When your Windows PC or laptop isn't working well, and its issues seem far too difficult to solve, you can give it a fresh start using the "Reset PC" recovery option. Resetting automatically installs the most recent Windows version, as long as the device is plugged in. You can choose to do this either via cloud download or local reinstall. Both have their advantages. Let's find out the differences between the two and which method you should choose.
Good to know: if you need to free up space on your PC, learn how to clean your "C" drive on Windows.
- Cloud Download or Local Reinstall: Main Differences
- Cloud Download or Local Reinstall: Which Is Better?
- 1. Dealing With Corrupt Files and Bloatware
- 2. Time Required
- 3. Failure Chances
- 4. PC Reset Performance
- 5. Getting the Latest Windows Updates
- 6. Offline Installation
- Our Verdict: Which Reset Method Is Better?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Cloud Download or Local Reinstall: Main Differences
Both reset methods to reinstall your operating system are nearly identical, but the biggest difference lies in how the installer is being downloaded. As the name suggests, cloud download (or cloud reset) downloads a new Windows image from Microsoft's servers on the cloud, which requires 4GB or more of Internet data. Therefore, it's a fully online method.
The local reinstall, on the other hand, uses your device's existing system files to rebuild the Windows operating system from scratch. Therefore, it's fully offline in its approach.
Both cloud download and local reinstall methods support the option to keep your personal files or remove everything if you prefer the look and feel of a new PC – with a subtle difference. With cloud download, whether or not you have corrupted system files, they will get replaced by a new Windows version.
On the other hand, when you perform a local reinstall, the corrupted file systems won't get replaced, which means the file issues of a past Windows version are carried over even after resetting the PC.
Neither of these two methods have any resemblance to Windows factory reset, as that not only rebuilds your operating system but also your BIOS files, kernel level software, and user accounts. The PC reset is a much simpler exercise.
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Cloud Download or Local Reinstall: Which Is Better?
Let's review the different aspect points of resetting a Windows PC based on the tried-and-tested performances we recorded for both cloud download and local reinstall.
1. Dealing With Corrupt Files and Bloatware
The biggest draw of performing a reset is that it gives you a new Windows operating system, and you no longer have to struggle with the issues of your old system files and preinstalled apps. Both cloud reset and local reinstall support an option that allows you to get rid of the preinstalled apps and shovelware that came with the PC. The only difference is the extent to which the bloatware is dealt with, and the cloud download method offers slightly more benefits in that area.
For example, when you use the cloud download method to remove preinstalled apps, it gets rid of every bloat that you couldn't uninstall through normal uninstallation. This could be a default antivirus inserted by your PC manufacturer (McAfee in this example), wireless LAN, Bluetooth installer, or other non-essential driver components. You can always reinstall these apps later.
The local reinstall method also helps you get rid of your preinstalled apps. But it fails to remove all of them. Some core Intel/AMD components and the drivers are left alone, as a local reinstall depends on offline methods, and it cannot always guarantee a replacement for those core components.
Basically, a cloud download is 100% online, which means it can get you the most up-to-date replacement for corrupt files and drivers. The local reinstall, on the other hand, cannot make these replacements, and it may happen that the entire reset process gets stuck because of a few corrupt files.
2. Time Required
Resetting is a very slow activity. That's why we recommend it as a last resort for most Windows troubleshooting. Whether you use cloud download or local reinstall, the methods are time consuming, and you need to give it a generous amount of time, anything from 45 minutes to 10 hours. This varies a great deal, as reinstalling your PC depends on factors such as processor used, amount of RAM, and whether you are using HDD or SSD.
All things being equal, the local reinstall process always takes a little more time because the "preparing to reset" phase is much more time-consuming. Each system file on your disk drive gets scanned. When you do a cloud reset, all system files get replaced and reassembled simultaneously, so the preparation phase is very short. On average, you should give an hour or two extra for the local reset process compared to the cloud reset.
Tip: if you need to enter BIOS to make changes to your PC, try these methods.
3. Failure Chances
During a Windows reset, there comes a moment when your screen goes black for long periods of time. (It can take hours to resolve.) Your PC will restart itself more than a few times. This feels like an uncertain phase, as the percentage timer could get stuck, and the needle doesn't seem to move for a long stretch of time.
