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Technical Level : Intermediate
If you have installed a recent release of Windows in the past 5 years, you pretty much know what it will be like to install Windows 10. In this article, we take a look at performing a clean install. This includes starting a clean install from within a running version of Windows or a hard disk/SSD with no previous Windows installations.
- Perform a clean install by booting from install media (DVD or USB thumb drive)
- Perform a clean install using Reset in Windows 10 or Windows 10 Refresh Tools (Start Fresh)
- Perform a clean install from within a running version of Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1 or Windows 10
Previously, Windows 7, Windows 8.0 and Windows 8.1 users needed to have either of those versions of Windows installed and activated in order to qualify for the free upgrade offer. For users who needed to perform a clean install of Windows 10 from the outset, it was a two step process of first validating the machine through the upgrade routine, ensure the Windows 10 Upgrade was activated, then proceed to perform a Reset.
Starting with versions Windows 10 1511 or later, users no longer have to go through this process.
What is the Digital Entitlement or Digital License?
When you upgrade from a previous version of Windows, what happens is the hardware, (your PC), will get a digital license. This is a unique signature of the computer which is stored on Microsoft Activation Servers. The Windows 7 or Windows 8 genuine license you were previously running will be exchanged for a diagnostics product key.
Anytime you need to reinstall Windows 10 on that machine, just proceed to reinstall Windows 10. It will automatically reactivate. The only exception where this applies is dependent on the license you upgraded from. If you change your motherboard and originally you upgraded from a Windows 7 OEM or Windows 8 OEM license, then your Digital Entitlement will be invalidated. You will need to purchase a new full version license.
So, there is no need to know or get a product key, if you need to reinstall Windows 10, you can use your Windows 7 or Windows 8 product key or use the reset function in Windows 10.
Perform a Clean Install on an Empty Hard Disk/SSD or Reinstall by Booting from Install Media (DVD or USB Thumb Drive)
Once you have your Windows 10 installation media ready, all you need to do is boot from the disc or USB thumb drive to begin setup. If you don't have install media, see instructions: How to download official Windows 10 ISO files
Review the following guide for instructions and details about configuring your BIOS or UEFI boot settings for DVD, CD, USB or SD Card.
Once your computer is set to boot from the DVD, you should see this option. If you are installing from a retail Windows 10 USB thumb drive, you will be asked to select either 32 or 64 bit Windows 10. Learn more here
The Windows logo will appear on screen, this might be here for a while, as long as you see the animating dots, everything should be ok.
Select your Language, Time and Keyboard method then click Next.
Click Install now
Windows 10 setup will prompt you for a product key during installation a couple times. If you originally upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 click the option 'I don't have a key' and 'Do this later' . If you have a Windows 10 product key, you can proceed to enter it.
Setup will also prompt you to select the edition you have a license for - Home or Pro. Please make sure you choose the right edition. If you choose the wrong edition, your only option will be to perform a clean install again.
The copy of Windows 10 you download and upgrade from will correspond with the edition of Windows you have installed, if it does not, this is why you might be experiencing problems activating:
- Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Windows 8.0 Core, Windows 8.1 Core should install Windows 10 Home
- Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8.0 Pro, Windows 8.1 Pro should install Windows 10 Pro
Wait while setup prepares to copy files
Accept the license terms then click Next
Click Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)
NOTE: Sometimes Windows 10 setup can become confused if it see's a thumb drive. You might get a driver missing error or something to that effect. If you do, restart setup, but this time, when you arrive at the following screen, disconnect your thumb drive then go through Custom options. When setup is ready copy files, it will prompt you to reconnect the installation source (your USB).
Select the drive then click New
NOTE: If you have multiple partitions listed, select each one (starting at the bottom), then click delete until there is only a single (one) unallocated drive displayed in the window.
Select the unallocated drive listed, click New, click Apply then OK
This will split the drive into multiple partitions, select the Primary partition then click Next.
NOTE: The System Reserved partition is where recovery files are kept for diagnostics and repairing damaged Windows 10 files; or even reinstall Windows 10.
Wait while Windows installs
When this phase of setup is complete, Windows will automatically restart then reboot into setup again.
Windows is detecting and installing your hardware. After this is complete, Windows will restart one last time.
Out of Box Experience
The Out of Box Experience page is where you get to configure detailed settings in Windows, which includes creating a user account, configure privacy, sync PC settings and install modern applications.
Learn more about setting up your Windows 10 Installation:
There you go, Windows 10 has successfully installed!
Install the Latest Windows Updates immediately
Start > Settings > Update and Security > Windows Update then click Check for Updates
Perform a Clean Install Using Reset, Recovery Drive or Refresh Tools (Start Fresh) in Windows 10
If you already have Windows 10 installed, you can use the built in Reset function, Recovery Drive or Refresh Tools (Start Fresh) in Windows 10 do so. Learn how in the following article:
How to Perform a Clean Install by Starting Setup from Within a Running Version of Windows 10
If you are running Windows 7 or Windows 8.0, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, launch Windows 10 setup using ISO Media:
During setup, at the Ready to install screen, click Change what to keep link
Click Next to being the installation
How do I check my activation status?
Click Start > Settings (press Windows key + i) > Update & security > Activation
Depending on the version of Windows 7 installed, 1507, 1511, 1607, you will see different wording beside the activation status:
Windows 10 1507 (build 10240)
Windows 10 1511 (build 10586)
Windows 10 1607 (build 14393) or later.
If you experience problems with product activation, please review: