The “Reset Your PC” feature in Windows 10 restores your PC to its factory default settings…including all that bloatware your PC manufacturer included. But the new “Fresh Start” feature in Windows 10’s Creators Update makes it much easier to get a clean Windows system.
How This Works
The “Reset this PC” feature resets your PC to its factory default settings. If you installed Windows yourself, that means you’ll have a clean Windows system. But you probably didn’t install Windows yourself. Like most people, you probably purchased a PC that came with Windows, plus some extra bloatware.
In that case, resetting your PC will reset it to the way you got it from the factory–which includes all the software the manufacturer originally installed on your PC. From annoying bloatware to useful software drivers, it will all come back. You’ll have to either live with that junk or spend time uninstalling it.
To get rid of the bloatware for a clean, fresh-from-Microsoft Windows 10 system, you previously had to download Windows 10 installation media, create a USB drive or DVD, and then reinstall Windows 10 yourself. Windows’ new “Fresh Start” feature makes this process much simpler, allowing normal PC users to completely reinstall Windows in a few clicks.
Even Windows geeks, who often reinstall Windows on every new computer they get, can save some time with the “Fresh Start” feature. Just follow the instructions to quickly and easily reinstall Windows 10 on a new PC.
What’s the Catch?
The downside is that you’ll lose all the manufacturer-installed software on your PC. Sure, most of it is garbage, but some of the important stuff—like drivers and software—can probably be downloaded from your PC manufacturer’s website. If you want a utility later, you can probably download just that specific tool.
But, if there’s something you can’t get online–or if that bloatware includes a useful deal–you’ll want to make sure you get any necessary license keys or registrations before you do this. For example, many new Dells come with 20GB of free Dropbox space, which is a pretty great deal.
Similarly, you’ll want to get any other product keys for existing software you want to keep. If you’re using iTunes, you’ll want to deauthorize iTunes on your computer first. You’ll then need to reinstall and authorize iTunes after this process is finished. If you have a product key for Microsoft Office, you’ll need to ensure you have that product key to reinstall Office later. If you use Office 365, you can download and install Office once again afterwards. The same goes for any other application that requires a key or authorization.
Lastly, while Windows promises to keep your personal files as part of this process, it’s always a good idea to have a backup copy of any important files on your PC in case anything goes wrong.
How to Get a Fresh Start on the Creators Update
The “Fresh Start” feature is part of the Windows Defender interface. Open your Start menu and launch the “Windows Defender Security Center” application.
If you don’t see this application, you haven’t upgraded to the Creators Update yet. You can still use another method, explained below, to do this on the Anniversary Update.
Click the “Device performance and & health” option in the sidebar, and then click the “Additional info” link under Fresh start.
You can also head to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and click the “Learn how to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows” link to access this screen.
This window explains exactly what will happen. Windows 10 will be reinstalled and updated to the latest release. You’ll keep your personal files and some Windows settings, but all of your desktop applications—including the applications that came with your PC and applications you’ve installed—will be removed. While Windows does promise to keep your personal files, it’s always a good idea to back up your files anyway.
Click the “Get Started” button when you’re ready to start. You’ll have to agree to a User Account Control prompt to continue.
Windows warns you that the process may take 20 minutes or longer, depending on how fast your PC is. Click “Next” to begin.
The tool provides you with a list of all the desktop applications that it will uninstall. It also saves this list in a text file on your PC’s desktop, making it easy to see what apps you previously had installed.
When you’re ready, click “Start” to begin the process. Not that you won’t be able to use your PC while Windows reinstalls itself, so make sure you’re ready.
After the process completes, you’ll have a fresh Windows 10 installation. Run Windows Update—it should run automatically, anyway—and your computer should hopefully download all the hardware drivers it needs. If not, visit the driver download page for your computer on the manufacturer’s website and download any drivers and other software you need.
How to Reinstall Windows Without Bloatware on the Anniversary Update
An earlier version of this feature is also available on the Anniversary Update. You can still reinstall Windows and get rid of bloatware, even if you haven’t upgraded to the Creators Update yet. However, Microsoft recommends the Fresh Start tool in the Creators Update as the better option.
To get started, open the Settings app from your Start menu. Head to Update & Security > Recovery. Scroll down and click or tap the “Learn how to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows” link under More recovery options.
This link takes you to the “Start fresh with a clean installation of Windows 10” page on Microsoft’s website. The page provides more information about the process.
Click the “Download tool now” button at the bottom of the page to download the Refresh Windows Tool.
Run the downloaded “RefreshWindowsTool.exe” file and agree to Microsoft’s license agreement. After you do, you’ll see the “Give Your PC a Fresh Start” window.
Select “Keep personal files only” and Windows will keep your personal files, or select “Nothing” and Windows will erase everything. Either way, all your installed programs are removed and your settings are reset.
Click “Start” and the tool automatically downloads the Windows 10 installation files, which are about 3 GB in size. It then begins the installation process, giving you a fresh Windows 10 system—no manufacturer bloatware included.