Windows 10 Version 1903: Clean Install

I am still working on the written guide steps are similar to Version 1809.

Booting From Windows 10 Installation Media

In order to carry out a Clean Install, you require a Windows 10 Bootable USB. If you have not already created one please see Downloading Windows 10 Version 1903 and Creating a Bootable USB.

Insert your Bootable USB into your Computer and Remove any other USB Storage Devices such as USB Sticks and External Hard Drives.

Power off your computer.

Power it up and press the key combination for your OEM to get to the Boot Menu.

  • For a Dell or Lenovo System this is [F12].
  • For a HP and other OEMs it is often [Esc] or one of the Function Keys [F1-F12].

Preparing Boot Menu should Flash Up. If not and you are taken straight into Windows, you will need to power down and try again:

If your system was built in 2012 or newer the next screen you should have should mention Boot Mode and Secure Boot. For optimal Security and Performance you should have these set to UEFI and ON respectively.

  • UEFI allows for more than four partitions on the drive and allows for the GPT partition scheme which in essence allows Windows to make a Boot Partition and a Backup of a Boot Partition. The previous MBR Partition Scheme used to create a single Boot Partition and if this got corrupt in any way you would get a Boot Issue. With a UEFI Boot if the main Boot Partition is corrupt, the Backup Boot Partition is used to fix it.
  • Secure Boot only allows recognised code for a digital signature to Boot for instance the Windows 10 Boot or Ubuntu Boot and rejects code without a digital signature. In the past, malicious software for example ransomware was designed to boot before Windows XP and Windows 7. Because the Malware booted before Windows, it could disable any Third Party Security Software from loading and was hence free to do whatever it liked to your system. In the case of ransomware, you’d get a your files are encrypted message and you would need to pay a ransom fee to access them again.

Use the [↓] key to get to your Bootable USB and once it is highlighted press [Enter]

You should see your OEM Logo:

You should now see the following Windows screen.

The Language to Install is for informational purposes only and lists only a single option. To change it you need to Download the Windows 10 Version 1903 ISO of the Desired Language and begin the install with your new Windows 10 Version 1903 Bootable USB:

The next screen allows you to change the Time and Currency Format for instance to English (Canada), English (Australia), English (New Zealand), English (United Kingdom), English (Hong Kong), etc etc:

The next screen allows you to change the Keyboard Layout for instance to English (Canada), English (Australia), English (New Zealand), English (United Kingdom), English (Hong Kong), English (United States), etc etc:

The next screen allows you to select the Keyboard Layout. There is a slight difference between the English (UK) and English (US) keyboard due to the addition of the £ symbol required in the UK and the € symbol required in the Republic of Ireland. If your keyboard has an [Alt Gr] to the right hand side on the space bar it is a UK keyboard. If it doesn’t you have a USA keyboard.

Once you have made the correct options select Next:

The next screen gives you the option to Repair your Computer. This guide focuses on Clean Installation however:

Product Key

Select Install Now:

The next screen will say Setup is Starting and you will see an Hour Glass Appear. During this screen the Windows 10 Installation Media will look for a Microsoft Digital Marker (MSDM). This is essentially a Windows Product Key Embedded in the UEFI BIOS.

If it finds one you will be taken straight to the License Agreement Screen and the Edition of Windows to Install will Automatically be Selected Using your Product Key:

Systems with the following licensing stickers affixed to them should have a MSDM:

If there is no MSDM or the Windows Installation Media doesn’t contain your Edition of Windows 10 you will instead be taken to the following screen:

You have two options to input the Windows Product Key, this is usually found affixed to a Code of Authenticity often embedded in the battery compartment of Laptops or to select I don’t have a Product Key and select your Edition of Windows 10 Manually.

This screen will accept any Windows 7 OEM, Windows 7 Retail Upgrade, Windows 7 Retail Full, Windows 8 Retail Upgrade, Windows 8.1 Retail Full and Windows 10 Retail Full Product Key.

However for Windows 10 Product Keys are “One Time Use Only”. If you’ve ever had Windows 10 Installed and Activated on your Device you can select “I don’t have a Product Key” then select the correct Edition of Windows 10 to Install and it will Automatically Reactivate when Online.

The vast majority of users will be Reinstalling Windows 10 and not Performing an Initial Install. If you are Performing an Initial Install or want to know more about the activation process select see more.

Initial Upgrade

There are three ways to perform an Initial Upgrade to Windows 10:

  1. Upgrade Install from Windows 7 or Windows 8.x
  2. Clean Install with Windows 7 or Windows 8.x Product Key
  3. Clean Install with Genuine Ticket which uses the activation mechanism of 1 and applies it to 2. This can be used if the CoA or Product Key is unreadable and there is a problem with the upgrade install.

