting the computer, it's not ideal.

How to Refresh Your Computer Without a Factory Reset

It's rare that returning your computer to factory settings is the right choice. Here's how you can better refresh your computer.

How to Remove Bloatware

One tactic you could use, if you don't want to start from a fresh system install, is to remove the bloatware that comes with your system. Bear in mind this won't rectify any security vulnerability, like the Lenovo incident mentioned above, but it's a simple way to get rid of the obvious junk.

For this, press Windows key + I to open Settings and click Apps. This will open a list of everything installed on your computer. Here you can select something from the list and click Uninstall to remove it.

You can take this further by using a program like Should I Remove It? in order to better establish what needs wiping from your system. Remember, don't remove drivers or other system critical utilities because you could find your system unstable afterward.

For more information on removing that excess junk, be sure to check out our guide on how to get rid of bloatware.

How to Best Reset Your Computer

Windows 10 makes it incredibly easy to reset your computer. You can choose whether to keep your files, keep pre-installed apps, or just wipe everything.

While the process should go smoothly, it's always best to perform your own data backup. Take the extra time now to save a potential nightmare down the line. For information on this, see our ultimate Windows 10 backup guide.

To begin resetting your computer, press Windows key + I to open Settings and go to Update & Security > Recovery. Beneath Reset this PC, click Get started.

You have two options:

  1. Keep my files
  2. Remove everything

1. Keep my files

This is probably the option you want to choose. It will reinstall Windows 10, remove apps and drivers you installed, and revert settings you changed.

First, decide how you want to reinstall Windows. If you're unsure, select Cloud download.

Next, click Change settings. Here you can decide whether you want the Pre-installed apps to be restored. These are the ones that came with your computer and are likely bloatware, so it's best to not include them.

When ready, click Confirm > Next and proceed through the wizard.

2. Remove everything

Only choose this if you want to delete your data, apps, drivers, and settings. It's the nuclear option.

First, decide how you want to reinstall Windows. If you're unsure, select Cloud download.

The next screen will summarize what is about to happen. Before you continue, click Change settings. Now you can toggle the Clean data and Delete files from all drives options. If you are selling the computer and all of its drives, both of these should be enabled for security. Once done, click Confirm > Next and follow the steps.

You Don't Need Factory Settings

Now you know: always keep your system fresh by installing from the operating system, not reverting to factory settings. You don't need trial software, pointless manufacturer suites, and unsightly customizations weighing down your new system.

Should you ever find that you need a tool or driver offered by the manufacturer, you can always download it from their website.

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