Windows 10 clean installation

How to clean install 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.

Doing a clean install of Windows 10 is perhaps the best method to upgrade to the latest version, as it allows you to wipe clean the hard drive to start from scratch with a fresh copy of Windows 10 without apps, configurations, or files that may be affecting performance in your current installation.

It’s a process particularly useful if you’re upgrading from a previous version, such as from Windows 8.1 or Windows 7. You have been using the same Windows 10 installation for a long time, and you’re experiencing issues. Or if you’ve purchased a new device that it came preloaded with an image from a manufacturer loads a bunch of bloatware that you don’t need.

In this guide, you’ll learn the steps to prepare your device and perform clean installation of Windows 10.

How to prepare to install Windows 10

Before jumping into the clean 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.

Downloading Windows 10 installation 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 workaround to get the Windows 10 ISO file without the tool.

Creating 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.

Downloading 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:

  • Dell 
  • Lenovo
  • Acer
  • HP
  • ASUS
  • Toshiba
  • Samsung

Changing BIOS and UEFI settings

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 do a clean install of Windows 10

After creating the USB bootable media, you can proceed to install Windows 10. Here’s how:

  1. Start your PC with the Windows 10 installation media.

  2. Press any key to begin the installation.

  3. Click Next.

    Windows Setup UI

  4. Click Install now.

    Install now

  5. Enter the product key to install Windows 10, or click the Skip button if you’re reinstalling. After the installation Windows 10 will activate automatically.

    Skip Windows 10 product key during clean installation

  6. Click on “I accept the license terms”.

  7. Click Next.

    Windows license terms before installation

  8. 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)

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

    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.
  10. Select the hard drive (Drive 0 Unallocated Space) to install Windows 10.

  11. Click Next to begin the installation.

    Select drive to install Windows 10

  12. In the out-of-the-box experience that appears after the installation. Select your current region.

  13. Click Yes.

  14. Select your keyboard layout.

  15. Click Yes.

    Windows 10 keyboard layout settings
    Windows 10 keyboard layout settings
  16. If you’re not setting a second keyboard layout click Skip.

  17. If your device is using an Ethernet connection, it’ll be connected to the network automatically. If you’re using a wireless connection, you’ll need to set up the connection manually.

  18. Select the Set up for personal use option.

  19. Click Next.

    Windows 10 set up for personal use settings
    Windows 10 set up for personal use settings
  20. Type your Microsoft account email, phone, or Skype identification. Or click the Offline account link at the bottom left corner to create a local account.

  21. Click Next.

    Windows 10 with Microsoft account setup
    Windows 10 with Microsoft account setup
  22. Type your Microsoft account password.

  23. Click Next.

  24. You can always set up at a PIN password at a later time. Click the Do this later link in the bottom left corner of the screen.

    Windows 10 PIN setup
    Windows 10 PIN setup
  25. If you want to link your iPhone or Android phone to your PC to pick up websites where you left off, enter your phone number and click Send. If not simply, click Next. You can always configure this feature later in the Settings app.

    Windows 10 link phone to PC setup
    Windows 10 link phone to PC setup
  26. Click Yes to enable Cortana on your device. If you want to use the “Hey Cortana” feature, also check the Respond when I say “Hey Cortana” option.

  27. Select your privacy settings that best suits your needs.

  28. Click Accept.

    Windows 10 privacy settings
    Windows 10 privacy settings

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 Fall Creators Update clean installation walkthrough

Although the clean installation process hasn’t changed much, the out-of-box-experience (OOBE) process 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.