How to refresh your Windows 10 PC with a clean installation

Windows 10 has a tool to quickly refresh your PC with a clean installation when setting up a new device or having issues with your device — Here's how to use the "Refresh Windows" tool.

Refresh Windows tool to do clean installation

A clean install of Windows 10 usually can help you mainly in three scenarios: when your PC begins to degrade performance, when it gets infected with a very tough virus impossible to remove, and when you need to start fresh by removing all the apps you installed or came pre-installed on your PC.

Starting with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft introduces a new “Refresh Windows” tool that let you very quickly do a clean install of Windows 10 to start with a fresh copy of the operating system with the latest update available at that time.

In this guide, you’ll learn the steps to reinstall Windows 10 with the latest update using the “Refresh Windows” tool.

About ‘Refresh Windows’

Although the “Refresh Windows” is a great tool to easily reinstall Windows 10 without bloatware and to fix any software problem your PC may have, it’s important to review what will happen during a clean reinstallation process.

Using the refresh tool will remove all the apps that don’t come standard with the operating system. This means that apps included by your manufacturer, such as drivers, support apps, and other apps will be removed too.

It’s also possible that you may lose some digital licenses, digital downloaded content, and various other digital entitlement for certain applications.

Before proceeding make sure to make a full backup of your computer, and make sure to consult your software manufacturer support website on how to reinstall an application and how to restore your digital content after a clean install.

If you’re using a program like Office, make sure to find the product key to reinstall the suite of apps afterwards.

It’s important to note that you’ll need an internet connection, and around 12GB of free storage space to download and install the operating system.

How to use ‘Refresh Windows’ to reinstall Windows 10

Once you know how the tool works and you have a backup of your machine and personal files, follow these steps to reinstall Windows 10:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & security.

  3. Click on Recovery.

  4. Under “More recovery options”, click the link to download the tool.

    Windows 10 Recovery option to start fresh with a clean installation

  5. On the “Start fresh with a clean installation of Windows 10”, scroll down and click the Download tool now button. (Click here to download the tool directly.)

    Download RefreshWindowsTool.exe tool

  6. Double-click the RefreshWindowsTool.exe file to launch the tool.

  7. Click Accept to agree to the licensing.

    Windows 10 installation licensing terms

  8. Choose to Keep personal files only or Nothing. If you can’t decide, you can check my previous guide on which path you should take reinstalling Windows 10.

    Give your PC a fresh start with a clean installation

  9. Click Start to begin reinstalling Windows 10.

The tool now will proceed downloading the over 3GB of data containing all the necessary files to reinstall Windows 10 with the latest update.

After a few reboots, you’ll be presented with the out-of-box experience (OOBE), so you can finish configuring your new installation.

Once the installation completes remember to go to Settings > Update & security > Windows Update to finish installing any new update and download any required device driver. However, you may need check your PC manufacturer’s support website to download any additional driver that isn’t available through Windows Update.

What’s different between ‘Refresh Windows’ and ‘Reset this PC’

You probably noticed that under the recovery options there is also the “Reset your PC” option. This tool is virtually the same as the new “Refresh Windows” tool with some key differences.

When you use the “Reset your PC” option, your computer will use the Windows 10 installations files that are already stored on your computer. If your PC is a OEM device, during the reset process all the settings and apps that came originally with your device will reinstall again.

Also, there could be the case that installation files on your computer may get corrupted, which will prevent you from completing the reset.

On the other hand, the refresh tool will download the files on demand with the latest updates from the Microsoft servers to do a clean install of the operating system, which it’s less likely to have issues.

When you should use the ‘Refresh Windows’ tool

Microsoft support many ways to do a clean install of Windows 10. In this case, you should use the Refresh Windows when you can still access your desktop and get to the recovery settings.

This is a perfect tool for scenarios, such as when your device is enrolled in the Windows Insider Program, and you want to unenroll your device and go back to an stable version.

It’s also a perfect solution, when it’s been sometime and you start noticing slow performance, errors, or other issues.

Perhaps the best use of the refresh tool is when you get a new computer and you want to start fresh with an installation of Windows 10 that removes all the bloatware, trialware, and other software that came preinstalled on your device.

Wrapping things up

The refresh tool to do a clean install of Windows 10 is very easy to use, and one of the best features is that you don’t need to create a bootable media. This means no messing around with the BIOS or UEFI BIOS to install Windows 10.

Keep in mind that you can use this tool as long as you have access to your computer. If you’re having other issues that prevents you from starting your system, you should alternatively download the ISO file of Windows 10 to create a bootable media and do a traditional clean installation.

The “Refresh Windows” tool only works for Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Home. This tool isn’t meant to upgrade Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. If you’re running Enterprise or Education edition of Windows 10, the tool won’t work.

What do you think about the Refresh Windows tool to reinstall Windows 10? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows expert and the Editor-in-Chief who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He's also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 12 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows, software, and related technologies, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ & Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, and LinkedIn.