Software

Reset your Windows 10 system with the Remove Everything option

If you want to jettison your data and install a new copy of Windows 10, this approach will handle the task.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/Lonnia

In last week's post, Reset your Windows 10 system with the Keep My Files option, I showed you how to reset your Windows 10 system to a new installation state while keeping all your data files intact. This option is a great way to revive a Windows 10 system that has become unstable due to a virus infection or some other unfortunate circumstance. However, Windows 10 also provides you with the Reset This PC with the Remove Everything option. Unlike its counterpart, this option removes all your data and settings and then reinstalls a fresh copy of Windows 10. This approach comes in handy if you want to scrap everything and start over from scratch or you're getting ready to decommission your PC and want to pass it on.

Let's see how the Reset This PC with the Remove Everything option works.

What you need

To run Reset This PC with the Remove Everything option as I'll describe in this article, you'll need to have created a Recovery Drive. (See Be prepared: Create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive for a description of that process.) If you're using an optical disc Recovery Drive—or for some reason you couldn't use the Back Up System Files To The Recovery Drive option—you can still use Reset This PC with the Remove Everything option. You'll just need to have some form of Windows 10 installation media on either USB or DVD.

If you find yourself in this situation, you'll be glad to know that you can create your own Windows 10 installation media using the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft.

Running Reset This PC with the Remove Everything option

Using Reset This PC with the Remove Everything option will take some time to complete, but in the end, you'll find that it is a straightforward operation. To begin, boot your system using your Recovery Drive. Next, select the Troubleshoot | Reset This PC option and choose Remove Everything, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Figure A

After you select the Reset This PC tile, choose the Remove Everything option.

Now you'll be prompted to choose the target operating system, as shown in Figure B. Just select the Windows 10 tile. The Reset This PC tool will then perform some preliminary work and will momentarily display a message telling you that it is getting things ready.

Figure B

Figure B

You'll select the Windows 10 tile to continue.

Choosing a cleaning method

After you choose a target operating system, you'll see the screen shown in Figure C, which prompts you to choose how thoroughly you want to clean your drive. You can remove just your files or fully clean your drive. The option you choose will depend on the reason you're resetting your PC. For example, if you are resetting it to give yourself a completely new start, you'll probably want to select Just Remove My Files. On the other hand, if you're going to be passing your PC on to someone else, you may want to choose Fully Clean The Drive. Let's take a closer look at these two options.

Figure C

Figure C

You can choose how thoroughly you want to clean the drive.

If you choose the Just Remove My Files option, the Reset This PC tool will perform a Quick Format operation on the hard disk and then reinstall Windows 10. This procedure deletes the file table that contains pointers to the data files. It doesn't actually delete the data or modify the disk sectors containing the data in any way. As such, you could recover some or all of the data files using an appropriate data recovery tool if you were so inclined.

If you choose the Fully Clean The Drive option, the Reset This PC tool will perform a full format of the hard disk that will involve a much more methodical and secure erasure of your data. This includes several passes over the hard disk writing 0's and then other random numbers to every sector on the hard disk. This almost ensures that you'll never be able to recover any of the data files. As you'd expect, this option will take a long time to complete.

Resetting

Once you've made your choice, you'll see the screen shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Figure D

After you select an option, click Reset to begin.

When you're ready, click the Reset button and the reset operation will commence immediately. Regardless of which option you selected, you'll see a screen like the one shown in Figure E. As the format portion of the reset operation chugs along, a counter indicates the percentage of the operation that is complete. The Just Remove My Files option will take somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours, while the Fully Clean The Drive option can take as long as four hours. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Figure E

Figure E

The percentage counter tells you how the reset operation is progressing.

When the percentage counter hits 100%, the system will reboot and display a series of screens, like the one shown in Figure F, indicating that Setup is installing device drivers and configuring settings. The system will restart a couple of time during this phase of the reset operation. Once this step runs its course, the system will restart again.

Figure F

Figure F

During the second stage of the procedure, the Reset option reinstalls Windows 10.

When it boots back up, you'll go through all the steps in the first-time set up procedure. You'll need to accept the license, choose a network connection, check for updates, set up a Microsoft account, and so on. Your system will restart a couple of times during this part of the installation.

When it is complete, you'll have a new installation of Windows 10.

What's your take?

Now that you know how Reset This PC with the Remove Everything option works, you'll be ready to use it should the need arise. If you've already tried this procedure, did it work like you expected? Share your comments and advice in the discussion thread below.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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