Start from scratch with a fresh install
When you need to reinstall, upgrade, or configure a new device, a clean installation of Windows 10 is your best option. This guide will teach you how to reinstall Windows 10 without losing any of your data.
What to Know
- You’ll need a Windows DVD or USB drive with the Windows ISO loaded on to it. Insert it and follow the prompts.
- Boot to your install media and follow the on-screen instructions.
- Backup any important data that you don’t want to lose, just in case.
On Windows 10, a clean installation defines the process to wipe out the hard drive and start from scratch with a new setup when the device is having problems. For instance, this method can resolve memory, startup, shut down, apps, and performance issues. In addition, a fresh install can improve battery life, and it’s perhaps the best approach to eliminating viruses and other types of malware.
It’s also a good solution to start fresh with a new copy of Windows 10 on a new computer that may have come preloaded with bloatware, when you’re readying a device for safely decommission, or when replacing a hard drive.
Backup Before You Start
Before you perform any kind of factory reset, or reinstall Windows 10, it’s paramount that you backup your important data on to a separate drive or online cloud service. A clean reinstall of Windows 10 is not like a factory reset where some of your data is retained. You’ll be deleting everything and reinstalling Windows from scratch, so anything you don’t backup will be lost.
How to reinstall Windows 10
Microsoft knows how much of a pain it is to reinstall Windows 10, and that’s why it’s gone out of its way to make the way to make sure the process is easier than ever.
The simplest way to reinstall Windows 10 is through Windows itself. Click ‘Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery’ and then choose ‘Get started’ under ‘Reset this PC’. A full reinstall wipes your entire drive, so select ‘Remove everything’ to ensure a clean reinstall is performed.
If Windows fails to load, you should be shown the troubleshooting screen, which you can also access via your recovery drive if you created one. In these circumstances, select ‘Troubleshoot’ followed by ‘Reset your PC’.
One of the benefits of this new approach is that Windows attempts to recover from a previously created system image or – failing that – using a special series of install files that download the latest version of Windows during the reinstall process.
In practical terms this means you’ll avoid a lengthy series of post-install updates to download and install in order to bring Windows itself back up to date. The reset process is simple: your PC reboots, then after a pause while things are being prepared, you may be confronted by a screen asking you if you want to remove files from all of your drives, or just the drive that Windows is installed on.
Unless you’re planning on disposing of the PC, select ‘Only the drive where Windows is installed’ to protect data files stored on other partitions or drives.
You’ll also be given an option to ‘clean the drive fully’ – again, skip this unless you’re selling on your PC. Finally, click ‘Reset’ and let your PC do the rest.
How to Do a Clean Install of Windows 10
You’ll need have or create a Windows 10 installation media like a USB drive or DVD (here’s more information on how to create one) and your Windows 10 serial number. Alternatively, if you’ve previously upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1, you’ll need the serial number for those installations.
Most of installing Windows involves following on-screen instructions, but there are a few steps along the way you’ll want to be aware of.
Reboot or startup your PC and insert the USB drive or DVD.
Using your PC’s boot menu, select the USB or DVD drive that you want to reinstall Windows from. Here’s how to change the boot order of Windows if you are unsure.
Wait for the install process to begin. It may take some time depending on the speed of your drive, CPU, and storage drive. When given the chance, select the Language, Time, and Keyboard Language that you want to use. Then select Next.
Select Install Now.
Read through the Microsoft software license, and if you agree, tick the box to say so, and select Next.
You may be asked to input a license (or product) key.
Select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).
This is the last chance you have to stop and backup anything you haven’t saved. Once you proceed past this point, you will no longer be able to easily recover your data.
On the screen asking Where do you want to install Windows, you should see several partitions. Select each of them individually and select Delete.
When they’ve all been deleted, you see a single block of Unallocated Space. Select it and select Format. When that’s finished, you can create your own preferred number of partitions by selecting New, or, just select Next to begin the Windows installation.
Windows will then begin the installation. The process can take some time depending on the speed of your PC.
When it’s finished, you’ll be asked to confirm a few language settings, before booting you to the desktop. Once there, it’s a good idea to update your Windows drivers.
If Windows did not activate during the install process, you might need to do so now. Go to the Settings menu by pressing the Windows Key+I and you’ll see a link at the bottom of the screen to help you input your key.