Performing a clean installation of Windows can help you out with the accumulated hard disk and slow boot problems of an older PC. Here are the detailed steps to achieve a clean install of Windows using Microsoft’s media creation tool. It’s very easy: the only things you need are an existing authorized Windows copy and a USB flash drive.
1. Make a Backup of Your Files First
Going for a clean installation means all your programs, settings, and files will be removed. Actually, there is an option to retain personal files and apps, but if you really want your PC performance to improve, it’s better to erase all the data and start over again. The only things worth saving are the files, pictures, browser bookmarks, videos, and product keys of any purchased software.
If you have another PC, connect it to a portable hard disk drive/solid state drive or even a USB drive for the backup. You can also use a LAN cable to transfer data between two Windows computers. OneDrive is a good option for those who are already using Word or PowerPoint as part of an Office365 subscription plan.
2. Download and Install Media Creation Tool
First, we need to download Microsoft’s official Windows media creation tool. This will be used to create an installation file on a USB drive which should have at least 8 GB of space to be on the safe side, but it’s better to use a 16 GB flash drive.
After the download, run the .exe file and accept the license agreement that follows. The Windows media creation tool will ask whether you want to upgrade the PC or create an installation media in the form of a USB or ISO file. Choose the second option.
Select the language, architecture and Windows edition, which should be the same as the recommended settings on your PC.
In the next step you will be asked to choose between USB and ISO in your type of installation media. Opt for the USB option.
Make sure you have a flash drive inserted in your Windows PC or laptop. All of its existing files and data will be erased while the latest Windows installation media is created in the storage space.
Let the Windows operating system download to the USB drive. It will take a little while.
After a quick verification of the download, Windows installation media will be created in the USB drive. Wait for some time for this to finish.
Next, you will see a success message that the USB flash drive is ready. Click “Finish” to end the installation.
The Windows USB installation media should be prominently displayed on your computer. Before a clean install, you should verify that UEFI secure boot is enabled on your PC.
3. Find Your Windows Product Key
You may have forgotten your original Windows activation key. You can use the following method to access it again.
Note: never use free utilities, such as “ProduKey,” as Microsoft Security flags them as malware. It’s so much easier to regenerate the key from native Windows apps like Command Prompt.
From the Windows Start menu, open the Command Prompt in Admin mode. To output your original Windows product key, enter the following:
The result is a 25-character key with dashes after every fifth character. Be sure to not lose this key again and write it down somewhere safe.
4. Clean Install Windows on PC Using Bootable USB
The last part is the easiest one. Restart your computer using its boot keys (which could be F2, F10 or F12, depending on your PC manufacturer) and boot from the Windows USB installation drive. Select the language and keyboard preferences followed by “Install now.”
After a license agreement, you will have two choices: an upgrade or a custom install, which will delete all your files, settings, and applications. Make sure you go for a custom installation, as that will guarantee a clean installation.
Next, select a partition on your computer on which you want to clean install Windows. It is generally Drive 0 with maximum space. See the image below.
Installing Windows starts once the partition has been selected. You don’t have to do anything else. However, in some cases, you will need to activate your Windows with a product key. Enter the one you noted in the previous section. Next, you will be asked to choose your Windows edition. Following this, wait for the installation to finish. You will be asked to create a new username and password.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it worth doing a clean install of Windows?
If you’re taking proper care of your existing Windows with regular updates and proper security measures (for example, keeping SmartScreen as “on”), your system will stay fast and reliable – and even get better with time. In that case, you don’t need to reinstall Windows unnecessarily, although it will not harm your PC in any manner.
However, if your system has become slow and you find programs crashing frequently, it’s time to go for a clean install. It’s akin to going for a “factory reset” on your smartphone.
2. Will a clean install of Windows delete my files?
It’s not compulsory to delete your files while doing a clean install of Windows 10. When you boot from the Windows USB installation drive, you will be given two choices: upgrade or custom install. Choosing the first option (of an upgrade) will reinstall Windows without deleting your files and programs.
3. What is the main purpose of a clean install for Windows?
The whole purpose of a clean installation is to remove any traces of file corruptions and hard disk problems that have accumulated over time. That is why it’s recommended to go for a custom install, which will delete all your files and applications. For this reason, making a backup of all your files is the first recommended step. See the first section in this tutorial for more details.
4. How do you clean up Windows without reinstalling?
With each official update, Windows continues to improve your PC’s performance, so cleaning up your PC is a redundant, unnecessary objective. It’s better to keep your Windows system updated rather than look for ways to clean up the files. Nevertheless, going for a system restore is extremely reliable in protecting your Windows PC against sudden installation failures, slowdowns, delayed startups, missing drivers, and other issues. If your PC is performing well, it’s a good idea to create a restore point right now.
5. How do I make my computer like new?
With scheduled updates and always-on Windows security, your device essentially becomes better than new. You will really notice an improvement in performance. Getting more RAM and timely replacement of key hardware will prolong your system’s life for many years to come.
We saw how the Windows media creation tool will reinstall a clean copy of Windows on your computer. Here are a few steps you should follow after the reinstallation is over. If you don’t want to reinstall Windows but just want a bootable media ready for emergencies, create a recovery drive instead, which uses a built-in menu called Recovery used by Windows.