How to Clean install Windows 10
Updated 12/26/2019

Table of Contents
  1. Collect your computing information
  2. Install Windows 10
  3. Choose your account type
  4. Set your privacy preferences
  5. Connect to the internet
  6. Get the latest Windows Updates
  7. Install your Programs and set backup preferences
  8. Turn on system protection
    In order to install Windows 10 you must create a bootable flash drive (minimum size 8GB) which will hold the Windows 10 installer files.

    To create the installer flash drive go to https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10. On that page, click the Download Tool Now button to download the media creation tool to your desktop. Plug in your 8gb flash drive and use the media creation tool to create a bootable flash drive containing the Windows 10 installer files.
    The file to be downloaded is rather large so it will take a while to download the file and create the bootable flash drive unless you have a very fast internet connection.

    (Note: On the same page below the Download Tool Now button are detailed instructions for Using the tool to create installation Media on a flash drive.)

1. Be sure you have all of your personal computing information BEFORE you start the installation, such as:
  • The name (SSID) and password for your Wifi network
  • Username and password for all email or cloud accounts
  • Installer files and product keys for third-party (non-Microsoft) software
  • An accessible data backup (your documents, images, music, videos)
  • Compatible and up-to-date hardware driver software for your older PC
2. Plug in the flash drive containing the Windows 10 installer files.
    The PC must be booted from the flash drive to clean install Windows.
     Generally you will tap rapidly or press and hold either the ESC or F12 key while the PC boots to enter the startup menu then choose the flash drive from that menu. (Note: Which key you use depends on the brand of PC.)
    If neither of these keys work watch closely as the PC boots. A message on the screen will tell you which key will allow you to access either the BIOS (Setup) or the Boot Menu.

If your PC is running Windows 10…….
    If your PC is running Windows 10 the PC may boot too quickly to successfully press a hot key at startup to access the boot menu.
  • If so, hold down the Shift key while choosing restart from the power menu.
  • Continue to hold the Shift key until a Menu which includes a Troubleshoot option appears.
  • Choose Troubleshoot in this menu and in the next menu choose Advanced Options.
  • In the following menu select UEFI Firmware Settings.
  • Your PC will restart and take you either to the boot menu or to the BIOS where you can change the boot order.
  • If you have inserted the flash drive with the Windows 10 installer files you should be able to choose it as the boot drive.
    If this is a new install or clean install, Choose Custom Install in the Windows 10 installer and have applicable Windows Product Key available and enter it in the space provided.

(Note: If this is a clean re-install of Windows 10 your Product key has been previously recorded with Microsoft and your PC will be automatically activated. In this case choose I don't have a product key)

The Product Key is a twenty-five digit key in this format = xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

If you had to buy a copy of Windows 10 you should receive a Product Key to activate your new Windows installation.

    The Windows installer program is nearly automatic. It should format the disk and create partitions and load the Windows 10 files without very much user input.
    However, if the installer displays a screen that asks, "Where do you want to install Windows?" you can simply delete all of the partitions by clicking on them one by one and choosing Delete.
    Next click "New" and the installer will create the proper partitions for installing Windows and one of the partitions should then be chosen for the installation. Click OK or Next to continue.
The installer would have deleted everything in any case.

3. After the installer loads the Windows 10 files Choose the account type:
    When you set up a Windows 10 computer for the first time, you are required to create a user account that will serve as the administrator for the PC.

    For Windows 10 Home choose between a Microsoft account and a local account. For Widows 10 Pro choose between a personal and an organizational account.

    For a much more detailed explanation of Windows accounts see this informative
Zdnet article from Ed Bott to see if any of it applies to you.

4. Set your privacy preferences:
In Windows 10 privacy has become a most talked-about issue because of the inquisitiveness of Cortana and also because of the default privacy settings. If you value your privacy and do not wish for Windows to always send your location and some of your telemetry info back to Microsoft you may wish to change some of the settings.
  • Go to PC Settings (click the gear icon in the Windows 10 Start Menu) then choose Privacy.
  • In Privacy under Windows Permissions go to each of the headings - General, Speech, Inking and Typing personalization, Diagnostics and Feedback, and Activity History then turn all the switches to OFF in each section.
  • Be sure to change the Diagnostic Data from FULL to BASIC in Diagnostics and Feedback.
  • Also be sure to uncheck the box in Activity History labeled - Send my activity history to Microsoft.
To be certain you've gotten them all you can also go to this very informative
page at PC World Magazine. The author lists all of the privacy settings you can change to ensure that your personal information remains personal on your PC rather than being sent to Microsoft.
There is also another excellent Windows 10 privacy article from ZDNet that will help you protect your privacy as well as your peace of mind concerning Windows 10.

5. You will next be asked to connect to the internet.
If this is a Microsoft account choose your SSID and enter your password. If you want a local account wait until after you have chosen the username and password for your local account before you connect to the internet. The Windows 10 installer may make it difficult to choose a local account after you have connected to the internet.

After connecting to the internet, if yours is a home and/or small private network
  • go to PC Settings then Network and Internet
  • then choose Change Connection Properties from the Status page
  • change the network profile to Private, which makes your PC discoverable for printer and file sharing purposes when you set them up.
6. Configure Windows Update and get the latest Windows Updates
Go to PC Settings then Update and Security and click the Check for Updates button. While the PC is searching for updates click on Delivery Optimization and choose your update options. Unless you are sure you can get updates from other PCs you should leave this OFF.

Back on the Windows Update page you can check Active Hours and Advanced Settings and make changes that seem proper. If any change causes problems you can always change it back quite easily.

7. Now is the time to install your programs, load your personal data, and set your backup preferences.

    After installing your programs - don't negelect security (
antivirus) - and backed up data go to PC Settings, Update and Security, then Backup. If you have a hard drive for your local backup turn on Backup using File History ON.

    If you have an external backup drive, plug it in then click More Options. On the Options page you can choose the folders you wish to keep backed up and choose the drive to back them up to.

    If you choose to not have your backup drive connected all the time there is a Back Up Now button to press whenever you plug your backup drive into your PC. Don't forget to do this as often as possible! Keep your backup current!
For more information see my Backup your PC page.

8. Before you quit and call it a day, turn on system protection (also called System Restore)
Go to my
System Restore page to learn how to do it

Note: If you don't want to attempt to do this yourself contact us or any capable PC repair technician.