When you reset your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC, you will be asked whether you want to perform a “cloud download” or “local reinstallation”. These options work a little differently, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Here is the difference between the two.
Both will reinstall Windows on your PC
The “Reset this PC” function reinstalls the Windows operating system on your computer. You also have the option to keep or delete your personal files – or even erase your entire drive. But whatever you do, Windows will replace your system files with new ones. After that, you will have a new system and will have to configure it and reinstall your programs.
In Windows 10, go to Settings> Update & Security> Recovery and click “Get started” under “Reset this PC” to find this feature. In Windows 11 you can find this function under Settings> System> Recovery> Reset PC.
Both “cloud download” and “local reinstallation” are different ways of getting into the same state: This new Windows 10 or Windows 11 system. Think of it as a factory reset feature for your Windows PC.
“Cloud Download” downloads system files
If you choose Cloud Download, Windows will download new system files from Microsoft’s servers and use them to reinstall Windows on your computer.
As the Reset This PC interface notes, this download can be larger than 4 GB. If you have internet data limits or a slow connection this can be a problem and you should use local reinstall instead.
This option is essential when your PC’s system files get corrupted. If the Local Reinstallation option fails and your PC cannot be reset properly, you should try Cloud Download instead.
Believe it or not, if you have a fast internet connection, the cloud download can actually be faster than reinstalling locally. This is due to the way Local Reinstall works.
“Local reinstallation” uses the files on your PC
If you select “Reinstall locally”, Windows will use the system files already on your PC to reinstall Windows.
This is a little more work for Windows than it sounds. Windows needs to go through its files, find the original files, and put them back together on a new Windows system. Because of this, reinstalling locally can actually be slower than the cloud download, especially if you have a fast internet connection.
Microsoft’s Aaron Lower says local reinstallation can take more than 45 minutes to “[construct] a fresh copy of Windows from the existing installation ”when he explained how Cloud Download works differently.
The local reinstall is especially useful if you have internet speed limits, a slow connection, or your device is offline. It also keeps any Windows updates that you have installed on your PC.
Also, local reinstallation can fail if the Windows system files on your PC are damaged. If you are trying to reset Windows due to system problems, Cloud Download may be more reliable.
Which one should you choose?
For the typical PC, either cloud download or local reinstallation works fine. Assuming you have a fast internet connection with no hard download limits, and your PC doesn’t appear to be in a damaged state, both of these should get your PC to like new in a reasonable amount of time.
However, certain options are better for certain situations:
- If you have a fast internet connection and data is not an issue, use Cloud Download. You could save some time.
- If you’re on a slow connection or want to avoid extra downloads, use local reinstall. You avoid unnecessary downloads.
- If your PC is not working properly, or you’ve already tried reinstalling locally and failed, use Cloud Download.
Whichever you choose, your PC will end up in the same location with a brand new Windows installation.
And don’t worry: if the local reinstall fails, you’ll see a message stating that there was a problem. It won’t just reinstall Windows with damaged system files. When the process of resetting this PC is complete, it was working properly.
(What if the process of resetting this PC is complete, but you still have crashes, blue screens, or other system problems? This is a sign that your computer is having hardware rather than software problems.)
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