A Clean Install of Windows 10

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Part 1: Backing Up Data

This section talks about backing up data, if you have no data to backup then this section can be skipped.

Backing up Data

* Highly recommended to ensure you have a base OS to revert to should the Windows 10 Upgrade fail.

You may also want to backup your old Windows installation in some cases. The Dell Backup and Recovery Factory Image should be a better backup especially if its used as an intermediate step to get to Windows 10 (Initially).

Part 2: Updating the (UEFI) BIOS and Preparing the Settings for Windows 10 TH2

The latest (UEFI) BIOS update should be installed before attempting to upgrade to Windows 10. For instructions see here:

Part 3: Obtaining Installation Media

The Windows 10 TH2 OEM and Retail .iso can be Downloaded and used to make a Bootable USB. See here for instructions.

If you have already got Windows 10 TH2 installed it is possible to Create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive.

Part 4: Upgrading Hardware and Preparing the System for Clean Windows Installation

This section takes you through upgrading some hardware which will optimise your systems performance and the appropriate BIOS settings for these hardware changes. Finally it takes you through preparing the hard drive before Windows installation i.e. securely wiping it.

Hardware Upgrades

Ensure that you refer to your Service Manual (older systems) or Owner’s Manual when adding/removing hardware. DDR2 RAM is quite expensive now and the best performance from old systems will be from a SSD.

SATA Operation, UEFI and Secure Boot and other BIOS Settings

Format vs Wipe

Since this is “A Clean Install of Windows” its appropriate to discuss the difference bewteen format and wipe/clean. A format will remove all data from your drive and assign all old files to “free space" ready to be overwritten. Data can be recovered from the “free space" but it is not as organised so third party recovery programs are generally required. For a HDD in order to erase data the “free space" must be overwritten with junk data otherwise it remains on the drive. For a SSD on the other hand a kill switch which can be activated which flushes the electrons effectively cleaning the drive. The format is faster but the wipe/clean is recommended for malware infections or the selling of systems second had. For more details see:

* If you are using a Recovery Drive, you will be given the option to Clean up your Drive during Clean Reinstallation.

Part 5: A Clean Install of Windows

* SATA preinstallation drivers should be inbuilt to Windows 10 Recovery Drives for all systems which came with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. This step shouldn’t be necessary for the bulk of systems.

Part 6: System Drivers

Windows 10 has an amazing array of drivers inbuilt. For hardware <2012 likely all your system drivers will be inbuilt or automatically obtained from Windows Update. For newer hardware OEMs such as Dell may provide updated system drivers. Dell have listed the systems they are going to provide Windows 10 Drivers for:

For systems not on this list, you can likely use Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 system drivers or as mentioned they will be inbuilt. Some common drivers for Dell hardware are listed here:

Much of the unofficial driver notes were for Windows 8.1 but will also apply to Windows 10. As Windows 10 is just out, write on the forums regarding driver issues.

I advise also letting Windows 10 to sit and update for 1 hour before checking the Hardware IDs in device manager for errors.

The recommended Driver Installation order is the same as that for Windows 8.1. In the rare cases where Windows 10 doesn’t have system drivers Windows 10 64 Bit will accept Windows 7 and 8.1 64 Bit drivers in most cases and likewise Windows 7/8.1 32 Bit drivers will work with Windows 10 32 Bit.. For most hardware certainly from 2007-2012 Windows 10 will have the necessary system drivers inbuilt or will obtain them directly from Windows Update and automatically install them.

Part 7: Recommended Additional Software and Customisation

Recommended third party Security Software:

Recommended additional Microsoft software:

Recommended additional Dell software:

Recommended additional third party software:

Setting up a SSD boot drive and redirecting your userfiles to a HDD

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17 thoughts on “A Clean Install of Windows 10

    1. That hardware is ancient the Intel 915GM will not work correctly with Windows 8.1 or 10 64 Bit. I would state the minimum system for running Windows 10 is a Dx20 series. In fact I have a D820 running it.

  1. philipyip, what happens if you have upgraded two different boxes (running genuine windows 7s) using the same MSA? Does MS’s server keeps hardware tokens rather than just your identity?

    1. The Windows 10 activation scans your systems hardware and makes sure your base Windows is activated. It doesn’t care about your Microsoft Account.

  2. I have had a rather disastrous Windows 10 experience. I signed up as a Windows Insider several months ago and all was well (with a few bugs as expected) until July. Something went wrong and I was never able to get past version 10130: updates for Windows Defender and languages continually failed and prevented getting to 10240. So when the public versions of Win 10 were released, I followed your site’s advice, updated my BIOS and was able finally to get the Windows 10 Home version. I checked the installation to be sure it was activated (it was). However since I have a newer Dell PC, XPS8700, I have no way of knowing the Windows key. Here is the problem: I wanted to have a Clean install so again following your site’s advice, I backed up everything and made a Recovery Drive on a clean USB thumb drive. The installation failed, so after wasting many hours, reboots etc. I started over to make a new Recovery Drive on a different thumb drive. Comparing files, it was easy to see the problem: the first thumb did not contain all the files, especially the executable! Thanks, Microsoft. So now I thought I was home free. Formatted my hard disk, deleted all the extra partitions, and did the clean installation of Windows 10 Home 64 bit. It is working fine, EXCEPT that it is not activated! Here is what I see when I go to the activation screen (several times over the last week): “Error description: the activation server determined the specified product key has been blocked.”

