Perform clean install Windows 10 on SSD from USB, ISO, boot, recovery image

A clean install of Windows 10 is the recommended approach to upgrade to the latest version of the operating system. The reason is that this method allows you to erase the hard drive and start with a fresh copy of Windows 10 without custom settings, drivers, apps, or files that may interfere with the upgrade process.

If you have had the same installation for a long time, this process can also help fix existing problems, such as performance issues, problems shutting down and starting up, memory, and apps.

Also, a clean installation is the process of choice to upgrade from an older version, such as Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Or you can even use this option to delete all the bloatware that came preloaded with the manufacturer image on your new computer.

Whatever the reason it might be, Microsoft offers several ways to perform a clean install of Windows 10, including using a USB flash drive to set up the installation on an SSD (Solid-State Drive). You can use the Media Creation Tool to do a fresh install on a device already running Windows 10. It’s also possible to use the “Reset this PC” feature to quickly wipe out the hard drive and reinstall the operating system without the need for additional tools. Or, if the computer does not start, you can even use the Advanced startup options or mount the ISO file to File Explorer to complete a clean install.

In this guide, you will learn six different ways to perform a clean installation of Windows 10 on your computer, whether you plan to reinstall the same version or upgrade to a later release, including version 2004, 20H2, or 21H1.

Important: This process will delete everything on your device. It’s recommended to make a full backup of your computer before proceeding. You’ve been warned.

Clean install Windows 10 from USB

The best way to complete a fresh installation of Windows 10 is to use a USB flash drive, which you must first create using the Media Creation Tool, Command Prompt, or third-party tools like Rufus. Also, you have to make sure the computer can start from USB, which means that you may need to adjust the BIOS or UEFI settings. However, since these settings are different on most devices, you will have to check your manufacturer support website for more specific details.

To perform a clean install of Windows 10 from USB, use these steps:

  1. Start the PC with the Windows 10 USB flash drive.

  2. Press any key to continue.

  3. Click the Next button.

    Windows setup

  4. Click the Install now button.

    Install option

  5. Click the I don’t have a product key option if you are doing a reinstallation. If Windows 10 was already activated after the installation, reactivation will happen automatically.

    Skip license key on Windows 10 setup
    Skip license key

  6. Select the edition of “Windows 10” that your license key activates (if applicable).

    Select edition of Windows 10
    Select edition

  7. Check the I accept the license terms option.

  8. Click the Next button.

  9. Select the Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) option.

    Windows 10 custom install option
    Custom install option

  10. Select each partition in the hard drive you want to install Windows 10 and click the Delete button. (Usually, the “Drive 0” is the drive that contains all the installation files.)

    Warning: When you delete a partition, it also deletes all data on the drive. Also, it is not required to delete the partitions from a secondary hard drive.
  11. Select the hard drive (Drive 0 Unallocated Space) to install Windows 10.

    Select SSD to install Windows 10
    Select SSD to install Windows 10

  12. Click the Next button.

  13. Select your region setting after the installation on the first page of the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    OOBE select region
    Region settings

  14. Click the Yes button.

  15. Select your keyboard layout setting.

    OOBE select keyboard layout
    Keyboard layout settings

  16. Click the Yes button.

  17. Click the Skip button if you do not need to configure a second layout.

  18. If the computer is using an Ethernet connection, it will connect to the network automatically. If you have a wireless connection, you will need to set up the connection manually (a security key may be required).

  19. Select the Set up for personal use option if you are setting Windows 10 Pro. The “Home” edition does not have this option.

    Set up PC for personal use
    Set up PC for personal use

  20. Click the Next button.

  21. Confirm your Microsoft account email, phone number, or Skype identification to create an account.

    OOBE create Windows 10 account
    OOBE create account option

  22. Click the Next button.

  23. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  24. Click the Next button.

  25. Click the Create a PIN button.

  26. Create a new PIN password.

    OOBE create PIN for account
    Create a PIN for the account

  27. Click the OK button.

  28. Confirm your privacy settings that best suits your needs by turning on or off the toggle switch for each setting.

  29. Click the Accept button.

    OOBE choose privacy settings
    Choose privacy settings

  30. (Optional) On the “Customize your device” page, select one or more ways you plan to use the device to allow the setup to suggest tools and services customization during this experience.

    OOBE customize device usage settings
    Customize device usage settings

  31. Click the Accept button to continue. Or click the Skip button to skip this part of the setup.

  32. Click the “Skip for now” button to skip linking your phone to your PC. (You can always do this from the Settings app.)

    OOBE skip phone link to PC
    Skip phone link to PC

  33. Click the Next button to allow OneDrive to automatically backup your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders to the cloud. Or click the “Only save file to this PC” option to skip this step.

