How to reset a Microsoft Surface device

Need to sell your Surface or give it a fresh start? We have a look at how you can reset it in a few simple steps

There comes a time when you’ll need to reset your Microsoft Surface device. It could be because you’re running into issues with Windows and need a fresh start, or you might just want to sell off your device, or give it to someone else and erase all of your data from it. Well, there are two ways you can do it. If you have access to your Windows 11 installation, you can reset your Surface device using the usual method to reset Windows 11 to factory settings. If not, you can create a recovery drive, then boot your Surface from it.



Reset your Surface through Windows 11

The simplest way to reset a Surface device is by going through Windows 11’s settings app, similar to how you would on any other laptop (as long as it runs Windows). Of course, this method only works if you know the password for the Surface device.

  1. Open the Windows 11 settings app by pressing Windows Key and I on your keyboard.
  2. Choose System.
  3. Choose Recovery.
  4. Select Reset PC.
  5. Pick the option to Remove everything. This option will reset your Surface to factory settings. It could take up to an hour, but it makes it hard to recover files. If you choose Keep my files, your Surface will reinstall Windows, but keep the files on your device.
  6. Select Local reinstall to reinstall the version of Windows 11 that’s on your device.
  7. Click Change Settings. If you want, you can choose Clean the drive to make it harder to access previously stored data on the device.
  8. Click Confirm.
  9. Click Next.
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Your Surface will then restart, and processed through the process of erasing your hard drive and resetting itself. This could take as long as an hour, depending on the age of your Surface. Once done, you’ll be taken back to the Windows 11 out of box experience, to set up your Surface like new. You can hold the power button down to shut down your Surface at this point if you’re going to sell it or give it to someone else.

Reset your Surface through a USB drive

If you can’t get into Windows on your Surface, or you’re resetting a Surface you don’t know the password to, you can reset the device by using a USB drive. You’ll need access to another PC to download the file, and you’ll have to have a USB drive that’s at least 16GB. It’s a two-part process, first creating the recovery drive, and then booting from the recovery drive.

Creating the recovery drive

  1. Visit the Surface Recovery Image Download page.
  2. Choose your Surface from the list, and enter your serial number.
  3. Click the Download image button next to the latest version of Windows 11 for your Surface. Usually, it is Windows 11 Home Version 22H2.
  4. Save the downloaded .ZIP image file to your PC
  5. On the PC that you’re on, plug in the USB drive that you’ll use for recovery.
  6. In the search box on Windows, type Recovery Drive and choose the top result.
  7. Uncheck the box for Back up system files to the recovery drive and then select Next.
  8. Select your USB drive from the list, choose Next, and then Create.
  9. Allow the USB boot drive to be created. When complete, click Finished.
  10. Navigate to where you saved the .ZIP file you downloaded earlier and double-click to open it.
  11. Select all the files from the recovery image folder, and copy them to the USB recovery drive you created.
  12. Then select Choose to replace the files in the destination.
  13. Once the copy is complete, you can remove the USB drive from your PC and put it in your Surface.
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Booting from the recovery drive

  1. Plug the USB drive that you created earlier into your Surface. You might need to use a dongle.
  2. Press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button.
  3. Once you see the Microsoft logo, let go of the volume down button.
  4. Select the language and keyboard layout you need.
  5. Select Recover from a drive.
  6. Select Troubleshoot.
  7. Select Recover from a drive.
  8. You might be prompted for a Bitlocker key, if you don’t know it, select Skip this drive. If you know it, follow the steps on the screen and enter the key.
  9. Choose either Just remove my files or Fully clean the drive.
  10. Select Recover.

Your Surface will begin the reset process using the USB drive you created. It will take up to an hour. Once it’s finished, you’ll be taken to the Windows 11 out-of-box experience. You can remove the USB drive and can either power down your device by holding down the power button or continue with the setup.

And that’s it! You’ve just successfully reset your Surface device. It’s a pretty straightforward process that still requires a lot of patience, but you should now have a Surface that’s running as good as new again. Or, you should be assured that your data has been erased and your new Surface will be in safe hands.

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