These three activation mechanisms will collect details about the:

  • Eligible Edition of Windows 10 you are entitled to install
  • Collect details about your System Hardware Profile specially your Motherboard

These will then be submitted and stored on a Microsoft Product Activation Server. Any reinstall will result in the resubmission of the Edition of Windows 10 and the System Hardware Profile to the Microsoft Product Activation Server. The Server will find a match and send the Green Light to Reactivate your Device.

For Activation of an Initial Clean Install the Product Key is submitted to Microsoft Alongside your Edition of Windows. Activation Occurs if the Product Key checks out (is genuine and not used on another device).

For the Upgrade Install an Application called GatherOSState is found in the Sources Folder in the Installation Media. This Program looks at the Product Activation of your Windows 7 Install or Windows 8 Install and Creates a Genuine Ticket if your License is Genuine. Note that No Genuine Ticket is created if your License is not Genuine or you are not connected to the Internet:

The GenuineTicket.XML should be located in the following (hidden) folder:


If your CoA is faded and you want an Initial Clean Install.

Copy GatherOSState.exe to your Desktop. Right click it and select Run as Administrator:

Accept the User Account Control Prompt:

Your GenuineTicket.XML will be generated:

Copy it to your Windows 10 Bootable USB. Then Clean Install Windows 10 without a Product Key. After Windows 10 has been installed copy the GenuineTicket.XML to the Folder:


Restart your Computer and Windows 10 will be Activated. Your Initial Activation is Complete and you do not need to use the Genuine Ticket ever again.

Select Windows 10 Home for the following Licenses:

  • Windows 7 Starter
  • Windows 7 Home Basic
  • Windows 7 Home Premium

Select Windows 10 Pro for the following Licenses:

  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Ultimate

Once you have selected your Edition you’ll be taken to the License Agreement Screen:

Note the Installation Media created by the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool doesn’t have specialised Workstation Editions. If you have one of these Editions you will be asked for a Product Key as your MSDM isn’t for any Edition on this Installation Media. If you have one of these Editions you need to use the Windows 10 Direct Download Links which contains these Additional Editions. See Download Windows 10 Version 1903 and Create a Bootable USB.

Accept the License Agreement:

Then select Next:


Select Custom: Install Windows Only (Advanced):

If you have an old Windows Installation your Drive Options Page will look like the following. Usually most systems only have One Drive however some systems may have multiple drives. In the next screens you need to make sure you install Windows on the correct drive:

  • Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Hybrid Solid State Drive (HSSD)
  • Hard Drive (HDD)
  • Solid State Cache Drive

Windows 10 performs much better on a SSD so if you a system with both a SSD and a HDD then install Windows on a SSD. The minimum recommended size for a SSD and a Windows 10 Install is 250 GB. It will work at 125 GB but at a push.

When SSDs were in their infancy and very expensive per GB, low capacity 32-64 GB mSATA SSD were installed alongside 500 GB-2 TB HDDs. These SSDs were used as Cache Drives and you should not install Windows 10 Directly on them. For best results remove both the SSD Cache Drive and the 2.5″ SATA HDD and replace it with a 2.5″ SATA SSD directly.

SSD Cache Drives speed up a HDD but do not speed up a SSD. SSD Cache Drives are also more prone to Boot Issues. SSD Cache Drives have been replaced by Hybrid Drives (HSSD) which have both a large capacity HDD and low capacity SSD Cache Drive combined in a single unit. The Caching occurs on the Drive directly and it does not require two different drives and connectors. Hybrid Drives (HSSDs) perform in between a SSD and a HDD.

You will need to look at your manufacturers instructions for use of a SSD Cache Drive. This required normally changing the SATA Operation to “Intel Smart Response Technology” or similar and then the installation of the Caching Software Intel Smart Response Technology or similar after the Windows Installation. See the link below for example:

If you have an old Windows Installation your screen will look like the following:


In order to clean install Windows 10 you need to remove your old Windows Installation. This can be done by systematically selecting each partition and then selecting Delete.

Until it says only Drive X Unallocated Space.

Note you can Delete all these Recovery Partitions they correspond to the old Version of Windows and will no longer be functional after clean installation of a new Version of Windows. Also all required partitions will automatically be recreated when installing the new Version of Windows.


Think of a partition as a fence around a field. Deleting the fence removes the fence but all the contents of the field will remain. Think of the field as your data. It remains in place until it is reassigned, i.e. the crop in the field remains the same until it is physically replaced by another crop type. A secure wipe will replace all data with zeros, think of it as digging up the field and clearing all existing crop.

Newer Systems (Late 2015 Dell Business OptiPlex/Latitude/XPS Systems) have the ability to perform a Secure Wipe natively via the UEFI BIOS using Dell Data Wipe.

