Microsoft might have tried to make the Windows 10 upgrade process smoother than it would have been in years past, but in some ways the company failed. The now defunct Free Windows 10 Upgrade Offer was terrific for users that absolutely wanted to upgrade their devices and keep everything that was on them. There’s a smaller, important audience that doesn’t want to upgrade Windows 10. For whatever reason, they’d like to do be able to do a clean install of Windows 10.
Why you would want to perform a clean install of Windows 10 varies. For most, new operating systems are a great time to blow away the cruft and files that can build up in Windows installations over time. For others, it’s not a choice. Due to upgrade issues, some people find themselves with upgrades that are buggier than they should be.
Here’s how to perform a clean install of Windows 10.
Before We Begin
With the November Update, Microsoft now allows users to provide the product key for Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 during the installation process. That was in concert with the Free Windows 10 Upgrade Offer.
For now, many report that inserting your Windows 7 and Windows 8 product key into Windows 10’s installation screen unlocks the operating system. We don’t know how long this trick will last. We do know that performing a completely fresh install of the operating system will require you to get a valid product key for Windows 10 some how.
For this tutorial you might need your Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 product key, but only if you never activated Windows 10 on your system before. If you purchased a boxed copy of these operating systems, look for that box and there should be a product code inside. If you purchased a PC with Windows 7 on it, look for the Authenticity sticker that Microsoft had your device maker attach to your PC or the information cards that the PC came with.
If Windows 10 was installed on your machine by your PC maker already, you shouldn’t need a product key at all.
Download Windows 10 Using the Media Creation Tools
To start the process you’ll need to download a copy of Windows 10. The Media Creation Tool allows you to create a bootable flash drive or DVD of Windows 10. You’ll want to be sure that the version of Windows 10 that you download is the right one you’re looking for.
For example, Windows 10 Professional is only something that you want to install if you had a previous version of Professional. Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Pro are all upgrades for Windows 10 Pro. Windows 10 Home is for Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.
Be sure to know what PC architecture you need too. The Media Creation Tool lets you create 64-bit and 32-bit installations. Consult your PC’s specifications sheet or list of internals to figure out which you need.
Once the download is done, create your media. It’s best to go with a bootable flash drive that has over 8GB of space to be safe. You’ll want to make sure that no information you care about is already on it. If your device has a DVD burner, you can use that too.
Restart your PC and boot from the flash drive or other media that you’ve created. If you’re asked to provide a product key by Windows 10’s setup process, choose “I don’t have a product key.” Again, only people who have never upgraded to Windows 10 before on their machines should be prompted to provide a key, according to ZDNet.
Clean Install of Windows 10 Back Up Plans
There are two other ways to get a clean install of Windows 10. One of these methods takes a lot of time, but costs users with a genuine version of Windows 10 absolutely nothing. The other involves spending money on the operating system upgrade.
Reset Your PC
You can always manually reset your PC. Resetting your PC restores everything back to factory settings, but keeps the files stored on your PC in the same place. Options to Reset a PC are available in Windows 10 from within the Settings app under Updates & Security and Recovery. Note, that this method will definitely take some time. Be careful to back up every file on your device that you’d like to keep.
If you’ve already tried to Reset your PC and it hasn’t helped, you’ll definitely want to try deleting everything, and installing the latest version of Windows 10. Microsoft offers a tool for doing this here. Note that using this tool deletes everything on your PC.
Buy Windows 10
The second extra way to do a clean install of Windows 10 is only for those that didn’t take advantage of the Windows 10 Upgrade Offer or don’t have Windows 10 installed already. Simply purchase a copy of the operating system at a retail store. It’ll come with a flash drive and the code you need to get going. You’ll be able to format your device’s drive and rebuild it completely from scratch. Windows 10 Home costs $119 from Amazon. Windows 10 Pro is $199.
Good luck with your clean install of Windows 10.