Once in a while, even our trustiest devices get bogged down or run into errors that require drastic measures. Whether it’s a clogged system or corrupt files, the best thing to do is set the device back to square one by resetting the OS.
Luckily, resetting Windows 10 is generally easy on any PC. However, there are a few methods you can use to reset your Microsoft Surface device. We’ve mapped out the steps in three ways: From within Windows 10, at the Windows Sign-In screen, and using a USB device.
First, a note
Before jumping straight into resetting your Surface, be sure to troubleshoot the device and see if your issues can be solved in another way.
Remember, we’re talking about a full reset. That could mean wiping all personal files and restoring the system and all apps back to their out-of-the-box state. If you can, be sure to back up any and all files you want to keep. Otherwise, you’ll be starting from scratch.
From within Windows 10
Step 1: Click or tap the Start button and select the Cog icon on the Start Menu. This opens the Settings app.
Step 2: Select Update & Security.
Step 3: Select Recovery listed on the left.
Step 4: Click or tap the Get Started button displayed under Reset This PC.
Step 4: A pop-up window appears on the screen with two options: Keep My Files and Remove Everything.
The first option, Keep My Files, will save your account profile and all the associated files and folders. You will need to reinstall all drivers and software purchased outside the Microsoft Store, but not the apps that came pre-installed on your PC.
The second option, Erase Everything, will remove the parent profile and all the associated files and folders. It also removes all apps that were pre-installed on your PC. Again, you will need to reinstall all drivers and software purchased outside the Microsoft Store.
Select one of these options.
Step 5: You will see two options: Cloud Download and Local Reinstall.
The Reset function essentially rebuilds Windows 10 using the current install — it doesn’t pull from a hidden partition or external media. If you select Cloud Download, Windows Recovery pulls everything it needs from Microsoft’s servers. It also installs the latest version even if your local copy was a few updates behind. This method requires an internet connection.
If you select Local Reinstall, Windows Recovery takes what it needs from the local installation. If Windows 10 is damaged, then Windows Recovery can’t rebuild the OS. Moreover, this method only installs the version you have on the machine, not the latest as seen with the Cloud Download option. This method does not require an internet connection.
When you’ve decided which option is right for you, make your selection.
Step 6: View the summary and click or tap Next.
Note: You can make changes to the reset settings before moving forward. Select the Change Settings link to toggle on or off the Windows download portion of the reset.
Step 7: Click or tap the Reset button to finish. As shown above, there is a link you can tap or click to view the apps that will be removed once you select the Reset button.
From the Windows Sign-In screen
Here’s a secondary method if you’re having trouble getting past the Sign-In screen. In this case, you can reset without the need to actually sign in. This is useful for trying to fix the issue that’s keeping you from fully logging in.
Note: You can access the Sign-In screen from anywhere within Windows 10. Just press or tap the Windows logo + L keys simultaneously.
Step 1: Click or tap the Power icon located in the bottom right corner on the Sign-In screen.
Step 2: Press and hold the Shift key and then select Restart on the pop-up menu. Select Restart Anyway if Windows 10 nags about other users.
Step 3: The Surface device reboots to the blue Choose an Option screen. Select Troubleshoot.
Step 4: Select Reset This PC.
Step 5: From this point, the instructions are the same. Select Keep My Files or Remove Everything and follow the on-screen prompts (or scroll up to the first section in this guide).
Use a USB Device
When you attempt a Windows reset, you may get a warning message that says something like Insert media: Files are missing. This message can happen because of file corruption or other serious problems. In this case, “insert media” means you should use a USB drive if you already have one ready.
For this method, you need a USB recovery drive for Windows 10. If you don’t have a recovery drive already created and you can’t make one on your Surface, you can use another Windows 10 PC to download a factory recovery image and make the drive. You can download recovery images directly from Microsoft.
To create a recovery drive, either type “Recovery Drive” in the search field on the taskbar, or take the following route:
Step 1: Click or tap the Start button.
Step 2: Select to expand the Windows Administrative Tools folder on the Start Menu.
Step 3: Select to open the Recovery Drive tool.
Step 4: Follow the instruction to create a recovery drive using an external drive and the image you downloaded.
When you are ready, and the drive is ready, here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Turn off your Surface device but keep it plugged in.
Step 2: Insert the USB drive.
Step 3: Press and hold the Volume down button as you press and release the Power button.
Step 4: When the Surface logo appears, release the Volume down button.
Step 5: Select your input method and language.
Step 6: At the blue Choose an Option screen, select Troubleshoot on the list. Do not select the Use a Device option.
Step 7: Select Recover From a Drive.
Step 8: Select one of two options: Just Remove My Files or Fully Clean the Drive. Of the two, the latter option wipes the drive completely, allowing you to sell the device if needed. If you’re simply repairing Windows 10, the former option is ideal.
Step 9: Select Recover.
After resetting to factory settings
How you restart the Surface depends on what you need to do next when Windows 10 eventually loads the Sign In screen. If you selected the Keep My Files choice, then you’ll want to re-download all of your applications and programs that didn’t transmit with your Surface. The Remove Everything option requires you to log back in with your Microsoft Account credentials and install everything once more, including all of your files.
Of course, by utilizing the Remove Everything and Fully Clean the Drive selections, your Surface tablet will perform like it’s brand new, ready for donation or reselling, or whatever else you plan to do with it.