How can I factory reset my Dell laptop?

Resetting your Dell laptop to factory settings can be a quick and easy way to restore your device’s performance and wipe your personal data before recycling, reselling, or returning your computer. Here are the steps to factory reset a Dell laptop running Windows 10.

Back Up Important Data

Before resetting your Dell laptop, make sure to back up any important data you want to keep. This includes documents, photos, music, and other media files. You can back up data to an external hard drive, USB flash drive, cloud storage services like Dropbox, or your Microsoft account if you use OneDrive. If you’re not sure how to manually back up files, use the File History tool in Windows 10 to quickly save copies of your important folders.

Sign Out of Accounts

Make sure to sign out of any accounts logged in on your laptop, including your Microsoft account, OneDrive, email accounts, and any other services you use. This will ensure no personal data gets left behind.

Reset Your Dell Laptop Using Windows Settings

The easiest way to reset your Dell laptop is through the Windows 10 Settings menu:

  1. Open the Windows Start menu and click the Settings gear icon to open your system settings.
  2. Click “Update & Security” then select “Recovery” on the left side.
  3. Under “Reset this PC” click “Get started.”
  4. Choose either “Keep my files” or “Remove everything” depending on whether you want to delete your personal files or not. Usually choosing “Remove everything” is best for a clean slate.
  5. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the reset process. Your laptop will restart a few times during the reset.

Resetting through Windows Settings gives you the option to keep or remove your files before restoring your Dell laptop to factory conditions. All of your user accounts and programs will be removed regardless.

Reset Using Dell Recovery Options

If Windows Settings isn’t working, you can factory reset your Dell laptop using the built-in Dell recovery tools:

  1. Restart your laptop and press F8 as soon as you see the Dell logo to access the Advanced Boot Options menu.
  2. Select “Repair Your Computer” at the bottom of the screen.
  3. On the System Recovery Options screen choose “Dell Factory Image Restore.”
  4. Confirm that you want to continue with the reset process.
  5. Select the option to wipe your drive completely clean when prompted.

The Dell recovery reset will delete all files and restore your laptop’s software to the original factory settings. This method is useful if Windows won’t load properly and you can’t access the Settings menu.

Reset from the Dell Recovery Partition

Your Dell laptop should have a hidden recovery partition on the hard drive that contains the factory reset files. Here’s how to access it:

  1. Restart your laptop and tap F12 when the Dell logo appears to access the one-time boot menu.
  2. Select “Diagnostics” from the boot menu.
  3. Choose the “Factory Reset” option.
  4. Confirm that you want to wipe the hard drive and reset to factory settings.

Booting into the recovery partition will automatically run the reset process without loading Windows. Like the Dell recovery options, this will wipe your drive and restore factory settings.

Reset from a Dell Operating System Recovery Tool

If your Dell laptop didn’t come with a recovery partition, you may need to download the Dell OS Recovery Tool to create recovery media. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Dell’s support site and search for your laptop model to find the recovery tool download.
  2. Create a bootable recovery USB or DVD with the tool.
  3. Plug in the recovery media and restart your laptop.
  4. Boot from the USB or DVD to launch the recovery tool.
  5. Follow the prompts to reset your laptop to factory conditions.

This recovery media contains the files necessary to perform a factory reset without an existing recovery partition. Make sure you select the option to wipe your drive completely.

Reset a Dell Laptop Using the Command Prompt

Advanced users can also factory reset a Dell laptop using the Command Prompt in Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE). Here are the steps:

  1. Restart your laptop and select “Troubleshoot.”
  2. Go to “Advanced options” then “Command Prompt.”
  3. Type diskpart and press Enter.
  4. Next type list disk to display disks.
  5. Select the disk number of your main hard drive with select disk # (for example, select disk 0).
  6. Type clean to wipe the hard drive.
  7. Exit Command Prompt and choose “Continue” to reset to factory default settings.

Using the Command Prompt in recovery mode is fast and effective but requires typing exact commands. Follow the steps carefully to avoid errors.

Important Reset Considerations

Keep these things in mind before resetting your Dell laptop:

  • Back up important data first.
  • Sign out of all accounts before resetting.
  • Reset using Windows 10 Settings if possible.
  • Never interrupt the reset process after starting.
  • The recovery partition reset won’t keep any files.
  • Resetting will restore Windows but not other software.
  • You may need to reinstall drivers after resetting.

As long as you backup your must-keep files and fully commit to the reset procedure, you can easily restore your Dell laptop to a clean, factory-fresh state.

Reset a Dell Laptop Running Linux

If your Dell laptop runs Linux instead of Windows, the steps are a little different:

  1. Back up important files like documents and photos.
  2. Use your Linux package manager to uninstall all installed apps.
  3. Delete your /home directory to remove all user accounts and settings.
  4. Reinstall your Linux distribution from scratch.

Since core system files are stored in the root directory, deleting your /home folder eliminates most personal data. Reinstallation replaces all the default apps and settings.

Reset a Dell Laptop with BIOS Password

If you set a BIOS password on a Dell laptop, you’ll need to remove the password before resetting. Here are some options:

  • Enter the correct BIOS password when prompted on boot.
  • Look up the BIOS master password for your specific Dell model.
  • Remove the CMOS battery to reset BIOS settings.
  • Short the BIOS password jumper pins on the motherboard.

Getting past the BIOS password can be tricky. Your best option is finding the correct master password to unlock the BIOS menus before starting the reset process.

Reset a Dell 2-in-1 Laptop

Resetting a Dell Inspiron, XPS, or other 2-in-1 laptop is the same process as a regular laptop. Just make sure to:

  • Backup your files and sign out of accounts.
  • Use Windows Settings or the Recovery partition steps.
  • Disconnect any attached keyboards before starting.
  • Plug in AC adapter since resets can take awhile.

Convertible 2-in-1 laptops should reset normally to their factory image when following standard Dell reset procedures.

Reset a Dell Laptop with Removable Battery

If your older Dell uses a removable battery, you’ll want to reset with steps like:

  1. Save files and sign out of accounts.
  2. Shut down and disconnect AC power.
  3. Remove battery from laptop.
  4. Hold power button down for 15 seconds.
  5. Replace battery and AC adapter.
  6. Power on and tap F8 to reset to factory conditions.

Forcing a power discharge before resetting can help clear CMOS settings to prevent issues. Older Dells may not have a recovery partition, so you’ll need separate recovery media.

Factory Reset Dell Laptop Before Selling or Recycling

Resetting your Dell laptop before selling, donating, recycling, or otherwise disposing of it is highly recommended. A factory reset protects your personal information by doing the following:

  • Wipes all files, documents, media, and downloads from the hard drive.
  • Removes all accounts and contact information.
  • Clears saved passwords and internet browsing history.
  • Restores original factory settings.

After resetting your old Dell laptop, the next owner will get a computer that feels brand new, while you safeguard your privacy and identity. Just be sure to reset and initialize the drive fully before handing it over.


Performing a factory reset on your Dell laptop clears out all your personal data while returning the computer to original settings. Make sure to back up your files, sign out of accounts, and choose the reset option that wipes the hard drive completely. Following the steps carefully for your specific Dell model will smoothly guide you through the process and give you peace of mind.