Microsoft is making Windows 10 available as a free upgrade for just about anyone running Windows 7 or later. Just upgrade by July 29th, 2016 and you don’t have to pay a penny.

But what if you want a clean install of Windows 10 that doesn’t carry over all of your settings and data from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1?

You can do that… but you’ll have to upgrade first.

win10 refresh

Microsoft’s Gabe Aul responded to a question on Twitter confirming that you can take the following steps to perform a clean install:

  1. Upgrade to Windows 10
  2. Find the “Reset this PC” option in the Update & Security section of the Windows 10 Settings app.
  3. Click “Get Started” and then choose whether to keep your files or remove everything. Either option will remove apps and settings, but you can choose not to have Windows erase your files.

That’s pretty much it. Your Windows license will remain effective, but the operating system will be reinstalled just as if you were setting up a new computer.

This shouldn’t be a big surprise: Windows has had a reset option for a while: In the Windows 8.1 Settings menu you can choose “Recovery” from the “Update and recovery” menu and then decide whether to “refresh your PC” or “remove everything.”

But since Microsoft is offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade, some folks had wondered if they’d lose their license after performing a fresh install. Aul says you can perform a clean reinstall any time… which means that even after July 29th, 2016 you’ll be able to reinstall Windows without losing your license.

via Neowin

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28 replies on “Want a clean install of Windows 10? That’s free too (sort of)”

  1. I’m so glad that this has come up. I’ve been wondering about this myself. I don’t mind doing it this way, save for 1 main issue. I have SSDs in all my machines and my plan was to secure erase them all, which basically factory resets them and essentially makes them “fresh” so to speak.

    Second of all, I was wondering what would happen in terms of a catastrophic crash or just for argument’s sake, my tablet with my Window 10 got stolen. So if my SSD with Windows 10 crashed on August 1, 2016, how would I get it again?

    I will definitely be following up on how to get the key and do a clean install on 10.

  2. Great, so our only option for clean installs is to restore the (probably malware-ridden) existing operating system files. Nice.

    1. No, after the upgrade the recovery partition is basically replaced and when you do a reset it will be to the new operating system under a essentially clean install…

      Unless you specifically choose to not erase your former files then it’ll be a clean install…

      1. I’m talking about after the upgrade, six months down the road when they get infected with something, and the only option they have to get clean is a “refresh” that uses the infected system files to restore from.

        1. Unless you replaced the recovery files then they remain the same as when first installed… It’s basically like having the recovery disc always on the drive!

          You can also opt to put the recovery on a USB or external HDD and treat it just like a recovery disc…

          Personally, I’d suggest just making periodic backups so you don’t have to do a full reset… but short of a really malicious malware that does something like overwrites the whole drive, etc then a reset will usually clear everything out… Just be willing to lose all your files for a proper clean recovery…

          1. No, you can still have a static recovery… Article is basically just about giving the OEMs the option to skip the recovery image to save drive space but that’s mainly optional and remember you’ll be installing the update yourself!

            Like it states in the last sentence in that article “Windows 10 will also have tools for creating recovery media on a DVD or flash drive.”

            So like I stated before putting the recovery on a USB and creating a actual recovery image… or just creating a recovery image of a known clean state and make periodic backups, don’t replace a previous one btw, to prevent even needing to a do a clean install…

            Or you can also opt for Zepid’s solution and just set up a ISO image with a valid key for a straight up installation… if you’re really worried…

            Besides, the way MS is setting it up also makes it a lot harder for malware to infect anything vital… Basically talking about files only MS can update…

          2. I see what you are saying, and for you and me and the other readers of this site, it’ll work just fine. But it will be a nightmare to support, from users who deleted the recovery partition because Windows said it was OK and they need more space for cat pics. Those users won’t have created recovery media or any kind of recovery anything, and they are likely to install Smiley packs with detailed instructions about how to bypass file protections to install them to forbidden locations. And now they will be much harder to deal with. 🙁

