The Reset this PC feature has been around since Windows 8, but it has changed a lot since then. Microsoft keeps doing it better and better, and it’s easy to miss all the improvements. Cloud Download is the latest and most visible version.
How Reset This PC Works
Reset This PC feature makes it “almost like you just opened your PC for the first time,” says Aaron Lower, project lead in charge of recovery at Microsoft, on the Windows Insider webcast. If you’re selling or giving away your computer, you can wipe your files and even wipe the drive so your data can’t be recovered. Whether you’re experiencing PC issues or just want a clean Windows system, you’ll get this fresh Windows OS.
When you restart your PC, you can either keep your personal files or delete them from your computer. Either way, Windows will remove the programs you installed and provide you with a fresh operating system.
To reset your PC, go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery or select Troubleshoot > Reset this PC from the Advanced Startup Options menu. This menu opens if you have trouble booting your PC, but you can also open it by holding down the Shift key while you click the Restart button on the Windows Start menu or login screen.
Under the hood, Windows will collect the necessary files and create a fresh Windows installation. It will transfer your personal files, if you choose, as well as hardware drivers and pre-installed applications to the new system.
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Recovery without an image in Windows 10
Windows recovery goes a long way back. «Recovery partitions» started in Windows XP and were also used in Windows Vista and Windows 7. These were individual partitions containing a compressed copy of Windows and manufacturer settings, and you could restart your computer and boot into them to recover.
In Windows 8, Reset This PC provided a recovery feature in a standard way—PC manufacturers didn’t have to create their own recovery features. Although Windows 8 did not use a recovery partition, it did support «recovery images» from which it recovered. You can even replace the recovery image with your own — for example, delete
Reset this PC always worked differently in Windows 10 than it did in Windows 8. Windows 10 uses recovery without images. Instead of the recovery image taking up disk space, Windows 10 creates a new copy of Windows by collecting the files present in the Windows installation. This means that no storage space has been lost on the separate recovery partition. Also, all installed security updates are retained and not removed, so you don’t have to update everything after going through the restore process, as you did in Windows 7.
Integration from scratch to remove viruses
«Fresh Start» is now integrated into the restart of this PC. This allows you to restore your Windows 10 PC without restoring all the manufacturer-provided software – some of which may be useful, but most of which are definitely malware that clutters and slows down your PC.
This feature was previously hidden. You had to go through Windows Security to find it. Lower said the project was a «parallel effort» along with Microsoft’s reboot of this computer. It uses the same recovery technology as Reset This PC, but does not restore the applications provided by the manufacturer.
To use this, you will be able to go through the reset process, access advanced options, and deactivate the «Restore pre-installed apps?» option. This will force Windows to perform a «Fresh Start» without manufacturer provided software, such as reinstalling Windows.
The bottom of Microsoft called the Windows security option «secret squirrel entry point» and stated that Microsoft would stop using it. It makes sense to integrate Fresh Start into Reset This PC rather than into Windows Security, which is almost entirely a separate application.
For now, the Fresh Start option is still available under Windows Security > Device Performance and Health. Click «More Information» under «New Start» and click the «Get Started» button.
RELATED:How to easily reinstall Windows 10 without viruses
The recovery environment may remove updates
Starting with the October 2018 Update, Windows 10 Recovery Environment can now uninstall quality updates. These are small updates that Windows installs on Tuesday, for example. If an update has caused a problem and your computer is unable to restart, you can use Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Uninstall Updates in the Advanced Startup Options menu to repair it, rather than digging through the command prompt window and looking for the most recently installed KBs.
The «Uninstall latest quality update» option will remove the last regular Windows update you installed, while «Uninstall the last feature update» will remove the previous major update every six months, such as the May 2019 Update or the October 2018 Update.
This feature may seem rather technical and few people can use it, but the good news is that Windows automatically uses it when it detects an update problem. So, if an update causes your Windows 10 system to not boot or causes another major issue, Windows 10 will automatically uninstall that quality update when the repair process is complete. You don’t even need to know that this feature exists.
Prior to this automatic feature, only experienced administrators who knew what they were doing could remove updates from the recovery environment.
Coming soon: Cloud Download
Cloud Download is the newest exciting feature. As Lower writes on the Microsoft Blog, the standard imageless restore, now known as a «Local Reinstall», «can take over 45 minutes and may not always repair Windows if the installation is in a very bad state or too damaged.»
The new Cloud Download feature will allow you to reinstall Windows from the cloud instead of using local copies of files. If you have a fast internet connection, it may be faster than using Local Recovery and it «may be a more reliable way» to restore Windows. It’s like using the Media Creation Tool to boot Windows onto a USB drive and restore your OS, but it’s built right into Windows 10 and you can do it in a few clicks.
To use this feature after Windows 10 20H1 Update is stable, go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Get Started. After selecting «Keep my files» or «Remove everything», you will be prompted to select «Cloud download» or «Local reinstall».
The following explains how this works in more detail on the Microsoft blog. It works as you might expect. Windows will download the necessary files from Microsoft servers, create a new operating system root folder, transfer files such as drivers from your current installation, and then change the operating system root folder.
RELATED:Microsoft explains how «Cloud Download» reinstalls Windows 10
The future of rebooting this PC
Going forward, Microsoft Lower said that Microsoft will simplify the overall interface by removing «secret squirrel entry points» such as the «fresh start» button in Windows Security.
Also, he said he hopes to do more with Cloud Download — instead of using the machine’s local hardware drivers during a reinstall, he would like Windows to download the latest, most recent hardware drivers. It’s just an aspirational goal, and there’s no guarantee that Microsoft will make it.
Lower also said he would be interested in whether people would like Cloud Download to allow them to upgrade to newer builds or downgrade to earlier builds, so that’s another possible feature going forward.
Whatever Microsoft does, Windows recovery has come a long way since even the days of Windows 7 when you had to use a manufacturer-provided recovery partition or simply reinstall Windows from scratch.