Those familiar with Win10 OS repair know there are many ways to accomplish this task. One of those comes from the bowels of the built-in Settings facility: it’s often called Windows Reset or Windows 10 Reset. It appears in Settings as “Reset this PC” at the end of this trail of clicks: Settings → Update & Security → Recovery. The resulting UI pane looks like this:
Reset appears as an option under the Recovery menu in the Update & Security settings.
Don’t Commit a Reset Unless You MEAN It!
It’s OK to explore the Reset this PC capability by clicking the Get started button shown above. But you absolutely, positively don’t want to go any further with your explorations of the menu that appears when you click that button. Why do I say this? Because if you click either “Keep my files” or “Remove everything” in the next screen that shows up, the reset process will get underway and you can’t interrupt it safely until it completes after that. Net result: it WILL replace your current OS and, at a minimum, do away with all apps, applications, drivers and personalization and settings changes you’ve made to your Win10 PC. Of course, if that is what you want to do, then it’s OK. But you don’t want to approach this with a “let’s try it and see what happens” attitude, unless you’ve got a recent image backup and know how to use it!
Don’t click either of the two lengthy big button options here, unless you want Reset to proceed on your target PC. Click Cancel to bail out instead.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
Current and Future Reset Options
Today, the two options shown above represent the sum total of what Reset can do for you. Using the local Windows image your PC has at its disposal through the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE), this facility will currently replace your current OS image with a new one it builds from those files. Option 1 (“Keep my files”) will preserve the contents of the %SystemDrive%:\Users folder hierarchy along with other folders outside the OS-provided set. Thus, you get a new OS that’s been stripped of all your installed apps, applications, drivers, settings and preferences but get to keep your old files. Option 2 (“Remove everything”) does just what it says: it blows the whole SystemDrive away (usually, that’s the C: drive on most systems) and starts over with a clean, fresh install. Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero.com explains these two options nicely as follows:
The first option is useful when Windows 10 is damaged and has become unusable. The second option is good when you are going to sell or give away your PC along with the operating system.
According to various sources, including Sergey and WalkingCat (@h0x0d) on Twitter, soon-to-be-forthcoming Insider Preview Fast/Skip Ahead Build 18950 is going to expand on the options that Reset provides (hopefully on a permanent basis). Among the new options will be one to reset the PC from an image downloaded from the cloud (“Reset from the cloud” seems like an obvious and likely option descriptor). This has the advantage of grabbing the latest and greatest Windows 10 image right from Microsoft itself. Obviously that comes at the cost of download time (and perhaps bandwidth charges, for those on metered Internet access plans).
If you check the Twitter feed linked above from WalkingCat, you’ll see that others responded to this news with certain interesting observations. One: Apple’s been doing this for a long time with the MacOS (a cloud reset feature has been around for three or four years, at least). Two: Microsoft itself offers this as an option on new Surface PCs (Surface Laptop and Surface Pro, to be more precise — I checked on my Surface Pro 3, and it’s NOT an option there).
Be that as it may, I think this is a positive move on Microsoft’s part. Given that the current Build number for Fast/Skip Ahead builds is 18945 as I write this item, if the information that it will arrive in 18950 is correct, it should see the light of day either this week or next. I, for one, can’t wait to play around with this on a test machine (or VM) to check it out. Perhaps some of you may want to do likewise . . .
[Note added 7/31/19 2:40 PM -06:00 UCT]
18950 has just dropped. I’m installing right now and will check on Reset options immediately after it’s done. It’s the next day (8/1/2019) and I don’t see any new options at the top-level menu. I’m going to clean up the XPS 2720, and make a Macrium Reflect backup (and a new Rescue Media USB drive). Then, I can explore deeper into Reset capabilities, secure in the knowledge I can restore my test machine to its pre-experiment condition at will. If learn anything interesting I’ll add it right here.
[Note added 8/2/19 2:30 PM -06:00 UCT]
Paul Thurrott has the scoop on what’s going on, and I’ve confirmed that Cloud Restore is not yet an option in the 18950 build. Here’s what he says in his story “Microsoft Confirms Windows 10’s Cloud Restore Feature;”
With the release of Windows 10 build 18950, Microsoft has confirmed the new feature. “Insiders may notice some references to “Cloud download” relating to PC reset or refresh. This feature isn’t available and working quite yet. We’ll let you know once it is, so you can try it out,” the changelog for the build reads. It’s not clear exactly how the feature will work, though, and how it will deal with custom OEM drivers, etc.
So, we still have plenty to learn — and to wait for. Stay tuned!
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.