How to Do a Clean Install of Windows 10

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The best way to upgrade your computer to the latest version of Windows is to do a clean install, so you can start afresh rather than bringing along unwanted programs or files you might have on your current setup. Luckily, doing a clean installation of Windows 10 is pretty simple. You just need your Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 license and a USB flash drive or writable DVD.

You'll need at least 4GB of storage space on the flash drive or DVD, which will be completely rewritten. As always, back up your computer before doing this clean installation, just in case.

One note about the product key you can use to activate Windows 10: Microsoft now allows you to use your Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 key (including OEM keys) to get the free upgrade--as long as you're using it on the same device. To find your Windows product key, use a free utility like ProduKey to recover it. clean install windows

You'll need at least 3GB of storage space on the flash drive or DVD, which will be completely rewritten. As always, back up your computer before doing this clean installation, just in case.

  1. Download Microsoft's Windows 10 media creation tool from
  2. Run MediaCreationTool.exe and select "Create installation media for another PC"

clean install windows create media

  1. Accept or change the installation options and click Next.

clean install windows create options

  1. Choose USB flash drive or ISO file (for burning to a DVD later) and click Next.

clean install windows create usb

  1. Select the drive and click Next.

clean install windows create drive

  1. Click Finish after the media creation tool creates the media for you.
  2. Restart your PC with the USB drive or DVD inserted.
  3. Press any key to boot from the USB drive or DVD.
  4. Follow the prompts to set up Windows. This will include entering your Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 license key and agreeing to the Windows 10 license terms.


  • If your current version of Windows starts up instead of getting the prompt to boot from the bootable USB drive or DVD you created, you might need to go into the computer's boot menu to let it boot from the media. To do this, you'll have to press a key, such as F2 or F12, when the PC starts up. Check with your computer's manufacturer for the key or combination of keys you'll need to use.
  • Important: If you're installing Windows 10 over another version of Windows, rather than installing it on an empty partition or clean hard drive, be sure to choose "Change what to keep" in the installation wizard.

clean install windows what to keep

  • Select "Nothing" in the Choose what to keep window. This will delete everything in the partition or drive and install Windows 10 from scratch.

clean install windows what to keep nothing

That's it! Once the setup is complete, you can enjoy customizing and using your fresh machine.

Add a comment
  • Brent Says:

    This didn't work for me. I tried to do a clean install on a Windows 7 laptop that I didn't even have the Windows 10 "upgrade now" notification as I just turned it on after letting it sit for a couple years. I created a DVD with the iso download option using a different PC. I then booted from the DVD and said to install Windows 10. When it got to the point where it asked for the key, I input my Windows 7 key for that laptop... didn't work. Thought it was odd but it allowed me to activate later so I opted for that. Got Windows 10 installed no problem and used it for a bit but, when I went to activate it, same message about the key being no good. I called Microsoft and was told that in order for the key to be "good" from a Windows 7 computer that Windows 10 has to first be installed and asked if I did that. I said "nope, I did the clean install option". They said I have two options... buy Windows 10 or reload Windows 7 then do the Windows 10 upgrade and THEN I could do the DVD if I wanted to. What the??? That's a bit aggravating to waste that much time and also makes it pointless to have a "clean install" iso download because you can't really use it?!?! This makes no sense and doesn't follow what you mention above where a person can just input their Win 7 key when asked... tried that and no joy. I'm not sure if something changed with Microsoft's policy or what but don't expect to be able to do a clean install of Windows 10 on a Windows 7/8.1 machine that you never put Windows 10 over the top of Windows 7/8.1! If there is a way to do it, please let me know because I need to do another PC and would prefer to do a true clean install if possible. Thanks!

  • t.ashe Says:

    Thanks this article was really helpful, it might be a stupid question but do you then need to have your usb plugged into the laptop every time you use windows 10? or will windows 10 be on the machine now rather than the usb?

  • R Denis Says:

    I did my clean reinstall from Recovery in the Update and Security panel in the Action Center. It worked sweet on both a former W8.1 and a W 7 computer.

  • vinodc Says:

    A very nice article for the beginners. Thanks for the article, i was looking for it!

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