Until now, if you wanted to start over from your Windows 10 PC, you had one of two options: restart your computer, or boot Windows 10 ISO and reinstall the operating system manually. In a previous post I wrote about how to restore Windows to factory settings, but it actually only resets your Windows 10 computer.
Resetting your Windows 10 PC is not the same as performing a clean install. If you have an OEM machine, a clean install will usually still include any additional software installed by the OEM by default. This is not an ideal scenario.
You can download the Windows 10 ISO easily, but doing a clean install manually is still a pretty technical task, requiring you to change the boot order on your computer, format the drive correctly, etc. Fortunately, in the recently released Windows 10 Anniversary Update. it is now possible to perform a true clean install without worrying about technical details.
In this article, I will show you how to complete this procedure, which in my tests takes 30 to 60 minutes depending on the speed of your computer.
Before performing a clean install
There are a few things to keep in mind before performing a clean install. First, you’ll have the option to keep your personal files in case you don’t want to delete them. This is really the only option you have when doing a clean install.
Secondly, when performing a clean install using this new tool, you will not have the option to resize the partitions on your hard drive. If you need to repartition your drive, you will need to use the old manual clean install method.
During the procedure, Windows will not touch other partitions on the hard drive, so if you have data on these partitions, you will not lose any of this data, even if you choose to delete everything.
Third, you need to make sure you have installed the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. If it is not installed via Windows Update yourself, you can manually download the Anniversary Update here.
Clean up Windows 10 installation
As I said earlier, with this new tool, the process is very simple and doesn’t take long. To get started, click Start, then Settings, then Update & Security, and then Recovery.
At the very bottom, under the heading Advanced recovery options, you’ll see a link “Learn how to start with a clean slate of Windows.” Click on that link and you will be taken to the Start Fresh page on Microsoft’s website. Scroll down and click the Download Tool Now button.
It should automatically download to your Downloads folder. Go ahead and double-click the RefreshWindowsTool.
A dialog box appears explaining what the tool will do and giving you the option to delete all or keep your personal files.
Click the Start button and the first step of a clean install will begin. First, the program will download the latest version of Windows 10. It will be about 3 GB in size, so it may take a while if you have a slower Internet connection. Unfortunately, there is currently no option to select a local image file.
The tool will then create the Windows media required to perform a clean install.
Finally, it will download all the latest updates and add them to the media.
When this is complete, Windows will restart and the “Installing Windows” message will appear on the screen.
This step is the most time-consuming and once completed, you will see the start of the initial setup screens.
I won’t go into details here because most of it is self-explanatory, but I will mention the next screen because it is very important for privacy. I’ve written a guide to make Windows 10 more secure by changing many privacy settings, but it’s much easier to do this at this point than after installing Windows.
You might be tempted to click on “Use Express Settings”, but don’t. Hit “Configure” and turn everything off on the next three screens (about 10 to 12 switches)! If you need one of these features, you can easily enable it later.
That’s all. You can now log into your newly installed copy of Windows 10! It’s also a great way to do it, because you don’t have to worry about reactivating Windows or the like. Overall, this is the easiest and fastest way to perform a true clean install of Windows 10. Enjoy!