    OOBE OneDrive setup
    OneDrive setup

  34. Click the No, thanks button to skip the Microsoft 365 setup.

    OOBE skip Microsoft 365 offer
    Skip Microsoft 365 offer

  35. Click the Not now button to disable Cortana.

    OOBE skip Cortana setup
    Skip Cortana setup

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 will proceed to apply the settings and finish the setup.

Clean install Windows 10 using Media Creation Tool

If you do not have or want to use a USB flash drive, you can also perform a clean installation using the Media Creation Tool using the option to keep nothing. This option is available for devices already using Windows 10, Windows 8.1, or Windows 7, and it provides an option to roll back to the previous installation.

To perform a clean install of Windows 10 with the Media Creation Tool, use these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft support website.

  2. Under the “Create Windows 10 installation media” section, click the Download tool now button.

  3. Save the installer to the device.

  4. Double-click the MediaCreationToolXXXX.exe file to launch the tool.

  5. Click the Accept button.

  6. Select the Upgrade this PC now option.

    Media Creation Tool
    Media Creation Tool

  7. Click the Accept button again.

  8. Click the Change what to keep option.

    Media Creation Tools settings
    Media Creation Tools settings

  9. Select the Nothing option.

    Nothing option
    Nothing option

  10. Click the Next button.

  11. Click the Install button.

    Media Creation Tool clean install
    Media Creation Tool clean install

  12. Select your region setting after the installation on the first page of the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    OOBE select region
    Region settings

  13. Click the Yes button.

  14. Select your keyboard layout setting.

    OOBE select keyboard layout
    Keyboard layout settings

  15. Click the Yes button.

  16. Click the Skip button if you do not need to configure a second layout.

  17. If the computer is using an Ethernet connection, it will connect to the network automatically. If you have a wireless connection, you will need to set up the connection manually (a security key may be required).

  18. Select the Set up for personal use option if you are setting Windows 10 Pro. The “Home” edition does not have this option.

    Set up PC for personal use
    Set up PC for personal use

  19. Click the Next button.

  20. Confirm your Microsoft account email, phone number, or Skype identification to create an account.

    OOBE create Windows 10 account
    OOBE create account option

  21. Click the Next button.

  22. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  23. Click the Next button.

  24. Click the Create a PIN button.

  25. Create a new PIN password.

    OOBE create PIN for account
    Create a PIN for the account

  26. Click the OK button.

  27. Confirm your privacy settings that best suits your needs by turning on or off the toggle switch for each setting.

  28. Click the Accept button.

    OOBE choose privacy settings
    Choose privacy settings

  29. (Optional) On the “Customize your device” page, select one or more ways you plan to use the device to allow the setup to suggest tools and services customization during this experience.

    OOBE customize device usage settings
    Customize device usage settings

  30. Click the Accept button to continue. Or click the Skip button to skip this part of the setup.

  31. Click the “Skip for now” button to skip linking your phone to your PC. (You can always do this from the Settings app.)

    OOBE skip phone link to PC
    Skip phone link to PC

  32. Click the Next button to allow OneDrive to automatically backup your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders to the cloud. Or click the “Only save file to this PC” option to skip this step.

    OOBE OneDrive setup
    OneDrive setup

  33. Click the No, thanks button to skip the Microsoft 365 setup.

    OOBE skip Microsoft 365 offer
    Skip Microsoft 365 offer

  34. Click the Not now button to disable Cortana.

    OOBE skip Cortana setup
    Skip Cortana setup

After you complete the steps, the setup will continue with the fresh installation of the operating system.

Clean install Windows 10 using Reset this PC local image

Using the local image, you can also use the recovery settings to start fresh with a clean copy of Windows 10. However, unlike the USB, Media Creation Tool, and ISO file methods, you can only use this option to reinstall the same version of Windows 10 already on the computer. If you want to upgrade to a newer version, you will need to use one of the other alternative methods.

To clean install Windows 10 with the local recovery image, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Recovery.

  4. Under the “Reset this PC” section, click the Get started button.

    Windows 10 Reset this PC feature
    Windows 10 Reset this PC feature

  5. Click the Remove everything option to perform a fresh install of Windows 10.

    Erase options
    Erase options

  6. Click the Local reinstall option.

    Local reinstall option
    Local reinstall option

  7. (Optional) Click the Change settings option. 

    Change reset settings
    Change reset settings

  8. Configure the reinstallation options:

    • Clean data: If this option is set to No (recommended), then the setup will only delete files, apps, and settings quickly. If the option is set to Yes, the setup will securely clean the drive before installing the operating system, but it will take longer.
    • Delete files from all drives: Only the installation drive will be erased if the option is to No (recommended). Otherwise, if this option is set to Yes, all the drives on the device will be deleted.
    • Download Windows: If this option is set to No (recommended), the local image will be used for installation. If the option is set to Yes, then the “Cloud download” option will be activated.
  9. Click the Confirm button.

    Select reset settings
    Select reset settings

  10. Click the Next button.

  11. Click the Reset button.

    Windows 10 clean install with Local reinstall option
    Windows 10 clean install with Local reinstall option

  12. Select your region setting after the installation on the first page of the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    OOBE select region
    Region settings

  13. Click the Yes button.

  14. Select your keyboard layout setting.

    OOBE select keyboard layout
    Keyboard layout settings

  15. Click the Yes button.

  16. Click the Skip button if you do not need to configure a second layout.

  17. If the computer is using an Ethernet connection, it will connect to the network automatically. If you have a wireless connection, you will need to set up the connection manually (a security key may be required).

  18. Select the Set up for personal use option if you are setting Windows 10 Pro. The “Home” edition does not have this option.

    Set up PC for personal use
    Set up PC for personal use

  19. Click the Next button.

  20. Confirm your Microsoft account email, phone number, or Skype identification to create an account.

    OOBE create Windows 10 account
    OOBE create account option

  21. Click the Next button.

  22. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  23. Click the Next button.

  24. Click the Create a PIN button.

  25. Create a new PIN password.

    OOBE create PIN for account
    Create a PIN for the account

  26. Click the OK button.

  27. Confirm your privacy settings that best suits your needs by turning on or off the toggle switch for each setting.

  28. Click the Accept button.

    OOBE choose privacy settings
    Choose privacy settings

  29. (Optional) On the “Customize your device” page, select one or more ways you plan to use the device to allow the setup to suggest tools and services customization during this experience.

    OOBE customize device usage settings
    Customize device usage settings

  30. Click the Accept button to continue. Or click the Skip button to skip this part of the setup.

  31. Click the “Skip for now” button to skip linking your phone to your PC. (You can always do this from the Settings app.)

    OOBE skip phone link to PC
    Skip phone link to PC

  32. Click the Next button to allow OneDrive to automatically backup your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders to the cloud. Or click the “Only save file to this PC” option to skip this step.

    OOBE OneDrive setup
    OneDrive setup

  33. Click the No, thanks button to skip the Microsoft 365 setup.

    OOBE skip Microsoft 365 offer
    Skip Microsoft 365 offer

  34. Click the Not now button to disable Cortana.

    OOBE skip Cortana setup
    Skip Cortana setup

Once you complete the steps, a clean installation will be performed using the local image. If this is a branded computer, the setup will restore all the original settings previously available with the device. This means manufacturer-specific settings, drivers, applications, and tools. If you don’t want to reinstall the custom image provided by the manufacturer, use the “Cloud Download” option (see steps below).

Clean install Windows 10 using Reset this PC Cloud download

Windows 10 also includes the “Cloud Download” option in the “Reset this PC” feature, which allows you to reset the device with a clean installation, removing apps, files, and settings like the local image option. However, the difference is that when you select this option, the setup will download a fresh installation image from the Microsoft server.

This option has been designed to reinstall Windows 10 when the recovery feature is not working with the local image or using a branded computer with a custom image. If you choose this option, the setup will download the same version already installed on the device, which means you cannot use this method to upgrade the computer to a newer version. Also, if the device has a custom image from the manufacturer, this option will replace it with the one from Microsoft with all the standard settings and without custom drivers or trial software and tools.

To reinstall Windows 10 with the “Cloud Download” option, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Recovery.

  4. Under the “Reset this PC” section, click the Get started button.

    Windows 10 Reset this PC feature
    Windows 10 Reset this PC feature

  5. Click the Remove everything option.

    Erase options
    Erase options

  6. Click the Cloud Download option.

    Cloud download option
    Cloud download option

  7. (Optional) Click the Change settings option.

    Change settings for Cloud download
    Change settings for Cloud download

  8. Configure the reinstallation options: Clean data:

    • Clean data: If this option is set to No (recommended), then the setup will only delete files, apps, and settings quickly. If the option is set to Yes, the setup will securely clean the drive before installing the operating system, but it will take longer.
    • Delete files from all drives: Only the installation drive will be erased if the option is to No (recommended). Otherwise, if this option is set to Yes, all the drives on the device will be deleted.
    • Download Windows: If the option is set to Yes (recommended), then the “Cloud download” option will be activated. If this option is set to No, then the local image will be used for installation.
  9. Click the Confirm button.