    I read somewhere this week that all Windows Insiders are “entitled” to the Pro version of Win 10 even if their previous Win 7 or 8 was the Home version. Is it possible that I need to start over and do the clean installation using the 10 Pro version instead of Win 10 Home? Other than that, I see only two possibilities: 1. Format my disk again, use the Windows 8.1 backup installation disks I created when the PC was new, get Win 8.1 Home going, verify that it is activated, upgrade to Win 10 Home, verify that it is activated, the finally do the clean installation. Or option 2: surrender and buy a new Win 10 license even though I have a perfectly good Win 8 license that came with the PC. I would appreciate your advice, thanks.


    1. Theres two ways to proceed…

      Option 1. Clean Install Windows 8.1 (Home) and ensure it is activated.
      Use it to get the free upgrade to Windows 10 Home:
      Then ensure Windows 10 Home is activated and then Clean Reinstall:
      P.S. the Windows 8/8.1 key UEFI BIOS SLP key can be found by using RW-Everything as instructed in the DOwnlopad Windows 8.1 Guide but it doesn’t work with Windows 10 Installation Media due to Microsoft’s flawed deployment of Windows 10.

      Option 2. Clean Install Windows 10 Build 10130 and ensure you install with a Microsoft Account. Then ensure it is activated with a product key:
      Use it to get the free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro:
      Then ensure Windows 10 Home is activated and then Clean Reinstall:

  3. Nice article!

    Previously I hade an activated Windows 7. And I’ve made an upgrade to Windows 10, which had been activated as well. But next thing I did… I’ve a made a clean installation of Windows 10, and I lost activation (probably, because I decided to change a Thermal Compound on CPU, which could be considered as “CPU replacement”).

    Now I’ve made a clean install of Windows 7, activated it and upgraded to Windows 10, which is activated now as well. How do You think, in case of performance, should I try to make a clean install of Windows 10?

    1. If its the same CPU its the same hardware. I would recommend trying to Clean Reinstall Windows 10 as you want to make sure the device can reactivate on A Clean Reinstall particularly after the 1 year period when the Upgrade Install might not work. Be careful about Edition however and check the Edition in system matches the .iso you download.

  4. I have a Dell Latitude E4310, I took the Windows 10 Pro Upgrade and under Activation screen it shows “Windows is activated” I waited two days and perform a clean install using MSFT MediaCreationTool, after Windows 10 is fully installed it will not activate. I did windows updates and still showing “Windows is not activated”. So I thought maybe I did something wrong.

    went back to Windows 7 (using Dell recovery Disc), went thru all the windows upgrade and finally got “Windows 10 Upgrade” Prompt. Went thru the Win10 upgrade process make sure it is showing “Windows is activated” then create a new set of Win10 DVD and perform a clean install.
    But after 3 days it is still showing “Windows is not activated” The key showing XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-3V66T, not sure if that matter as I saw some post that once my machine is registered with Microsoft, I can reinstall Windows 10 without a new key.

    I check Dell website, it said Latitude E4310 is not compatible with Windows 10, does that matter?

    1. I done the procedure on my Latitude E5510 which is also not supported so no it doesn’t matter. Did you check that you had a matching Edition from System and a matching .iso?

  5. Just wanted to add that it is very important to select the right version for doing the clean install. I.e. i had selected the windows Home N edition to do a fresh install, and coudn’t get it activated even though i had done the offical upgrade procedure. Turned out, i should have selected the normal Home edition. as when i tried that it was activated instantaenously.

    Also on a separate laptop, i had both the upgrade as wel as a clean install on two different drives. The clean install was home N, while the upgrade turned out to be just plain Home. I could still boot in to both versions, and the upgrade version was activated, while the clean install (Home N) was not. I recovered the key from windows upgrade version using 3rd party software, and tried to enter that in the clean install, but it indeed said that it was not the right key for this version.

  6. Hang on… so if I just reverted back to Windows 7 because my webcam drivers weren’t working and I needed my webcam for work, does that mean I just forfeited my Windows 10 experience? I didn’t do any Windows 10 backups or anything.

    1. The webcam drivers should be inbuilt into Windows 7 and later in the majority of cases. Since you made your device a Windows 10 Device you should be able to directly Clean Reinstall.

    1. It seems interesting, I read something similar before but I have no remaining spare OEM system to test an initial upgrade with. i.e. I have no system that is not already a Windows 10 Device.

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