Power Down your Dell System and power it up and tap [F2]:

This will take you into the UEFI BIOS setup. If it does not power off and retry:

Press [↓] until you get to maintenance:

Press [Enter] to expand the field:

Press [↓] until you highlight Data Wipe:

Press [Enter] and then in the field select Wipe on Next Boot:

You will be given warnings and some trick questions to prevent you from blindly clicking OK. Answers these correctly:

Then select Exit:

Note only Internal Drives are Wiped. External Hard Drives and your Windows 10 Bootable USB are not Wiped:

You will see the Dell Logo:

Dell Security Manager should Load. You will get questions again and some quick questions. Ensure you answers these correctly to proceed:

It will begin the Data Wipe. It will be rapid for a Solid State Drive about 2 minutes but may take several hours for a large capacity Hard Drive:

When done it will tell you if it completed successfully or if any device failed (this happens if you put an old SSD in a system or example or perhaps if the Drive itself has failed). Select OK:

You will see the Dell Logo:

You will see the next screen. Power off your Computer and return to the top of this guide for instructions to Boot to your Windows 10 Bootable USB.

For Older Business Models or Dell Home Systems or non-Dell Models you may need to use a third-party utility Parted Magic to perform the Data Wipe.

Once your SSDs have been Sanitized or Secure Erased or all partitions removed. It should look like the following. Select Disc0 (Unallocated Space) or your desired Drive and select Next:

The Windows 10 Install will begin:

It will then restart:

Then spend some time getting Devices Ready:

Next you’ll be given the option to select your Region. In my case because I am using English United Kingdom installation media, the United Kingdom is selected as my Region. Since this is the correct region I will select Yes:

Then you will be given Keyboard options. Once again the United Kingdom keyboard is correct in my case, so I will it selected and select Yes:

I do not want to toggle for another keyboard layout so I will select Skip:

User Account

In the next screens you’ll be given the options to create a Microsoft Account (Online) or Local (Offline) Account. You will also be given the option to select what other Microsoft Services you want to Enable. Note there is a compromise between the services you enable and the privacy settings you select. Microsoft have designed these screens so that the Next button is grayed out until you select an option.

In this case we are going to sign in on a Device for Personal Use. Select “Setup for Personal Use”. Once you’ve made your selection the Next Button will be ungreyed out so press “Next”:

In the screen Microsoft will ask you if you want to sign in with a Microsoft Account. There is also the option to the left hand side to select a Offline Account.

I will demonstrate both a Microsoft Account sign in and a Local Account sign in.

For a Microsoft Account, type in your Microsoft Accounts Email and select Next:

Type in your Password for your Microsoft Account and select Next:

Local Account

Select Offline Account to Login without a Microsoft Account:

Microsoft will inform you that a Microsoft Account is Recommended an ask if you want to use one. Select No:

Input your desired username:

Create your Password or Leave the Field Blank:

If you input a Password you will also have to Set and Answer Password Security Questions:

It may take a moment to sign you in:

Once you are signed in, you’ll be instructed to Create a Pin. Select Create Pin:

Type in a pin and then select OK:

You will be asked if you want to “Do More Across Devices with Activity History”. With Device History any document, set of tabs in a browser etc, for the last 30 days are shared in the Activity Across All Devices. If this option is not selected, Activity History will still be enabled by default on your single Device with only the last 7 days of Activity History:

An example of Device History:

You can link your phone to your PC. I don’t want to link my phone with this PC so I will select Do it Later:

Next you’ll be asked if you want to Protect your Files with OneDrive. If this option is enabled your Desktop, Documents and Pictures folders will automatically be synced with your OneDrive which can also be accessed using your Microsoft Account. Any existing files from OneDrive will be downloaded on your PC when you attempt to open them. Free OneDrive storage is a mere 5 GB so its not recommended enabling OneDrive unless you have a subscription. A 1 TB OneDrive subscription is included in Office 365, so if you have an Office 365 subscription its recommended to use OneDrive. To use OneDrive select Next on this Screen. To avoid using OneDrive, select Only Save Files to this PC:

Folders Synced to OneDrive will have a Green Tick if Synced.

There are other icons of Synced Folders such as the Sync Icon which means the folder is still Syncing to OneDrive and the Cloud Icon which means that OneDrive has some files not present on your PC. These files will normally show up on the explorer of your PC and you can download them by double clicking them:

In the next screen you’ll be asked if you want to Enable your Digital Assistant, Cortana. I personally never use Cortana so I will just select Decline:

You’ll then be given the option to “Do More with your Voice”. Once again I never use Cortana and don’t want my Microphone to always be active so I will select “Don’t Use Speech Recognition” and then Accept:

Next you’ll be asked whether Microsoft and Apps can use your Location. This setting should be Enabled if you are going to use the default Maps and Weather for example. So I will highlight Next and select Accept:

There is also an option to find your Device. In essence your Windows Installation when Online and connected to the internet will transmit the location of your Device. This can be helpful if you Loose your Device or your Device is stolen. However if stolen, note that this is a very basic and this setting won’t survive a fresh install of Windows. In my case, I am installing Windows 10 on a Desktop so I see little use in this setting so will select No and then Accept:

Next you’ll be asked about sending Diagnostic Data to Microsoft. You can either opt to send Basic or Full Diagnostic Data. I usually send Full Data as it can potentially help them to address issues which may crop up with new Builds of Windows 10 so I will select Full and then select Accept:

The next screen is to Improve Inking & Typing. In general I don’t want every single keyboard stroke I make logged and sent back to Microsoft, so I will select No at this setting and then Accept:

The next is Tailored Experiences with your Diagnostic Data. Here this is a setting to allow Microsoft to give you Notifications about potential issues and fixes with your specific device and hardware components on your Device which may span across a wide range of devices and experience a similar issue in comparison to only getting generic notifications. I will highlight Yes here and select Accept:

The next option is about letting Apps use your Advertising ID. Microsoft add Adverts on the Microsoft Store. The Advertising ID will mean Microsoft will collect information on your previous store purchases etc. and give you recommendations based on your previous interests. If you Disable this setting it will only give you generic choices.

In reality the Store is very rarely used unless you are Gaming. So it doesn’t matter too much about this setting. I will select No and the Accept:

My user account and the last stages of the Windows setup will complete:

Microsoft Edge will open by default telling you Welcome to Windows:

Updating System Drivers

You should now have Windows 10 Version 1903, Build 18363:

System Drivers

You should now have Windows 10 Version 1903, Build 18363:

System Drivers

Right click the Start Button and select System:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Upgrade-28.png

You should now have Windows 10 Version 1903, Build 18363:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Upgrade-29.png

System Drivers

OEM Driver Update Utilities

The major OEMs such as Dell, HP and Lenovo have created driver update utilities which will scan the system and compare the driver version Windows 10 has inbuilt or installed from Windows Update to the latest version the OEM has on their servers. These tools should be installed and ran. More details here:

It is also recommended to launch the Intel Driver & Support Assistant as most Dell, Lenovo and HP systems prebundled Intel hardware and prebundled Intel Drivers. As a result Intel may have a driver released to address an issue before your OEM does.

For older systems, Windows 10 will have most system drivers inbuilt or obtain them from Windows Update automatically, you can launch the OEM driver update utility but it may not find anything if Windows 10 has already obtained drivers for your hardware.

Touchpad Driver

When Windows 10 is installed on older Dell/HP/Lenovo systems that were designed for Windows 7, a generic Touchpad Driver is installed, this is often reset to a default generic driver, post Upgrade Install. In many cases, this driver is severely lacking and the driver released by the Touchpad vendor was for an older version of Windows such as Windows 7. Many of these Touchpad drivers don’t install correctly on Windows 10. As Touchpads haven’t changed that much over time, the solution is often to install a Touchpad driver available for a newer model of Touchpad. As this Touchpad driver isn’t designed for your hardware, it needs to be force installed via the Device Manager. See my popular guide Dell Touchpad Drivers for more details.

With newer (>2016 Hardware) there is a future push for Microsoft to natively support new Touchpads, so called “Precision Touchpads” which should alleviate any OEM driver issues.

Problem Devices

If you have a Device where Windows couldn’t find a driver automatically you can examine it in more detail via the Device Manager for more details see my guide Checking Hardware IDs using the Device Manager.

Windows 10 Features

With Windows 10 Version 1809 comes the new paste clipboard, the Emoji Panel was also introduced in Windows 10 Version 1803. For more details about these see Features to Enable in Windows 10.

Office 365

If you already had Office 365 it should still be installed. If you need to install Office 365, see my guide Installing Office 365 (2019)


Windows 10 by default has Windows Defender giving base system security. If you want to install another security product then I recommend Malwarebytes’ AntiMalware. There is a free version which only does an on demand scan or a paid version which does Realtime Protection. Below is an affiliate link:

Malwarebytes for Home | Anti-Malware Premium | Free Trial Download

Setting to Enable in Windows 10

Microsoft have created a Paste Clipboard, which allows you to Copy and Paste Multiple Commands. The new Paste Clipboard Shortcut is

[Windows] and [ v ]

They have also added Symbol Input to the Touchscreen Keyboard and Emoji Panel (Keyboard/Mouse use). The paste clipboard is also at the top of the onscreen keyboard:

For Keyboard and Mouse Users, the emoji panel has also been updated for Symbol Input. It can be accessed using the shortcut key:

[Windows]+[ . ]