How to reset Windows 11 system
How to reset Windows 11 system: When you are working on a Windows system, sometimes things go wrong. A couple of years ago, I made the mistake of not checking if my laptop was securely connected while Windows was undergoing a major update. The battery died in the middle of the update and voila! I was stuck with what I was sure was now a very expensive brick. On another occasion, the Windows 10 system decided it didn’t like the latest update and started misbehaving. (It stopped responding to input a minute after loading.)
In both cases, I was able to salvage an unusable PC by performing a reset that removed all (or most) of the files and apps on the hard drive and reinstalled Windows.
(By the way, you backed up your computer, right?)
Resets are also useful if you just bought a new system, loaded all your data into it, and now want to sell/trade/give away/dump your old system. But before you take your unwanted computer out of the house, you’ll first want to erase all your data from your hard drive.
There are several ways to initiate a reset in Windows 11 depending on what you need to do. You can do this from the Windows interface, or if you’re having trouble, from the simpler Safe Mode. There is also another method for reinstalling Windows called Fresh Start (formerly Refresh). Ready? Like this.
Reset in Windows 11
If Windows 11 is working – or even if it’s mostly working – just reset it.
- Click on the search icon on the taskbar and type restart which will bring up Reset this PC as the best match. Click on it.
- Alternatively, click on the Start icon, select Settings and go to System > Recovery .
- You can first try to fix the problem by selecting Fix problems without restarting your PC .
- Did not work? Select Reset PC .
- You will be able to choose one of two options. Keep my files will remove apps and settings, but will let you keep your personal files while Remove everything resets your PC to like new. If you’re recovering from an update issue or trying to uninstall a bad app, you can try Keep My Files First. If you are going to get rid of the computer, select Remove everything .
- Either way, the next screen will let you choose either Cloud Download so you can install a new version of Windows or Local Reinstall so you can simply reinstall from your device. The former will take longer (more than 4 GB to download), but may work better if you suspect the issue is with your OS rather than an app or misapplied settings.
- The next screen will inform you that applications and files will be removed along with any provisioning packages installed on your workplace. (Don’t worry – you’ll have the option to change this if you need to before the reset happens.) Windows will either download or reinstall (if you chose Cloud Download ) or reinstall from your device (if you chose Local Reinstall ).
- Click on the Change settings link to see more options.
- If you chose Local Reinstall, you can choose whether you want to restore the preinstalled apps and settings that came with your PC, and you have another chance to either reinstall Windows from your device or download a fresh copy. (No, I don’t know why this option appears in two different places. It’s Windows.)
- If you’ve selected Cloud Boot, you can choose whether you want to remove these provisioning packages and/or just wipe your PC’s data – in other words, delete your files – instead of doing a hard reset. You can also decide again if you want to download Windows or reinstall it from the device.
- Confirm your choice, and then select Next . You are currently running on battery power, so you will be prompted to connect your computer.
- Otherwise, the next window is Ready to restart this computer . You will see a list of all your options. If you choose to keep your files, you can click on View apps to be removed to see which apps you might need to replace; this list is not available if you delete everything. Ready? Click on Restart to start the process.
- You may need to enter your recovery key to continue. You can find it by logging into your Microsoft account (or computer owner account) at account.microsoft.com/devices/recoverykey.
Reset outside of Windows
Sometimes Windows is so messed up that you can’t access the reset feature. In this case, the next thing to try is to reset it from settings. The Microsoft support site actually lists three ways you can get a reset outside of Windows: from settings; from the login screen; and from a blank screen.
- Follow the reset instructions above. When you get to the recovery screen, look for Advanced Startup and click on the Restart now button. You’ll get a reminder to save your work, after which you’ll need to click Reload Now .
Troubleshooting > Advanced options > Startup options > Start over .
- Your system will reboot and you will see a blue screen that will allow you to select an option . These options may vary. On my system, I could continue working with Windows 11, boot from an external device such as a USB drive, shut down the computer, or troubleshoot. If you want to restart your computer, click Troubleshoot .
- The next screen will allow you to restart your PC, restore it from a factory image, or offer additional advanced options .
- Before you decide to reset, you may find it helpful to check the advanced options. These include the Startup Repair feature, Startup Options , which allows you to reboot to change various Windows settings (and allows you to enable Safe Mode); the ability to remove updates (often causing problems); System Restore; other.
- If you want to restart your computer, click on this option; you will then be given the choice to keep the files or delete everything. Click on any of them and the process will begin; again, you may need to enter the recovery key first.
On the login screen
If your computer crashes after you get past the login screen, you can try to access the reset from the same login screen. These are the instructions on the Microsoft site, but they didn’t work for me. The system rebooted, but I always ended up at the same login screen. However, you can try:
- Hold the Shift key and click on the power icon in the bottom right corner.
- Hold down the Shift key and click on Start over .
From a blank screen
This is the most difficult way to access the Choose an option screen. But this is what you want to try if your computer just won’t boot to Windows. This may take several tries, so be patient.
- Make sure your computer is completely turned off.
- Press the power button to turn on the computer. Once it reboots (for example, if you see the manufacturer’s logo), press the power button for about 10 seconds until the system turns off again.
- Repeat the on/off process a second time.
- The third time you turn it on, you will be able to access Advanced options > Choose an option > Troubleshoot > Reset this PC .
Again, after several tries (though on a work PC), I was unable to access this screen using this method. But if your computer just won’t boot and you want to try restarting it, it’s worth a try.