Windows 10 clean installation

How to perform a clean install of Windows 10

Do you want a fresh start? Here are the steps to successfully do a clean install of Windows 10 on your new PC or after upgradinging from Windows 8.1 or Windows 7.

Windows 10 is the next major release that addresses many of the shortcomings of Windows 8. It’s also the operating system that brings familiar features like the Start menu and apps floating on the desktop found on Windows 7. However, it’s also an operating system with new features, such as Cortana, Action Center, tablet mode, Settings app, and Windows Store apps.

There two ways to install Windows 10 on your PC: you can do an in-place upgrade that will keep your files, settings, and applications intact, or you can do a clean install, which will give you the opportunity to start fresh erasing all your applications, settings, apps, and personal files as if you were getting a brand new computer.

It’s little bit of work, but it’s better than dealing post-installation issues, such as software not working, previous files using valuable space in the hard drive, and the possibility that malware or a virus may somehow migrate over the new installation.

This Windows 10 guide, you’ll learn the steps to prepare the upgrade and clean install of Windows 10 on your PC.

How to prepare to do a clean install of Windows 10

Before jumping into the install process there are a few things you need to do, including downloading the installation files, make a backup in case things go wrong, download drivers, and make sure your device can start from the bootable drive.

How to download the Windows 10 install files

There is a few ways you can get the installation files to install Windows 10. You can the Media Creation Tool, or you can use this work to get the Windows 10 ISO file without the tool.

How to make a full backup

Before even thinking on making a clean installation of Windows 10 in your primary computer, it’s highly recommended that you create a full system backup of the current installation, or at least that you make a backup of all your important documents, as performing an installation from scratch will result on completely data lost.

How to download device drivers

Although, the most recent version of Windows can automatically detect and install most of the device drivers for your PC. It’s still a good idea to download the correct drivers from your PC manufacturer’s website before the installation. Sometimes the drivers you download directly from your OEM are more up to date than the ones offered via Windows Update, and they can offer better performance.

The following list has some links to the most popular PC manufacturer’s support websites:

How to make sure your PC boots from installation media

Also you need to make sure that your computer’s BIOS is configured correctly to boot from a USB or DVD drive depending on your installation method.

Typically, you will see a screen with the instructions on how to access the BIOS at boot. Most likely you’ll have to hit one of the function key (F1, F2, F3, F10, or F12), the ESC, or the Delete key.

Once in the BIOS, look for the Boot section and make sure the boot order is set to the drive that contains the Windows 10 installation files, and do not forget to save the configuration.

BIOS boot settings
This is an example of a typical BIOS interface.

If you have a Windows 8.1 PC using an UEFI BIOS, go to PC Settings, navigate to Update and recovery > Recovery and in Advanced Startup, click Restart now.

Once the boot menu appears, to to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > UEFI Firmware Settings, and click Restart.

How to perform a clean install of Windows 10

  1. Boot your PC with the Windows 10 installation media and press any key to begin the installation.

  2. Click Next.

    Windows Setup UI

  3. Click Install now.

    Install now

  4. You’ll be prompted to enter the Windows 10 product key, but you can easily click Skip to continue. If you have previously upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you’ll not be prompted to enter a product key. Your Windows 10 devices will activate automatically once your PC connects to the internet. If you’re doing a new clean install of Windows 10 on a new PC, you’ll need to provide a product key after the installation.

    Skip Windows 10 product key during clean installation

  5. Click on “I accept the license terms” and click Next.

    Windows license terms before installation

  6. Select the option “Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)”. This is the option that allows you to clean install Windows 10 on your computer.

    Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)

  7. Delete all the partitions in the hard drive that you want to install Windows 10. Typically, but not always, the “Drive 0” is the drive that contains all the installation files. Deleting the partitions is as easy as selecting each partition, clicking Delete and OK.

    Windows setup deleting partition

    Warning: Remember that deleting a partition also deletes all data within. Also, it’s not necessary to delete the partitions from a secondary hard drive.
  8. Select the hard drive to install Windows 10 and click Next to begin the installation.

    Select drive to install Windows 10

  9. After the installation your computer will reboot and the out-of-the-box experience will appear. If you haven’t provided a product key, you’re likely to be prompted again, but you can click Do this later or enter the product key and click Next to continue with the setup.

    Enter product key Windows 10 setup

  10. In the “Get going fast” page, you can choose to use get going with the express settings, which are pre-set options that are commonly used and recommended for most people or you can customize the settings. 

    Because, we are doing a complete clean installation will use the Customize settings option to continue.

    Get going fast Windows 10 setup

  11. Choose your personalization and location settings and click Next.

    Customize settings during Windows 10 clean install

  12. Choose your browser and protection, connectivity and error reporting settings settings. For the most part, you want to leave these settings enabled. Click Next.

    Customize more settings during Windows 10 clean installation

  13. Create an account using your Microsoft credentials. Enter your email and password, and click Sign in.

    If you don’t have a Microsoft Account, click the Create one link and follow the on-screen instructions.

    Alternatively, you can click Skip this step to create a traditional local account, which will be limited to some benefits.

    Microsoft Account setup during Windows 10 clean installation

    Quick Tip: Note that if you don’t have a Microsoft account, you can create a local account with the link that reads “Create one!”, but remember that you will still need a Microsoft account to install modern apps from the Windows Store.
  14. If you don’t want to use a password to sign-in, you can use a PIN. To set one click Set a PIN.

    Set a PIN during Windows 10 installation

  15. On the dialog box, enter your new PIN number twice and click OK.

  16. Enable Cortana to continue, and click Next.

    Setup Cortana during Windows 10 clean installation

Windows will finalize configuring your settings and synchronizing any information from your Microsoft account. Default apps will install, and then you’ll be presented with the new Windows 10 desktop.

Windows 10 with the Creators Update clean installation walkthrough

Although the clean installation process hasn’t changed, starting with the Creators Update, the out-of-box-experience (OOBE) has been updated. In the video below, you can see the steps finish setting up your device with the new update.

Once everything is installed and configured correctly, reinstall all your previous app, and restore your files from backup. More importantly don’t forget to go to Settings > Update & security > Windows Update and check for all the latest updates and drivers.

If you don’t have a product key, you can get one using the following links: