Windows 10 Version 1909: Clean Install

The Free Upgrade and Windows 7 End of Life

This guide looks at a clean installation of Windows 10 using a Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 OEM or Retail License.

Windows 7 Reaches End of Life in just less than a week and despite Microsoft's website stating that the Free Upgrade period ended on the 29th of July 2019 all activation mechanisms for the Windows 7 OEM or Windows 8.x OEM to Windows 10 Free Upgrade remain in place and I have extensively tested upgrading to Windows 10 on Devices that have a Windows 7 OEM License that have never had Windows 10 installed.

Tutorial Video

Booting From Windows 10 Installation Media

In order to carry out a Clean Install, you require a Windows 10 Bootable USB. For more details see:

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 1909 ISO of the Desired Language and begin the install with your new Windows 10 Version 1909 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:

Your Windows Product Key

Select Install Now:

Windows 8.0/8.1/10 OEM Product Keys

The next screen will say Setup is Starting and you will see an Hour Glass Appear.

In the background the Windows setup will look in order for:

  1. A PID.txt in the sources folder. This can be created to manually override any OEM Product Key.
  2. A OEM Product Key. This is known as a Microsoft Digital Marker (MSDM) and is embedded within the UEFI BIOS of the systems motherboard. Windows 8.0 OEM, Windows 8.1 OEM and Windows 10 OEM Product Keys should be automatically input by Windows 10 Installation Media.

If it finds 1 or 2, you will be taken straight to the License Agreement Screen and the Edition of Windows to Install will Automatically be Selected by the Product Key. Additional details on overriding the OEM Product Key by use of a PID.txt are available here (not recommended in the vast majority of cases).

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

Windows 7 OEM Product Keys and Windows 7/8.0/8.1/10 Retail Product Keys

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:

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.

Windows 10 is a free upgrade to Windows 7 however Windows 7 OEM Product Keys were not embedded in the UEFI BIOS but instead printed on stickers usually hidden under the batteries in laptops to prevent fading.

Fortunately you do not need to type in this Product Key every time you want to Clean Install Windows 10 and Windows 7 OEM Product Keys as well as Retail Keys should be considered as one time use.

Once a system has had Windows 10 Version 1507 or Later activated, its hardware details are stored on a Microsoft Product Activation Server. This means you may skip the Product Key during installation and merely just select the correct Edition of Windows 10. Windows 10 will contact the Microsoft Product Activation Server post-installation provided that you are online and the Microsoft Product Activation Server will recognise your Hardware Details and give your system the green light for Microsoft Product Re-activation which will automatically occur in the background.

Faded Windows 7 Product Key

This section only applies to those that are Performing an Initial Clean Installation of Windows 10 and have a Faded Windows 7 Product Key. The vast majority of users at this point will either be Reinstalling Windows 10 or will be able to read their Windows 7 OEM Product Key so this section will be collapsed by default. Click "Show More" to expand this section.

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 Windows 7 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.

Windows 7 to Windows 10 Edition

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.

Workstation Pro and Education Pro Editions

Note the Installation Media created by the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool doesn't have the four specialised Pro Education and Pro 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. In such a case you will need to create Windows 10 Version 1909 Installation Media using the direct download links.

License Agreement

Accept the License Agreement:

Then select Next:

Drive Options


Data Recovery

If you are reinstalling Windows because you cannot boot into your old Windows Installation use a Linux Fedora Live Bootable USB to Back all your files to a USB Flash Drive.

This option will not be available if you are using Windows 10 Pro, a Microsoft Account and Bitlocker encryption however in such a case your files should be on your OneDrive.

Format vs Wipe

The Windows 10 Setup will Format your Drive.

  • A Format assigns all data on your drive to Free Space. This can be later written over with new data.
  • A Format is not the same a Wipe. In a Wipe, the data is assigned to free space and then overwritten with zeros.

This means that a Virus/Malware issue can easily survive a Format and Sensitive Data may be Recoverable using third party utilities for example if the system is sold on second hand. In such cases it is recommended to perform a Data Wipe.

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.

In newer Business Models it is possible to perform a Data Wipe directly from the UEFI BIOS Setup. In older Models or Home Models you can instead use a Parted Magic Bootable Live USB. For more details see:

Drive Types

At this stage is is worth discussing the different types of Drives. There are four different drive connectors present in computers manufactured in 2008 to present day and four different drive technologies:

Drive Connectors:

  • SATA 3.5 "
  • SATA 2.5 "
  • mSATA
  • m.2

Drive Types:

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

Windows 10 performs has borderline performance on a HDD and the HDD is often the bottleneck even on systems as old as 2008 when running Windows 10 simply because it takes a lot of time to access the files on the HDD and the change to a SSD is usually the best upgrade that can be made on such systems. It is recommended to replace all other drive types with a Solid State Drive providing it is relatively easy to access the drives in your system. Check your system connectors by opening your system or referencing your System Manual before buying a SSD.

The most common connector for older systems is SATA and 2.5 " SSDs will fit in 3.5 " bays with an adaptor. Recommended 2.5 " SSD Drives are:

  • Crucial MX500 SSD
  • Samsung 850/860 SSD
  • WD Blue SSD

A newer system will likely have a M.2 connector and already have a SSD. You can upgrade to a higher capacity SSD again from the three vendors above:

  • Crucial m.2 P1
  • Samsung m.2 970
  • WD Blue m.2 SSD

Drive Capacity

Windows 10 will fit on a 120 GB SSD at a push but I would recommend ensuring that you have at least a 250 GB SSD in order to use your system comfortably and to have the additional overhead for Windows 10 to update etc.

