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Set Up Windows 10 Again with the Windows Out Of Box Experience (OOBE)

Starting over without starting over.

Cortana in Windows Setup
(Screenshot: askleo.com)
You can use the Windows 10 Out Of Box Experience, or "OOBE", at any time to reset a variety of items most commonly associated with initial setup.

You may or may not remember setting up Windows 10 the first time you used it. You were walked through a process of questions and answers and options and waiting … probably lots of waiting … while Windows completed setting up your machine.

It’s called the “Out Of Box Experience”, or OOBE.

Turns out you can re-live the experience any time.

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TL;DR:

The Windows Out Of Box Experience (OOBE) resets a number of user interface and configuration options, allowing you to make new choices similar to those offered when Windows was first set up. After backing up, you can run the OOBE using the System Preparation utility: “%WINDIR%\system32\sysprep\sysprep.exe”.

Why would you want to?

The OOBE restores a number of things (though not all) to their initial post-set-up state. It can be a way to return your Windows 10 installation to something short of a full reset or reinstall without having to perform an actual reset or reinstall.

My belief is that the OOBE focuses mostly on user interface, settings, and preferences. What it likely does not affect is the initial hardware configuration of the set-up process.

It is, for example, one way to re-visit your initial privacy selections and perhaps make a different choice.

Before you begin

In my experience, running the OOBE on an already set-up system does not uninstall software or erase any of your data. As I said, it’s mostly about configuration and user interface choices.

However, I’m not going to guarantee that something important to you can’t be lost.

Back up first. Take a full system image backup. That way, should things turn out other than you want after running the OOBE, you can always restore your machine to the state it was in prior to starting.

Running OOBE

The OOBE is presented by a program called the System Preparation Tool, or SysPrep. To run it, right-click on the Start menu, click on Run, and enter:

%WINDIR%\system32\sysprep\sysprep.exe

This will run the utility and present a small dialog with actions.

System Preparation Tool
System Preparation Tool. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

The default settings are appropriate: run the OOBE, leaving “Generalize” unchecked (this removes additional customizations made by Windows Setup that we generally don’t need to concern ourselves with), and “Reboot” as the thing to do when complete.

Click OK, and after a few seconds of preparation, the machine will reboot.

After some amount of “Just a moment” delay, the Out Of Box Experience begins.

Out Of Box Experience underway
Out Of Box Experience underway. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Your “experience” may well be different than mine. I have a Dutch language pack installed, and this was not reset by the OOBE, but rather presented as an alternative language to use for the process.

The OOBE includes (but is not limited to):

  • Setting up (or turning off) Cortana.
  • Region and keyboard selections.
  • Accepting the Windows 10 License Agreement.
  • Selecting the account with which to sign in to Windows.
  • Setting up a PIN.
  • Privacy settings.
  • Customizations & optional features.
  • Setting up (or deferring) OneDrive.
  • Setting up (or deferring) Microsoft Office.

And finally, after some time to complete its work, you have a new(ish) Windows 10 experience.

This might take several minutes
This might take several minutes. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Have you used it?

Given that it’s not advertised as heavily as other reset and repair features, I’d love to hear if you’ve used OOBE, and what problems it may or may not have fixed for you. Leave a comment down below.

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5 comments on “Set Up Windows 10 Again with the Windows Out Of Box Experience (OOBE)”

  1. The only thing I can think of as a use for this is if you have a lot of setting you want to change and want to do it all in one go and not have to look around to do each individually. If you move to a different country in a different time zone with a different language and want to make sure you get all the changes, this might help.

    Reply
  2. I used this recently when configuring a dozen PCs at church. I configured one machine, grabbed a system image (just in case), then “SysPrep”ped that PC with the “Generalize” option and grabbed *that* system image. I then restored the SysPrepped image to the other machines and continued setup on each. The Generalize option resets the SID so each machine is unique on the network.

    Reply
  3. I performed this operation and it removed Last Pass password, Keypass password files, Thunderbird email files, my completed Turbo Tax income tax file for 2020, some icons from the desktop, and more but I stopped looking and did a restore right away from a Macrium Reflect full backup. If you decide to do this please follow Leo’s recommendations and do a full backup first.

    Reply
  4. Hi Leo,
    You have made my day (I think) !
    I was having booting problems and cases of screen freezing.
    When I read your article, I thought ‘I’ll try OOBE.
    Bless you, it seems to have worked.
    It frightened me to death when it asked for my Windows password, but I found that and all was well.
    I now have a question about it though. It seems very slow to start, so I had a look at the ‘Start Menu’ which looks as if it has everything I ever do on it – So the question is – If I delete some of these items from the start menu, will I loose them, or simply remove them from the start menu?

    Reply

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