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How to install Windows 8 from scratch – Clean installation guide (step-by-step)

So you want to install Windows 8? Today is your lucky day, in this step-by-step guide I’ll walk you through all you need to know to do a clean install of Windows 8 successfully. Before we dive into the process I will recommend you to first read this previous article to prepare for your PC to migrate to the latest Microsoft’s operating system and if you are considering to do a plain upgrade from XP, Vista and even Windows 7 to Windows 8, you should use this guide.

Of course that the simplest way to get Windows working is by purchasing a brand new PC. And if you are thinking to do a clean install just because Windows 8 came preinstalled with a bunch of useless utilities, programs, and other crapware, you should consider using the new Windows 8 feature called “Remove everything and reinstall Windows”. This feature will erase everything on your hard drive and it will reinstall a fresh copy of the operating system without the need of going through this process. This is also a really good option if you are planning to recycle your PC without giving away your personal files.

Depending on how you get a copy of Windows 8 (online or at your favorite retail store), you’ll be able to install Windows using the Microsoft’s Setup Wizard, which will guide you through the necessary steps to get the OS running. In the same way as in previous versions, there are three ways to install Windows 8: Clean install — this guide! — where we will erase everything in the hard drive and we’ll proceed to install a fresh copy of Windows 8; upgrade, where you will upgrade the current OS to the new Win 8; and you can always have the best of both worlds and use dual-boot, where you’ll install Windows 8 alongside the previous installation and then at boot, you’ll see a menu to choose which operating system to load.

In my experience, it’s best to start with a clean install when moving to a new operating system, specially when moving to a new major release.

Important: BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP your data before doing anything. You won’t be sorry! During a clean install everything on your hard drive will be wiped out.

Instructions

Now let’s walk step-by-step through the entire Windows 8 setup process, using the Setup wizard. This version of the Microsoft’s setup will feel very familiar if you’ve previously install Windows 7, they look pretty much alike, the only thing that changes is the afterward configuration wizard. However, you’ll notice that the installation process is faster than ever before.

Follow these instructions to perform a Windows 8 clean install:

1 Make sure that your PC has the BIOS configured to boot from the DVD drive or USB port (depending of the installation media you’re using) — refer to your hardware manufacturer’s manual for more information –. Then insert the Windows 8 DVD or USB drive in your computer and restart. If you currently don’t have any OS installed, Windows 8 will jump right into the Setup wizard, if you do have a previous installation you may have to press any key to continue with the setup.

2 After a while the Setup window will appear. Here, you can choose your language, time and currency format, and the keyboard or input method you’ll be using during the installation. These settings do not reflect the settings you’ll be using on this PC after the installation.

Win 8 Setup screen

3 Click the Next button. The Install Windows window appears and to continue with the installation click Install Now.

Tips:

  • This window also provide different tools you can use to get access to Windows 8 recovery tools. In case things go south later on, such as not being able to start Windows and other repair tools. You can access these tools by clicking Repair your computer link.
  • If the mouse isn’t working, you’ll notice that under the options name there is an underline letter, you hit the Alt key + the letter to select the option.

Install Win 8

4 Continuing in the next window, you have to agree to the End User License Agreement or EULA. Here you’ll find all the details you need to know about your legal right using this software. No many people read this, but you should. Check the Accept the license terms and hit the Continue button.

Accept license Windows 8

5 Moving on to the next window, select Custom (advanced), this is the option where we tell the wizard that we are going to perform a clean install.

Windows Setup - Custom install

6 Careful here! Select the hard drive or partition where to install Windows 8, and click Next.

Choose drive to install Win 8

Quick Tip: From this window you can get access to the disk configuration tools by clicking the Drive options (advanced). The tools available in this section can be used to resize, delete or create and new partition.

It is worth noting that if you are performing a clean install from a computer purchased with a preinstalled version of Windows, you may see more than one partition. This is because companies in a cheap move to save money don’t ship recovery discs anymore with new systems. They create a separate recovery partition. If you are not planning on going back to your current operating system version, you could delete all partitions and take advantage of all the hard drive space. To do this select each partition and click Delete.

Info: Besides the partition where Windows 8 will reside, Microsoft also create a second partition called system disk, which is a hidden partition (100mb) at the beginning of the hard drive. And it has two purposes: The first is to provide space for Windows 8′s recovery tools and it also provide disk space for BitLocker (Microsoft’s encryption technology).

The Windows Setup will start copying files, installing features and updates.

Windows Setup copying files

7 After a few moments and restarts, you’ll be prompted to enter the Windows 8 product key — You can find this information in the email confirmation from your digital purchase or in the back of the physical installation media box — and click Next. Of course, you can always do this later by clicking Skip.

Enter Windows 8 serial number

8 Next is Personalize. Here choose your color scheme and enter the PC name. Make sure that the name is not longer than 15 characters and do not use spaces or certain special characters, then click Next.

Personalize

9 Now is time to configure your new Windows 8 Settings and you have two choices: Use express settings, which will configure all the recommended settings set by Microsoft, or you can use your own by clicking Customize. For this guide I’ll be using the Customize option, which will give the control to turn on or off network sharing, configure Windows Updates and Do Not Track requests, whether you want to share information with Microsoft and how Win 8 connects online to help you troubleshoot problems.

10 Windows 8 offers two different ways to sign in to your PC: The first one is by using a Microsoft account, which can be created by using an Outlook.com, Hotmail.com or any other email address. Using this type of account will make it easier to download apps from the Windows Store, get your online content in Microsoft apps and for synchronization purposes. And the second is by creating a traditional local account by clicking the Sign in without a Microsoft account link. However, you’ll still need a Microsoft account to download apps and to synchronize online content.

For this guide I’ll be using a Microsoft account. Enter an email address and click Next.

Info: Would you like to learn more about the difference between the two account type? Check out this article.

11 Enter the email password and click Next.

Microsoft account verification

12 You may need to complete additional security information. You only need an alternate email address, then you can click Next.

Microsoft account additional security

Alright that was the last screen that needed your input to configure Windows 8, now the wizard will finish the installation. Also while the wizard completes the install, you’ll see an animated demo where Microsoft shows you how to start using the new operating system, pretty basic, but good information for first timers. When you see the new Start screen that means that the installation has been completed successfully.

Windows 8 Start screen menu

Congratulation, you’ve done it! Enjoy Windows 8.

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