How to clean install Windows 10 or upgrade from a previous version

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How to clean install Windows 10 or upgrade from a previous version
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Installing Windows 10 using the Media Creation Tool

Unless you’ve purchased Windows 10 on a USB stick, the best way of upgrading to the new OS from older version is to use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. You’ll need to have purchased a Windows 10 licence first.

First, as we explained previously, it’s vital to backup. Then you’re good to go:

1. In advance of installing Windows 10, you’ll need to ensure that all the latest updates available for your existing installation of Windows (7 SP1 or 8.1) are installed. Go to Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Windows Update (Windows 7) or Control Panel\System and Security\Windows Update and follow the on-screen prompts to install all available Important updates.

2. Find out whether you’re running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows. Under Windows 7, you can find this information in Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\System. Under Windows 8.1, it’ll be in Control Panel\System and Security\System

3. Download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Make sure you download the right version for your PC – either the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version.

4. Once the tool has downloaded, run it and follow the on-screen prompts to download and start the installation routine.

5. When you get to the ‘What do you want to do?’ page, you can choose to either ‘Upgrade this PC now’ or ‘Create installation media for another PC’. The former is the simplest option and you just follow the prompts to install Windows 10 on that PC. The entire download and installation process can take a fair while, so don’t do it if you’re in a hurry. The exact size of the installer will vary depending on your existing setup, but it will be in the region of at least 2.5GB.

Installing from an installation DVD or USB

The second option on the ‘What do you want to do?’ page allows you to create a Windows installation DVD or USB stick. While this is an extra step initially, it will save you from having to download Windows for future installations.

An installation DVD can be created by right-clicking on the downloaded .ISO file and burning it to the blank disc. The USB stick must be blank and hold at least 5GB of space.

Once you’ve created either an installation DVD or USB key, just insert it into the computer, restart the PC and press any key during the boot process to start up from the USB drive or the DVD.

If this doesn’t work, you’ll probably need to open your computer’s boot menu and change the boot order in your PC's BIOS or UEFI settings, so that your PC boots from the DVD or USB key first. See your computer’s documentation or website for the key combination that opens the boot menu.

Then, when the disc or drive boots, just follow Windows’ setup instructions.

During this process you’ll be asked: “Which type of installation do you want?” Choose the Upgrade option if you want the more straight-forward way of keeping your files, Windows settings and applications.

Alternatively, choose the Custom option if you want to do a clean install. This will then give you the option of installing Windows on an existing hard disk partition, or creating a new one.

However, if you already have Windows 10 installed and all you want to do is a clean install, there is an easier way – using the Reset function as we’ll see later.

Removing the remnants of the previous version

Many people unaware that after installing Windows 10, the previous version of the OS is still lingering in the background taking up valuable space. When you upgraded, your old version of Windows didn’t just disappear into thin air. Oh no, it’s still there in the back of your system going by the name of ‘windows.old’ and taking up disk space.

This is because Microsoft doesn't force you to update your hardware and never look back, it keeps a hold of the important files that made up your previous OS in the C:/ drive in case you don’t like Windows 10 and decide to revert back to your previous version.

We advise keeping it for the full 10 days in case you want to roll back to a previous Windows version, but if you’re running out of disk space and you do want to delete the old files forever, hit the Windows Start button and start typing “cleanup” to automatically search your system. A ‘Disk Cleanup’ app should appear before your eyes in the search criteria field. Click on this to open the app.

A drive selection box will pop up. Select the drive your OS is installed on. The default drive should show first, this is usually C:/ drive. Once you’re confident this is your main drive where your OS is installed, select OK. Windows will scan your system for a few moments, then a box will pop up.

Now, two things could happen at this point. You could be presented with a list of files to delete right away, one of which is “Previous Windows Installation(s)”, or if that option is not visible, you will need to select the “Clean up system files” option on the bottom left.

Windows will do some more calculations and give you another a very similar looking box, this time with the option to delete ‘previous windows installation(s). You might have to scroll down to find it, but it should be taking up a sizeable bit of drive space, in our case, almost 5GB. Tick this option and click OK. In the separate message box that appears asking if you’re certain you want to send this, click Delete Files, and you’re done.

Next: clean installing Windows 10 the easy way

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