Format and reinstall

How to reinstall Windows 10

If you're having problems with your computer or you want to sell it, you can wipe the hard drive clean and reinstall Windows 10 in at least two ways – here's how.

Windows 10 wipe and reinstall

The ability to wipe out the hard drive and reinstall Windows 10 on your computer is usually recommended. The reason is that the process can help to improve system performance when the device is not working correctly, running slow, or having battery problems. Also, the process of starting fresh with a new installation can help to get rid of tough viruses or prepare the device for a new owner without giving away your information.

Whatever the reason it might be, on Windows 10, there are at least two ways to erase and start from scratch with a fresh copy of the operating system. You can use the “Reset this PC” feature, which allows you to reset the system to the factory default settings removing everything from all the drives without a USB installation and additional steps. Or you can use a USB bootable media to start the computer to manually wipe out the hard drive and perform a clean installation of the operating system.

In this guide, you will learn two methods to securely erase the hard drive and reinstall Windows 10 on your computer.

Warning: This process will delete everything on the hard drive, including your files, settings, programs, and the Windows installation. It’s recommended to create a temporary full backup before proceeding in case you need to roll back or recover your files.

Reinstall Windows 10 removing everything with Reset this PC

On Windows 10, you can use the “Reset this PC” feature to wipe the hard drive clean and reinstall a fresh copy of the operating system without the need for a USB flash drive.

To reinstall Windows 10 deleting everything without a USB flash drive, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings on Windows 10.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Recovery.

  4. Under the “Reset this PC” section, click the Get started button.

    Windows 10 Reset This PC
    Windows 10 Reset this PC
  5. Click the Remove everything option to wipe out the hard drive.

    Windows 10 wipe out drive option
    Windows 10 wipe out drive option
  6. Click the Cloud Download option to download a fresh copy of Windows 10 instead of using the locally available image (recommended). If you prefer to use the local image, select the Local reinstall option.

    Windows 10 reinstall with cloud download
    Windows 10 reinstall with cloud download
  7. (Optional) Click the Change settings option.

    Reset this PC change settings
    Reset this PC change settings
  8. Turn on the Download Windows toggle switch.

  9. Turn on the Clean data toggle switch.

  10. Turn on the Delete files from all drives toggle switch (if applicable).

    Reset this PC wipe out and reinstall settings
    Wipeout and reinstall settings
  11. Click the Confirm button.

  12. Click the Next button.

    Windows 10 reinstall current settings
    Windows 10 reinstall current settings
  13. Click the Next button again.

  14. Click the Reset button.

Once you complete the steps, the recovery feature will first download the setup files. Secondly, it will format the drive. Thirdly, and most importantly, it will perform a clean installation of Windows 10 without a key since the device was previously activated. (See also this video tutorial on how to complete this task.)

Reinstall Windows 10 removing everything with USB flash drive

Alternatively, you can also start your computer with a USB flash drive to erase the hard drive and perform a clean installation of Windows 10.

To format the hard drive and reinstall Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Start the device with a USB flash drive.

  2. Press any key to continue with the Windows 10 setup.

  3. Click the Next button.

  4. Click the Install now button.

    Windows 10 setup install now button
    Windows 10 setup install now button
  5. Click the I don’t have a product key option.

    Windows 10 reinstallation skip product key
    Windows 10 reinstallation skip product key
  6. Select the edition of Windows 10 that your license key activates (if applicable).

    Select edition of Windows 10
    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 reinstall custom option
    Windows 10 reinstall custom option
  10. Select each partition on the hard drive that you want to install Windows 10, and click the Delete button to erase the drive. (Usually, the “Drive 0” is the drive that contains all the installation files.)

    Wipe out hard drive before Windows 10 install
    Wipeout hard drive before Windows 10 install
  11. Select the wiped out the hard drive (Drive 0 Unallocated Space) to reinstall Windows 10.

  12. Click the Next button.

  13. After the installation, select your region on the first page of the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    Windows 10 OOBE select region
    Windows 10 OOBE select region
  14. Click the Yes button.

  15. Select your keyboard layout.

    Windows 10 OOBE select keyboard
    Windows 10 OOBE select keyboard
  16. Click the Yes button.

  17. Click the Skip button if you don’t need to configure a second keyboard layout.

  18. If the device is using an Ethernet connection, it will connect to the network automatically. If you have a Wi-Fi connection, you will need to set up the connection manually, providing a security key.

  19. Select the Set up for personal use option. (Option available only on Windows 10 Pro)

  20. Click the Next button.

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

    Windows 10 reinstall create account
    Windows 10 reinstall create account
  22. Click the Next button.

  23. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  24. Click the Next button.

  25. Click the Create a PIN button.

    Windows 10 OOBE create pin option
    Create pin option.
  26. Create a new PIN password.

    Set new account PIN
    Set new account PIN
  27. Click the OK button.

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

    Windows 10 OOBE privacy settings
    Windows 10 OOBE privacy settings
  29. Click the Accept button.

  30. Click the Yes button if you want to use Timeline across devices.

    Enable Timeline
    Enable Timeline
  31. Click the Do it later button to skip linking your phone to your PC.

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

    Backup files to OneDrive
    Backup files to OneDrive
  33. Click the No, thanks button to skip the Office 365 setup.

    Skip Office install
    Skip Office install
  34. Click the Accept button to enable Cortana. (Check the Respond when I say “Hey Cortana” option if you want to use the feature.)

After you complete the steps, the process will wipe out the hard drive, and a clean copy of Windows 10 will install on the device. Also, you will need to complete the out-of-box experience (OOBE) to set up your account and personal settings. However, if you intend to decommission or sell the computer, you do not need to complete the OOBE.

Since the device had an activated version of Windows 10, you won’t need to enter a product key when reinstalling the OS with a USB flash drive. The system will re-activate automatically after the installation.

While there are multiple ways to reinstall the operating system, using a USB flash drive is perhaps the best option to complete the process since it allows you to wipe out the drive manually, and the installation process is likely to cause fewer problems than using the reset option.