How to clean install Windows 11 23H2

You can upgrade to Windows 11 23H2 using a clean installation, and here's how.

Windows 11 23H2 clean install

UPDATED 9/25/2023: Windows 11 23H2 is expected to roll out for compatible devices sometime during the fourth quarter of 2023, and performing a clean installation with a USB flash drive is among the best ways to upgrade.

Microsoft’s recommendation is to use an in-place upgrade through Windows Update, but modifying the current installation can sometimes cause problems and unexpected errors due to compatibility issues and custom system configurations. When you use a clean install of Windows 11 23H2, the chances of problems will be minimal because you will be wiping out everything and applying a fresh copy of the operating system.

It’s important to note that version 23H2 will be available as a cumulative update for devices running version 22H2 without the need for reinstallation. However, if you have had the same setup for a long time, starting from scratch can help resolve existing problems and improve startup times, performance, and memory usage.

Also, even though you can use different ways to perform a clean installation, the best method is to use a USB bootable media with the Windows 11 23H2 files, which you can create using the Media Creation Tool, the official ISO file, or third-party tools like Rufus.

This guide will teach you the steps to do a clean installation of Windows 11 23H2 using a bootable USB flash drive on devices using Windows 11 21H2, version 22H2, Windows 10, or an older version. 

Warning: This process will delete everything on your device. It’s recommended to make a full backup of your computer before proceeding. You’ve been warned. Also, these instructions are meant to install the operating system after version 23H2 releases, not before. If you download the latest version of Windows 11, you will end up installing version 22H2, and if you download the installation files from the Windows Insider Program, you’ll install the latest preview, which is not the final version.

Clean install Windows 11 23H2 from USB

The setup process to install the Windows 11 2023 update requires starting the computer with a USB bootable media, which means that you also have to change the UEFI settings to make sure that the computer can start from the USB flash drive. Since the firmware settings are different on every device, you will have to check your manufacturer support website for more specific details. Once you start the device in the installation setup, you can continue with the instructions below.

To perform a clean install of Windows 11 23H2 from USB, use these steps:

  1. Start the PC with the Windows 11 23H2 USB flash drive.

  2. Press any key to continue.

  3. Click the Next button.

    Windows 11 Setup

  4. Click the Install now button.

    Windows 11 install option

  5. Click the “I don’t have a product key” option if you are doing a reinstallation. If Windows 11 was previously activated after the installation, reactivation would happen automatically.

    Skip license key option

  6. Select the edition of “Windows 11” that your license key activates (if applicable).

  7. Check the “I accept the license terms” option.

  8. Click the Next button.

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

    Windows 11 custom install option

  10. Select each partition in the hard drive you want to install Windows 11 23H2 and click the Delete button. (Typically, the “Drive 0” is the drive that contains all the installation files.)

    Delete partitions Windows 11 setup

    Warning: When you delete a partition, it also deletes all data on the drive. 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 11.

    Clean install Windows 11 on unallocated space

  12. Click the Next button.

  13. Select the hard drive (“Drive 0 Unallocated Space”) to install Windows 11 on your computer.

    Clean install Windows 11 on unallocated space

  14. Click the Next button.

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

    Windows 11 OOBE region

  16. Click the Yes button.

  17. Select your keyboard layout setting.

    Keyboard layout

  18. Click the Yes button.

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

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

  21. (Optional) Confirm a name for the computer.

    Windows 11 OOBE name PC

  22. Click the Next button. (The device will restart automatically.)

  23. Select the “Set up for personal use” option if you are configuring Windows 11 Pro. The “Home” edition does not have this option.

    Windows 11 setup types

  24. Click the Next button.

  25. Click the Sign in button.

    OOBE Sign in page

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

    Create Windows 11 account

  27. Click the Next button.

  28. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  29. Click the Next button.

  30. Click on “View more options.”

    OOBE restore settings

    Quick note: Microsoft is making changes to the out-of-the-box experience. As a result, the process may be slightly different in the final release.
  31. Choose the “Set up a new device” option.

    OOBE Set up as a new device

  32. Click the Next button.

  33. Click the Create PIN button.

    Windows 11 OOBE create PIN

  34. Create a new four-digit PIN.

    Create account PIN

  35. Click the OK button.

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

    Windows 11 OOBE privacy settings

  37. Click the Next button.

  38. Click the Next button again.

  39. Click the Accept button.

    Privacy settings continued

  40. (Optional) On the “Let’s customize your experience” page, select one or more ways you plan to use the device to allow the setup to suggest tools and service customizations during this experience.

    Windows 11 OOBE customize experience

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

  42. Click the Skip button for the Android phone link process.

  43. Click the “Next” button to automatically upload your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders to OneDrive. Or Select the “Only save files to this PC” option.

    OOBE OneDrive backup setup

  44. Click the Next button.

  45. Click the Decline button to skip the Microsoft 365 setup.

  46. Click the “Skip for now” button to skip the Game Pass subscription promotion.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 11 23H2 will finish the clean installation on the device.

Update September 25, 2023: The update available on September 26, 2023, only enables some of the features for version 23H2 (including Copilot, Windows Backup, redesigned File Explorer, updated Settings, Dynamic Lighting, and others) on devices already running version 22H2. However, the system will continue to show version 22H2 on the About settings page. Once Microsoft completes this rollout, at a later time, before the end of 2023, another update will become available to finish deploying the rest of the feature update and switch the system from version 22H2 to 23H2. After this point, the company is expected to update the Media Creation Tool, Installation Assistant, and ISO file to perform an in-place upgrade or clean installation. Also, devices with older releases of the operating system may be able to update directly to version 23H2 from Windows Update.