Windows 8.1: Reset with Clean Drive Fully

DellWindowsReinstallationGuide is written and maintained by Philip Yip. 



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Introduction – The Free Upgrade to Windows 10 Version 1709

Windows 8.1 Reached End of Mainstream Support in January 2018. Extended Support lasts until January 2023. For more details see End of Support.

Microsoft are keen for you to Upgrade to Windows 10. The Upgrade is Free and you may directly Clean Install Windows 10 Version 1709 (September 2017) or perform an Upgrade Install of Windows 10 Version 1709 (September 2017).

Windows 10 Version 1709 (September 2017 Build 16299) is a polished and a very stable build and I would recommend installing it in all cases instead of Windows 8.1:


Since Windows 10 Version 1511 (November 2015) was released Microsoft have a proper Digital Distribution and activation mechanism for Windows 10 supporting all Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 OEM licenses including Windows 8.1 with Bing and Windows 8.1 Single Language with Bing.

See Windows OEM FAQs and Downloads for instructions in Downloading a Windows 10 .iso, Creating a Bootable USB and Clean Installing Windows 10 or performing an Upgrade Install to Windows 10.

Installation Media for a Reset

You will require installation media for a reset see Download Windows 8.1 OEM and Retail .iso. For the Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center Edition use media from the base license.

e.g. if you went from Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Centre use the Windows 8.1 Pro .iso.

The Reset will give you the base license and you will have to use "Get Features with a New Edition of Windows" again to get Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Centre.

I have not done any testing with the Windows 8.1 with Bing Editions which are not downloadable but its likely that performing a reset with another Edition of Windows 8.1 installation media will change the Edition and hence cause product activation issues.

Performing a Reset

To begin the Reset, right click the Start button and left click Shutdown or Sign Out and then left click Restart while holding down the [Shift] key.

refresh 1

Select Troubleshoot.


Then select reset your PC.


The Reset will begin looking for a factory partition (the refresh image cannot be used).

reset2If it cannot find a factory partition it will ask you to insert Windows 8.1 installation media:


The setup will then tell you what the Refresh does. Select next when ready:


You will be presented with 2 options, I recommend selecting to clean the drive fully. The standard Windows deletion just assigns deleted files as free space which can be overwritten and is relatively fast and as a consequence these files are usually readily recoverable using Recovery Programs. Cleaning the drive fully on the other hand will likewise assign the files as free space and then overwrite the free space with junk data. The overwriting will take significantly much longer than a standard Windows format but overwritten files are far more difficult to recover. Its recommended to do this particularly if you had a nasty Malware infection…


Select next and the Reset will begin.


This will take some time and you can leave it unattended while Windows formats the drive.


You will then be prompted for your language and region:


You will be prompted to make a new computer name (the old computer name and old user accounts will have been wiped out):


You can then select express settings (red) or customise (green) to suit your preferences.



If you select customise:



You will be presented with the next 4 screens:

Customise1Customise2 Customise3 customise4

One thing to notice about Windows 8.1 when changing the settings is that it is very touch screen optimised, you can move the sliders along with your finger if using a touchscreen, otherwise just click them with the mouse.

There are 3 login scenarios:

  • Online – Microsoft Account which is the default setting (purple)
  • Offline – Local Account which is the only option but it can be converted to a Microsoft Account login when connected (red)
  • Online – Local Account you need to customise the settings to get to log in with a local account as Microsoft would prefer you to use their additional services (pink)

Online – Microsoft Account

If you are online you will then be prompted to enter your email address and sign in with a Microsoft Account. The Microsoft Account is recommended for easier use with Outlook, OneDrive, the Windows Store and to sync your Windows settings across devices:



Enter your email address and select next, it will then search for a Microsoft Account (if you use a Microsoft email or XBOX live it will be one). If you don’t have a Microsoft account you can sign up for one.

If you sign in with a Microsoft Account, additional security measures are usually put in place such as validation of your phone number associated with your Microsoft Account. Windows 8.1 only lets you log in when the validation checks are complete.

Usually the checks are done with a mobile phone. You are prompted to enter the last 4 digits of your phone number:


A text is sent to you and you need to input it:


Once you have input the correct code select next.

Offline – Local Account

Alternatively if you are offline you will only be given the option to sign in with a local account.


Your settings will finalise and then any default Apps will be installed.

Offline – Local Account

To sign in without a Microsoft Account, select create a new account:


At the bottom select sign in without a Microsoft Account:


Create a new username and password:


Your settings will finalise and your Windows 8.1 Apps will be installed.


You should now be logged into Windows 8.1.


Product activation should be maintained. My system was offline and retained the product activation.

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