          3. Just goes to show the users worst enemy is usually themselves… but as long as you have the license key then you can always opt for something like Zepid’s solution…

            It would be preferable if they started making a USB Flash drive as a standard option for all PC’s to have something to fall back on that’s as reliable as the old recovery discs but even then we had users who would toss them, lose them, or just misplace them or even break them…

            So there’s no protecting users from themselves if they insist on putting themselves into those sort of situations, especially if they go out of their way to bypass security systems…

            But, without them I know quite a few IT/Tech Support people would be out of work :-p

          4. Not really, as there was nothing stopping said smiley packs from infecting the recovery partition (which, by the Win7 era, was just a WIM that got deployed, and therefore a standard format across manufacturers) before.

          5. I know this is from a while ago but you can just use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool to make an install disk from an iso it downloads of the internet.

          6. Tired8281, I think they would easier to deal with: “Lady, you futzed up your computer with cat pics, smiley packs, and selfies. It is now toasted and all is lost. You can use your backup — you _did_ back up your data, right? — once M$ gets done pillaging your computer and cleaning out the cats and smiley’s. Have a nice day. That’ll be $79.95 plus tax.”

    2. Damn you’re annoying. Just make an ISO of your fully functional Win 10 install and write it to DVD and install from that without any malware. Plus if you know what you’re doing you don’t get malware or viruses. I haven’t had one for years.

  3. Looks like you need a functioning windows update to get the upgrade, that’s unfortunate for me. I have a legit key, Any option to get a disc or a download that doesn’t need update?

    1. Yes, like Zepid pointed out there will be user created ways and there should also be official ways as well as MS basically just needs to know you have a valid license key but those details won’t come out until after it is officially released but it has been done before with previous releases to get the ISO and you’d just need a valid key for install…

  4. Can I upgrade to Disk B while keeping a usable and valid copy in Disk A? Just in case.. we know you, little microsoft, you.

  5. The easy, non-retarded, way is to pull your newly upgraded Windows 10 key out of your registry and go to this link then select the version of Windows you want and it will pull down an ISO for you and put it on a USB or DVD.

    I’ll write a key ripper when the full release version drops.

    1. My worry is that it’s going to work like an upgrade key and require the upgrade process vs. clean install process. Could this ever be the case? We have no idea if it’ll be released in the Media Download Tool either; here’s to hoping I guess.

      1. I’m pretty sure that even with an upgrade key, you can install using the placeholder key and change to the upgrade key after install.

  6. I keep thinking of the non-technical users out there and all of this sounds like a way to get things so hosed up they punt and buy a new computer, shrug, and say “next year Mac.” Not that this solves anything since OS X users gripe about the woes from rapid churn on that platform now too. It seems to be some sort of conspiracy to keep people buying replacement hardware frequently.

    1. Getting people delayed, breaking workflows and overall just causing massive waste of time and aggravation is not a side effect, but the goal.

      Computers haven’t been created and sold to empower you, but to track you and control you.

      The Oligarchy doesn’t want you to be smart and effective. They want you distracted, unfocused and preferably watching MTV all day, inundated with sexual scenes, occult symbols and subliminal suggestions.

      While they had to give you something to draw you into computers at first, it is now time to snap the hand- and foot cuffs shut. If Microsoft’s new rules don’t make it abundantly clear to you: your computer is not yours anymore and it really never was meant to be yours.

      Malware is, like terrorism, just staged to get you to give up your choices and rights. Microsoft needs to fumble with your system constantly – with Windows Update even changing your settings unasked. And the incessant updating intrusion is all about ***security***, of course, just like all the fondling at Airports.

  7. What if someone messes the machine up down the road, say 3 years from now (mess up so bad you can’t get to these settings inside the OS)? Do we reinstall Windows 7 then somehow still upgrade back to 10? Or is there going to be install media available that will recognize my old Win7 product key?

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