Should I clean install Windows 10 with Reset this PC’s Cloud Download option or USB flash drive?

Is it better to clean install Windows 10 using the Cloud Download option with Reset this PC or bootable USB flash drive? Best answer: Use the USB flash drive option — here’s why.

Cloud Download vs. USB flash drive to clean install Windows 10
Cloud Download vs. USB flash drive to clean install Windows 10

Starting with Windows 10 version 2003 (20H1), the “Reset this PC” recovery feature ships with a new “Cloud Download” option that allows you to download the installation files from the cloud to reinstall the OS on your PC, instead of using the local recovery image.

The Cloud Download option will reinstall the same build, version, and edition currently installed on your device, and it’ll remove all your apps. In addition, if the “Remove everything” option is selected, the user data will also be deleted.

Basically, the new option works like the Media Creation Tool allowing you to perform a clean installation keeping your files or removing everything without the need of extra tools or hardware.

Windows 10 clean install with Cloud Download or USB flash drive?

However, if you need to perform a clean installation to recover your system, is it better to use the Reset this PC feature with the Cloud Download option or a bootable USB flash drive?

Although the Cloud Download option available with the Reset this PC feature could be a convenient option to perform a clean installation, there are a few caveats. For instance, because the entire process happens inside your device, you’ll need enough available space to download the files and prepare the installation. In addition, if there are software or hardware conflicts between the reset feature and current installation, or the device is having networking issues, the process may not work at all, or the installation could fail.

On the other hand, a bootable USB flash drive is an independent device that you can create using any computer, and it doesn’t care about any of the problems with the current installation (or even if there’s an OS already installed). Once you boot your device with the flash drive, using the custom installation option, you can clean the drive by deleting all the partitions, and proceed with a true fresh copy of Windows 10.

Yes, it takes a few extra steps and you’re still not immune to issues, but the chances of running into problems are much lower than using the built-in recovery tools. Unless there’s a problem, such a bug or hardware compatibility issue, with the version that you’re trying to install.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should discard the Cloud Download entirely. Both recovery approaches have their pros and cons. For example, if you don’t have an USB flash drive, there’s enough available space, and you’re in the rush to get your device up and running, perhaps the Reset this PC with the Cloud Download option is the way to go.

If the current installation has severe problems to the point that your device won’t boot. You want to have a piece of mind that everything is erase properly. Or you’re setting up a new computer or replaced the hardware, using the USB flash drive approach to perform a true clean installation will be the way to go.

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].