How to clean install Windows 10 21H2, November 2021 Update

Updating to Windows 10 21H2 (November 2021 Update) using a clean installation.

Windows 10 version 21H2 clean install
Windows 10 version 21H2 clean install

Windows 10 21H2, November 2021 Update, has been available for compatible devices since November 16, 2021, and the best way to upgrade is to perform a clean installation using a USB flash drive bootable media.

Typically, you should perform an in-place upgrade using Windows Update, but changing the current installation can lead to problems and errors due to possible compatibility issues and custom configurations. A clean install of Windows 10 21H2 minimizes the risks because it deletes everything on the hard drive and sets up a fresh copy of the OS.

If you have had the same setup for a long time, starting from scratch with a fresh copy of Windows can also improve performance, booting times, memory usage, and resolve existing problems. However, there is an exception. Reinstallation isn’t necessary on devices running version 21H1, 20H2, or 2004. Since Windows 10 21H2 is a minor update based on version 2004, devices running one of the three releases only need a small update like those cumulative updates you receive every month.

You can use the Media Creation Tool, but you should only use it to upgrade from an older version (for example, November 2019 Update) or fix current setup problems.

In this guide, you will learn the steps to perform a clean install of Windows 10 21H2 using a bootable USB flash drive. (See also this video tutorial on the Pureinfotech YouTube channel to install the newest version of Windows 10.)

Clean install Windows 10 21H2 from USB

You first need to create a USB flash drive with the Media Creation Tool. You then need to start the device with the bootable media to launch the Windows Setup wizard. Also, you have to make sure the computer can boot from USB, which means that you may need to adjust the BIOS or UEFI settings. However, since the settings are different on most devices, you have to check your manufacturer support website for more specific details.

To perform a clean installation of Windows 10 21H2 (November 2021 Update), use these steps:

  1. Start the PC with the Windows 10 USB flash drive.

  2. Press any key to continue.

  3. Click the Next button.

    Windows setup

  4. Click the Install now button.

    Windows 10 install option

  5. Click the I don’t have a product key option if you are doing a reinstallation. If Windows 10 was already activated after the installation, reactivation will happen automatically.

    Skip license key on Windows 10 setup

  6. Select the edition of “Windows 10” that your license key activates (if applicable).

    Select edition of Windows 10

  7. Check the I accept the license terms option.

  8. Click the Next button.

  9. Select the Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) option.

    Windows 10 custom install option

  10. Select each partition in the hard drive you want to install Windows 10 and click the Delete button. (Usually, the “Drive 0” is the drive that contains all the installation files.)

    Warning: When you delete a partition, it also deletes all data on the storage. Also, it is not required to delete the partitions from a secondary hard drive.
  11. Select the hard drive (Drive 0 Unallocated Space) to install Windows 10.

    Select SSD to install Windows 10

  12. Click the Next button.

  13. Select your region setting after the installation on the first page of the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    OOBE select region

  14. Click the Yes button.

  15. Select your keyboard layout setting.

    OOBE select keyboard layout

  16. Click the Yes button.

  17. Click the Skip button if you do not need to configure a second layout.

  18. If the computer uses an Ethernet connection, it will automatically connect to the network. If you have a wireless connection, you will need to set up the connection manually (a security key may be required).

  19. Select the Set up for personal use option on Windows 10 Pro. The “Home” edition does not have this option.

    Set up PC for personal use

  20. Click the Next button.

  21. Confirm your Microsoft account email, phone number, or Skype identification to create an account.

    OOBE create Windows 10 account

  22. Click the Next button.

  23. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  24. Click the Next button.

  25. Click the Create a PIN button.

  26. Create a new PIN password.

    OOBE create PIN for account

  27. Click the OK button.

  28. Confirm your privacy settings that best suit your needs by turning on or off the toggle switch for each setting.

  29. Click the Accept button.

    OOBE choose privacy settings

  30. (Optional) On the “Customize your device” page, select one or more ways you plan to use the device to allow the setup to suggest tools and services customization during this experience.

    OOBE customize device usage settings

  31. Click the Accept button to continue. Or click the Skip button to skip this part of the setup.

  32. Click the “Skip for now” button to skip linking your phone to your PC. (You can always do this from the Settings app.)

    OOBE skip phone link to PC

  33. Click the Next button to allow OneDrive to automatically backup your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders to the cloud. Or click the “Only save file to this PC” option to skip this step.

    OOBE OneDrive setup

  34. Click the No, thanks button to skip the Microsoft 365 setup.

    OOBE skip Microsoft 365 offer

  35. Click the Not now button to disable Cortana.

    OOBE skip Cortana setup

Once you complete the steps, a clean install of Windows 10 21H2 will be performed on the computer.

For additional assistance, check this guide that includes every step to prepare, create a backup, and start with a new installation of Windows 10.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 15 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 21 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].