When your computer is not behaving as it should, reinstalling Windows is sometimes the only way to go. Just insert the installation media and follow the wizard. That being said, the problem starts after installing Windows 10.
For instance, you cannot connect to the Internet due to driver issues, forget to install some applications, lose application settings and configurations, etc. If you have a plan beforehand, the reinstallation procedure will be much smoother.
Before Reinstalling Windows 10
1. Back Up or Create a Clone of Windows 10
This is the first thing you need to do when considering a reinstallation. Skim through your C: drive and back up any personal files like images, videos, and documents. Especially look in general folders like Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Downloads, etc.
After that, you need to back up the settings and other data of your favorite applications. For instance, if you are using the Thunderbird email client, you can back up the profile folder. This helps you restore the Thunderbird application without manually adding all the email accounts again.
Each application has its own way to export settings and configurations, so take your time and back up those settings. Since you can easily import those settings and configurations with just a few clicks, it helps you save a ton of time after reinstalling Windows.
Alternatively, if you want your new Windows 10 install to be exactly like it was before reinstalling, you can clone Windows 10 instead. It’s a little bit of a process but definitely worth it if you want to recreate your OS exactly how it was.
2. Make Sure You Have All the Product Keys
To activate some premium software like Windows, Office, etc., you need to have product keys. It is a good idea to have those product keys beforehand. This lets you activate the software as soon as you install it.
You can use free software tools to quickly find and copy the product keys of different software, and we’ve written guide on how to use a couple of these to find your Windows 10 product key.
One thing to keep in mind is that you may not get the product keys of all your premium software. If you find that you are missing a product key for premium software, you can try to recover it from your email inbox or simply contact the developer.
3. Download Drivers (if you won’t have Internet access)
When setting up a new Windows installation, you’ll get the opportunity to connect online. Usually, the Wi-Fi chip or Ethernet port on your motherboard will be working even if you haven’t installed the drivers in Windows yet. Typically when you open Windows, your PC will automatically install the drivers for all your connected devices and hardware.
But if you’re not sure whether you’ll have Internet, there are certain drivers you may want to download to an external USB before reinstalling Windows 10. The main ones to have at the ready are:
- Laptop chipset drivers. This should include networking, sound and integrated graphics.
- Graphics drivers (if you have dedicated GPU)
- Sound drivers (either through official laptop site or Realtek)
4. Make Sure You Have Up-to-Date Installation Media
Microsoft releases major Windows 10 updates twice a year. So before you proceed to reinstall, make sure you have the up-to-date installation media. If you are unsure, you can download the latest ISO from the official Microsoft website and follow the instructions to create a bootable USB drive. Our guide can help you set up the Windows 10 ISO.
After Reinstalling Windows 10
1. Install Device Drivers
The first thing to do after installing Windows is to install all the drivers you downloaded earlier. Again, if you’re online, then many drivers will install automatically, though if you have an Nvidia or AMD GPU, then you’ll probably need to manually install them from the Nvidia driver or AMD driver site.
2. Update Windows
After installing hardware drivers, you need to install Windows updates. More often than not, these updates contain bug fixes, security patches, and feature updates.
To update Windows 10 , open the Settings app by pressing the keyboard shortcut Win + I, navigate to “Update and Security -> Windows Update” and click on the “Check for updates” button.
3. Download and Install All Your Software
Next, download and install all the required software. For general purpose software like browsers, media players, image viewers, etc., use Ninite. This free software automates everything and installs common software with just a single click.
4. Configure Windows and Application Settings
After installing all the required software, it is time to configure the Windows settings. When I say Windows settings, I’m talking about common settings, like unhiding file extensions, disabling unwanted startup items, setting up Windows Hello, changing default apps, and so on.
5. Enable Delete Confirmation Prompt
This is one of those small conveniences that’s saved me many times from accidentally deleting important files, particularly when you’re cleaning things up on your PC.
By default, Windows 10 instantly sends deleted files to the Recycle Bin without asking for confirmation first. This makes it more likely that you may lose or delete files without realizing it.
To make things a bit safer, you can enable the delete confirmation box from earlier Windows versions. Right-click the Recycle Bin, click Properties, then check the “Display delete confirmation dialogue” box.
6. Create a Backup Image for Future Use
This step is optional. However, creating a backup image after installing and configuring your system is always the best thing to do. This backup image lets you quickly restore Windows if anything bad happens in the future. Of course, you still have to update Windows and other software after restoring Windows, but that is much better than actually reinstalling and going through the whole process.
Once you’re all set up, you’ll need to fill Windows 10 with new software, so why not check out our list of the best sites to download Windows software? We also have a handy guide to check and maintain your hard drive health in Windows 10.