There are a few reasons you may want to reinstall Windows 10 to a clean state. You might be looking to sell your computer or simply just want to give yourself a tidier Windows environment if you have a bunch of files everywhere and clutter on your computer.
Luckily, with Windows 10, Microsoft has made it nice and easy to reinstall Windows back to its original state. I’ll be covering the main two ways to do so.
Before you continue: Richard Tech is not responsible for any data loss that may happen, make sure you have your data safe.
Within Windows 10: Reset This PC
The most simple and easy to do method of reinstalling Windows was introduced in Windows 8, but has been improved and carried through to Windows 10. The advantage of this first method is that you don’t need to download any additional tools or even need a USB drive to have Windows on – everything is handled by Windows automatically.
First of all, you’ll want to open the Settings app by going to the start menu and clicking the settings cog and select the Update & Security option on the menu. This will take you to Windows Update but you’ll want to select the Recovery option from the menu on the left.
Now we’re on the Recovery page, at the top will be an option titled Reset this PC with a button labeled Get Started below the description. Click that button and this will bring you to a few options that you can choose between for resetting your computer and reinstalling Windows.
You’ll have the option to keep your files or delete everything, if you’re going to delete everything make sure you have your important files copied onto a USB drive or stored on a cloud storage service such as OneDrive or Dropbox. You’ll also have the option to simply delete everything (faster) or delete everything securely – you shouldn’t need to use the secure option unless you’re selling or getting rid of your computer.
Once you’ve picked your options, you’ll be able to double check all of your choices to make sure you’re not accidentally going to do something that you don’t want to and then you can click the big Reset button when you’re ready to do so.
Now Windows will begin to reset and reinstall, this could take some time so be patient but once the procedure is complete, you can go through the setup wizard and you’re done.
Resetting via External Media (USB)
Creating Installation Media
This is the second method, it consists of creating installation media using the Media Creation Tool and using something such as a USB drive to install Windows from.
This is my preferred method as it makes sure everything is a clean slate and nothing at all is carried over from the previous Windows installation – although it is a bit more effort.
First of all, you’ll want to download the Media Creation Tool, and you’ll also want to plug in an 8gb or larger USB stick – but make sure there are no important files on it as the Media Creation Tool will delete all the data on the USB stick.
Open up the Media Creation Tool and accept the EULA and choose to Create installation media when it asks you what you want to do. Now you can select your preferences such as language and architecture.
If you’re not sure which architecture you need you can either select both or go to This PC on Windows Explorer, right click and select properties. This will now display all the information about your computer, but most importantly, the version Pro/Home and the architecture 32-bit or 64-bit.
Once you’ve selected the architecture, make sure USB flash drive is selected as the destination media and select it from the list. Now the Media Creation Tool will download Windows and create the USB installer.
Windows 10 should automatically activate when you finish installation and land on your desktop – but just in case it doesn’t I like to retrieve the product key just in case I need to use it (better safe than sorry right?).
Luckily there is a way to do this using a Visual Basic Script, copy the code below into a Notepad window and save it as productkey.vbs.
Make sure when you’re saving the script that you have the Save as type option set to All Files (*.*), otherwise it will just save as a text document.
Now you can run the script from wherever you just saved it and a box should pop up displaying your product key. Take a picture of it on your phone or write it down somewhere safe.
Okay, it’s time to install Windows! Insert the USB stick into the computer that you’re going to be reinstalling Windows onto, I’d also suggest unplugging any extra drives for the installation.
Turn on the computer and press the boot menu hotkey. On a lot of computers, this will typically be F12, but if you’re not sure a quick Google should get you the answer.
In the boot menu the USB drive should be listed, so make sure it is highlighted and then press enter when it is selected. This will then boot from the USB stick to the Windows installer.
You will be asked for a product key but on this screen you can click I don’t have a product key as Windows will automatically activate later. You may then be asked for which edition of Windows you want to install and you will want to pick the same edition that was displayed earlier on the System Information window.
When asked on the type of installation, you’ll want to pick Custom: Install Windows Only. Now we need to organise the various partitions on the computer, as you can see there are many different partitions here.
The important thing to note is the drive number and also the partition labels. If you have a second drive in your computer that has movies on it, for example, it would most likely be titled something like Drive 1 Partition 1: Movies – so make sure to avoid that if you want to keep your movies safe.
I’m not responsible for any data loss that may happen, make sure you have your data safe.
In my case here, you can see that Drive 0 is the drive I will be installing to. For a new Windows installation I like to delete all the existing partitions for the drive that I am going to be installing to so the partition layout is optimal for Windows.
Once they’re all deleted there will be an option called Drive 0 Unallocated Space, select that and then click Next – the Windows installation will then begin. Once it is complete, simply go through the setup process and you’ll be at your desktop.
You can check to see whether Windows is activated by opening the Settings app. At the the bottom it will say Windows isn’t activated, Activate Windows now if it needs activating, in which case you just enter the product key that you wrote down earlier.
But otherwise that’s about it, if something isn’t working properly you may need to download drivers from the manufacturer’s website. But otherwise, you have a fresh new installation of Windows!