Notes on Cache Drives (Obsolete)

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. To use a SSD Cache Drive your UEFI BIOS SATA operation needs to be configured correctly.

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. Nowadays budget SSDs are not that much difference in price to a SSHD so I would advise installing a SSD directly.

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:

Windows Setup Drive Options

Select Custom: Install Windows Only (Advanced):

If you have already Formatted or Wiped your SSD or replaced it with a new one, your Drive Options will look as follows (assuming a single drive).

Alternatively if you have an old Windows Installation your Drive Options Page 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 the "Recovery Partitions" correspond to the Old Windows Version and are safe to delete as they will no longer be functional in any case, after a Clean Installation of Windows 10 Version 1909. All required partitions will automatically be recreated when installing Windows 10 Version 1909.

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:

Regional Settings

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:

Internet Connectivity and User Account

Microsoft have been actively encouraging all users to use a Microsoft Account (Email Account) and a Microsoft Account is best to use if using other Microsoft Services such as Office 365 and OneDrive on a personal computer or purchasing Apps from the Microsoft Store.

In Windows 10 Home Microsoft are forcing users to sign in with a Microsoft Account if their Windows 10 Setup is connected to the internet. It is possible to setup a Local Account in Windows 10 home but you must finish the Windows 10 Setup offline and then connect to the internet on the Windows 10 Desktop.

Windows Setup: Windows 10 Pro (Online)
Windows Setup: Windows 10 Pro (Online)
Windows Setup: Windows 10 Home (Online)

Windows 10 Home/Pro Microsoft Account

In the screen Microsoft will ask you if you want to sign in with a Microsoft Account.

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

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

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

Type in a pin and then select OK:

Windows 10 Pro 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. You are best to avoid spaces in your user name if using third party programs such as Anaconda (Python).

Create your Password or Leave the Field Blank:

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

Windows 10 Home Local Account

Select "I Don't have Internet".

Select Continue with Limited Setup:

Input your desired username. You are best to avoid spaces in your user name if using third party programs such as Anaconda (Python).

Create your Password or Leave the Field Blank:

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

Privacy Settings

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 greyed out until you select an option.

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:

Windows Update

Ensure your system is connected to the internet and leave your system idle for 5-10 minutes. Windows 10 will automatically download applicable driver updates and Windows Updates found on Microsoft's servers and begin to install these. You should restart after these updates are installed.

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. The download links to these tools are on the left. I have made written guides to the right but the use of these tools is relatively straight forward.

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.

OEM Update Utilities may not work with older systems.Fortunately, for older systems Windows 10 will likely have most system drivers inbuilt or already obtained 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.

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.


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.

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]+[ . ]

2 thoughts on “Windows 10 Version 1909: Clean Install

  1. Hi, Philip, I'm not sure if you monitor the comments but I'm writing to you anyway because I ran out of ideas.

    I got my hands on a Dell Precision M4800. The previous owner replaced the hard disk and then did a Windows10 Pro initial install, so the copy was not activated (and it was running on BIOS/Legacy)
    This laptop has a blue Pro Windows8 sticker, however the RWeverything 1.7 doesn't get the MSDM tab in the ACPI tables… Nor there is a CoA in affixed to the back or battery compartment.
    Note 1. Please notice the RWEverything has been somehow blacklisted in several browsers as it was used to install an UEFI rootkit.

    Checking the Service tag on the Dell support website, it was delivered with Win 8.1 Pro 64 bit.
    Well, I started by reinstalling Win10 pro on my own to see if I could get it to activate. It didn't after several days and reboots

    Then I modified the boot to become UEFI/Secure Boot following your advice, created the Win10 v1903 USB to see if it activated. Still, no luck. RWEverything didn't succeed finding the MSDM either.

    The next step was to download with direct links to get the workstation versions
    Note 2: The F12 in Chrome didn't work so I reverted to Ubuntu
    Note 3: I got the 1903_V2 that was bigger than 4GB so Rufus didn't offer FAT32 to burn the .iso in the USB… only NTFS. This forced me to temporarily disable the Secure Boot, while installing.

    I selected the next Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, but still it doesn't get activated

    So, in summary, I don't know how to proceed to claim the OEM hardware license. Do you have any ideas?

    1. Sorry I didn't see your comment until just now, not too sure if you have resolved your issue. If RWEverything doesn't see your key and Windows 10 installation media doesn't pick up your Product Key it is gone. This has happened only to a handful of systems from what I've seen on the forums/comments.

      You can try to update the UEFI BIOS to the latest version which resolved it for one person but it hasn't worked in any other case.

      Otherwise you will need to use the SLIC 2.1 which should display in the ACPI tables. Essentially you need to invoke downgrade rights and then get your free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro from Windows 7 Pro. For this you will need to install Windows 7 Pro using the Dell Skylake ISO. Once Windows 7 Pro is activated you will need to launch GatherOSState.exe and get a genuineticket.xml file. You can use this for the initial clean activation of Windows 10 Pro.

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