Microsoft went to every effort to ensure that Windows 10 is a solid OS, but you still might encounter a situation that causes your system to become unstable. You could suffer a nasty virus infection, install an incompatible software application, or possibly even install a rickety device driver. Whatever the cause, Windows 10's Recovery Drive tool can help you revive an unstable system without losing your data.
Using Reset This PC with the Keep My Files option will essentially perform a fresh install of Windows 10 while keeping all your data intact. More specifically, when you choose this option from the Recovery Drive, it will find and back up all your data, settings, and apps. It will then install a fresh copy of Windows and restore the data, settings, and the apps that were installed with Windows 10. When your PC restarts, just log in with your same username and password and find all your data.
Now, it's important to remember that using Reset This PC with the Keep My Files option does not back up and restore any desktop applications you have installed. The reasoning is that a recently installed desktop application could be the cause of the instability. To help you to remember what desktop applications you had installed, the Reset This PC tool will create a list of those applications that were not saved or restored, so that you can decide whether you want to reinstall them.
Let's take a closer look at how Reset This PC with the Keep My Files option works.
What you need
To run Reset This PC with the Keep My Files 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 are using an optical disc Recovery Drive—or for some reason couldn't use the Back Up System Files To The Recovery Drive option, you can still use Reset This PC with the Keep My Files option. You will just need to have some form of Windows 10 installation media, either USB or DVD.
You can create your own Windows 10 installation media using the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft.
Running Reset This PC with the Keep My Files option
Running Reset This PC with the Keep My Files option is actually easy. It will take some time to complete, but it is a straightforward operation. After your system boots from the Recovery Drive and you select the Troubleshoot > Reset This PC option. You'll select the Keep My Files option, as shown in Figure A.
Select the Reset This PC tile, then select Keep My Files.
You'll then be prompted to choose the target operating system, as shown in Figure B. At first this seems to be a redundant question. But I suppose if I had a dual-boot configuration, this step would make more sense.
Select the Windows 10 tile.
In a moment you'll see the Reset This PC screen, which outlines what this option will provide (Figure C).
After you read through the information on the screen, click the Reset button.
In case the text in the screenshot is a little fuzzy, I'll list the info here.
- Remove all apps and programs that didn't come with this PC
- Change settings back to their defaults
- Reinstall Windows without removing your personal files
To proceed, click the Reset button. (If required, you will be prompted to insert your Windows 10 installation media at this point.) The system will then reboot and begin performing the first stage of the procedure, as shown in Figure D, which includes saving your data files and settings
Your system will reboot and start the first stage of the reset procedure.
During the next stage of the procedure, the system begins installing Windows, as shown in Figure E. When the percentage count hit 99%, I thought it was ready to finish—but it actually sat at the 99% mark for quite a long time. On my test system, the entire procedure took somewhere around 40 minutes to complete, and of course the system restarted several times.
During the second stage of the procedure, the system begins installing Windows.
After the final restart, your Login screen will appear and you'll be able to log in with the same username and password, just like you always have. When you log in for the first time, some of the standard screens associated with Windows 10's first run will appear.
Once everything is complete and you see the desktop, look for an HTML file called Removed Apps. Open the file in Microsoft Edge and you'll see a display similar to the one shown in Figure F.
The Removed Apps file contains a list of all the applications that were removed during the Reset operation.
As you can see, this list shows all the applications that were removed from my test system during the Reset operation. At this point, you can begin reinstalling your desktop applications. You can then get right back to work on a stable system.
What's your take?
Now that you know how Reset This PC and the Keep My Files option work, you'll be ready to use it should the need arise. Have you ever had to use this procedure? If so, did it get your system back into a stable state? Share your comments in the discussion thread below.
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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.