It is here that your computer reset may fail suddenly, but in which case it is less likely? Obviously, with cloud reset, the chances of reset failure are much less, as the reinstallation does not depend on existing system files, since all file and app settings are directly imported from Microsoft's online servers.
With a local reinstall, you may run into a few issues if there are corrupt files, but nothing serious happens. If your reset fails, you will just go back to the current Windows desktop. In the worst case, if you're stuck in an infinite reboot loop, follow our recommended solutions to access the desktop screen again.
Note: generally, if your Windows device was updated regularly, and you have scanned your hard drive using Chkdsk or DISM, you should not face any issues, even with the local reinstall method.
4. PC Reset Performance
Reset performance is where the local reinstall method has a slight advantage over cloud download. It scans every nook and cranny of your device, giving you a more thorough inspection for errors and other issues. The installation is based on your own device's specifications, and the app customizations remain the same. Due to such a meticulous examination, you get a more complete installation of Windows. Thus, the local reinstall method can greatly improve your device's overall performance after the new Windows build is generated.
FYI: want a cleaner experience on your PC? Learn how to remove ads on Windows.
5. Getting the Latest Windows Updates
Cloud download allows you to keep files, is hassle-free, and more importantly, lets you update your Windows operating system to its more current version. If you haven't updated your Windows computer in a very long time, going for a cloud download via reset will put you at the top of the most recent Windows version update history.
If you are facing unexpected issues, such as a Windows update getting stuck or unknown install errors, performing a cloud download reset is almost a panacea for all update conflicts. With the local reinstall method, you will need to contend with whatever is the latest build of Windows installed on your device.
In both scenarios, all the past updates are deleted, and you have to start with a new Windows update history.
6. Offline Installation
Until a few years ago, most Windows 10 installations were done offline, but online cloud downloads are becoming the norm in Windows 11, and they will most likely become more popular in the future. This may leave users at a disadvantage due to poor Internet access at their locations, and an offline Windows installation just may save their day.
This is the biggest advantage of the local reinstall over cloud download. You don't need Internet access to reset your Windows PC. The local reinstall can prove very helpful in situations where you either don't have Internet access, are using mobile data, or operating at an extremely slow speed. Though for those with access to unlimited uninterrupted Internet data, this is a highly unlikely situation.
Our Verdict: Which Reset Method Is Better?
Having examined the main benefits of both reset methods, we conclude that the cloud download method has a huge advantage over local reinstall and should be the preferred option to reset your Windows device. As long as you have a moderate Internet speed in the range of 10 to 15 Mbps and above, the cloud reset is a much better technique to install Windows software.
However, if you want a more customized version of Windows on your device after a thorough inspection of all your file systems, try the local reinstall method. You will have a slight gain in performance and can perform the reinstall offline. If your surroundings have very poor Internet, this is the way to go.
It must be added that when compared to using a USB/CD and ISO files, both cloud download and local reinstall methods are far superior ways to reinstall your Windows operating system. You don't have to deal with any installer files with either of these two methods.
Tip: learn how to create a Windows 11 USB installer using just the Command Prompt.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a local reinstall and clean install of Windows?
While both a local install and a clean install of Windows achieves the same objective of reinstalling Windows on your device, the methods are entirely different. The local reinstall method is pursued using the "Reset PC" option, while a clean install is achieved using the ISO/USB-based installation methods.
How do I access cloud download or local reinstall in Windows?
Accessing the reset option in Windows operating systems for both cloud download and local reinstall is easy. In Windows 11, you can access the reset option from "Settings -> System -> Recovery -> Recovery options -> Reset PC."
The corresponding path for Windows 10 is "Settings -> Update & Security -> Recovery -> Reset this PC." In each operating system, a pop-up wizard asks you to select how you will reinstall your Windows: cloud download or local reinstall.
The reset method works excellently on all legitimately licensed Windows versions, including Home and Pro, and you don't have to download any ISO or deal with USB/CD drives.
Image credit: Deposit Photos. All screenshots by Sayak Boral.
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