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How to Reinstall Windows 10 or 11 Without Losing Files

by Rahul Rai
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Is your Windows computer taking forever to boot up, heating up excessively, or perhaps infected with malware? One might consider reinstalling Windows as the best solution. However, a common concern is the possibility of accidentally erasing all your personal and important files. This guide will show you the correct settings to reinstall Windows without losing your files.

Things to Keep in Mind

Reinstalling Windows while retaining your files isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ll need to pay attention to the process. There are a few things that you need to keep in mind before reinstalling Windows:

  • Back up all your files and device drivers just if things don’t work out.
  • Create a list of all installed software so that you won’t have to recollect the applications you had once the installation is completed.
  • Ensure you have product keys for Windows and any other relevant software you plan to reinstall.

Tip: Here’s how to back up Windows 11 to the cloud before you reinstall the operating system.

Reinstall Windows 10 or 11 Using the Built-In Method

The steps to reinstall Windows 10 or 11 are straightforward, and you can do it without worrying about losing your files. Here’s how to do it using the built-in method:

1. On a Windows 10 PC, go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery.

Recovery Screen (Windows 10)

Whereas, on Windows 11, navigate to Settings > System > Recovery.

Recovery Option (Windows 11)

2. Under the Reset this PC section, click on the Get started on Windows 10 and Reset this PC button on Windows 11 to initiate the process.

Get started or Reset PC button

From this point onwards, the steps will remain the same for both Windows 10 and 11 OS.

3. From the Reset this PC screen, select the Keep my files option.

select the Keep my files option

4. After that, you can choose either the Cloud download or Local reinstall option.

Cloud download: Internet connection is necessary as it fetches the latest available Windows build from Microsoft’s servers to install on your computer. Useful if your system files are corrupt and you need a fresh installation of Windows. Takes more time.
Local reinstall: You can reinstall Windows using the system files on your computer. Useful if want to reinstall Windows offline without using data. Takes less time.

Cloud download or Local reinstall option

5. On the following screen, hit the Next button.

Hit the Next button

6. Then, hit the Reset button to begin the reinstallation process.

hit the Reset button

Reinstall Windows 10 or 11 Using Windows Recovery Environment

If you’re unable to reset Windows through the above method, you can try the Windows Recovery Environment method. Do note that the Windows Recovery Environment in Windows 11 is slightly different than the Recovery Environment of Windows 10. Here’s how it works:

1. Navigate to Settings > System > Recovery. Under the Recovery options, click the Restart now button next to Advanced startup.

Click on the Advanced Startup button

2. Confirm your decision by clicking the Restart now button again.

Hit Restart Now button Again

3. When your computer restarts, select the Troubleshoot option from the available options.

select the Troubleshoot option

4. Click on the Reset this PC option and select the Keep my files option.

Reset this PC while Keeping my files

5. Choose between Cloud download and Local reinstall.

Cloud download and Local reinstall

6. Finally, initiate the Windows reinstallation process by clicking the Reset button.

Click the Reset button

How to Activate Windows 10 or 11 After Reinstalling

If you were unable to activate Windows during the setup process, you can try the following method to manually enter the product key and activate Windows on your laptop or PC.

1. On Windows 10, head over to Settings > Update & Security > Activation and click Change product key.

Click change product key Windows 10

Whereas, on Windows 11, navigate to Settings > System > Activation and then hit the Change button next to Change product key.

2. After that, enter the Product Key and hit Next.

enter the Product Key

3. Finally, click Activate.

click Activate

That’s it! Once the activation is successful, you will receive the “Windows has been activated” message.

Windows Activated


1. Can I reinstall Windows 10 or 11 without a product key (legally)?

Yes, if Windows 10 or 11 came pre-installed on your laptop or PC, or if you upgraded for free from a genuine Windows 7 or 8 versions, your Windows will automatically get activated upon reinstallation. The Windows license information is linked to the hardware through a digital license of your Microsoft account. However, if you have a retail license, it may ask you to enter the product key. So keep it safe.

2. How long does it take to reinstall Windows 10 or 11?

Reinstalling Windows 10 or 11 can take between 20 minutes to 3 hours, depending on several factors, such as CPU performance, available RAM, SSD speed, and internet connectivity.

Refresh Windows Without Losing Files

Due to corrupt system files, software conflicts, or malware, your computer’s performance may start to throttle. Rather than opting for a clean installation of Windows, consider the reset process, which allows for the reinstallation of Windows without losing data. We hope that the provided guide will prove helpful in this regard. Before you leave, take a moment to explore the effects of resetting your Windows PC.

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