    Select cloud download settings
    Select cloud download settings

  10. Click the Next button.

  11. Click the Reset button.

    Windows 10 clean install with Cloud download
    Windows 10 clean install with Cloud download

  12. Select your region setting after the installation on the first page of the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    OOBE select region
    Region settings

  13. Click the Yes button.

  14. Select your keyboard layout setting.

    OOBE select keyboard layout
    Keyboard layout settings

  15. Click the Yes button.

  16. Click the Skip button if you do not need to configure a second layout.

  17. If the computer is using an Ethernet connection, it will connect to the network automatically. If you have a wireless connection, you will need to set up the connection manually (a security key may be required).

  18. Select the Set up for personal use option if you are setting Windows 10 Pro. The “Home” edition does not have this option.

    Set up PC for personal use
    Set up PC for personal use

  19. Click the Next button.

  20. Confirm your Microsoft account email, phone number, or Skype identification to create an account.

    OOBE create Windows 10 account
    OOBE create account option

  21. Click the Next button.

  22. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  23. Click the Next button.

  24. Click the Create a PIN button.

  25. Create a new PIN password.

    OOBE create PIN for account
    Create a PIN for the account

  26. Click the OK button.

  27. Confirm your privacy settings that best suits your needs by turning on or off the toggle switch for each setting.

  28. Click the Accept button.

    OOBE choose privacy settings
    Choose privacy settings

  29. (Optional) On the “Customize your device” page, select one or more ways you plan to use the device to allow the setup to suggest tools and services customization during this experience.

    OOBE customize device usage settings
    Customize device usage settings

  30. Click the Accept button to continue. Or click the Skip button to skip this part of the setup.

  31. Click the “Skip for now” button to skip linking your phone to your PC. (You can always do this from the Settings app.)

    OOBE skip phone link to PC
    Skip phone link to PC

  32. Click the Next button to allow OneDrive to automatically backup your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders to the cloud. Or click the “Only save file to this PC” option to skip this step.

    OOBE OneDrive setup
    OneDrive setup

  33. Click the No, thanks button to skip the Microsoft 365 setup.

    OOBE skip Microsoft 365 offer
    Skip Microsoft 365 offer

  34. Click the Not now button to disable Cortana.

    OOBE skip Cortana setup
    Skip Cortana setup

Once you complete the steps, the feature will take over and reset your device to the default settings by erasing and reinstalling a fresh copy of Windows 10 downloaded from the cloud.

Clean install Windows 10 from Advanced startup options

If the computer does not start correctly and you want to reinstall Windows 10 to resolve the problem, the Advanced startup options environment includes an option to perform a clean installation using the local or cloud image too.

Technically, these are the same options available through the “Reset this PC” settings. However, you can also access the feature through the “Advanced startup” options, making it ideal for performing a clean installation of Windows 10 when the computer has problems. Or when you cannot boot the system to access the Settings app. 

Again, you can only use this option to reinstall the same operating system version already installed on the computer. If you also want to upgrade to the latest version, you must use the Media Creation Tool, ISO file, or USB options.

To clean install Windows 10 from the Advanced startup options, use these steps:

  1. Start device.

  2. Immediately after the Power-On Self-Test (POST), press the Power button again to shut down.

  3. Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 twice, and in the third restart, the operating system should enter the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE).

    Quick note: Windows 10 has multiple ways to open the Advanced startup settings. If you cannot access the recovery environment, you can use these other options.
  4. Click the Advanced options button.

    Advanced startup
    Advanced startup

  5. Click on Troubleshoot.

    Troubleshoot option
    Troubleshoot option

  6. Click on Reset this PC option.

    Reset this PC option
    Reset this PC option

  7. Select the Remove everything option.

    Remove everything option
    Remove everything option

  8. Click the Cloud download or Local reinstall option. Cloud download: Downloads a fresh image from the Microsoft servers and performs a fresh installation. Local reinstall: Uses the locally available image to install a clean copy of Windows 10.

    Advanced startup cloud download option
    Advanced startup cloud download option

  9. Select the Only the drive where Windows is installed option. (The All drives option will delete the data on all drives. This option is usually recommended only when you want to decommission the device.)

    Delete drive data option
    Delete drive data option

  10. Select the Just remove my files or Full clean the drive option.

    • Just remove my files: Deletes the drive contents quickly.
    • Full clean the drive: Also deletes everything on the drive, but performing a secure-erase that takes several hours—this option suited when preparing to give away the device.

    Just remove files option
    Just remove files option

  11. Click the Reset button.

    Windows 10 clean install with advanced startup option
    Windows 10 clean install with the advanced startup option

  12. Select your region setting after the installation on the first page of the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    OOBE select region
    Region settings

  13. Click the Yes button.

  14. Select your keyboard layout setting.

    OOBE select keyboard layout
    Keyboard layout settings

  15. Click the Yes button.

  16. Click the Skip button if you do not need to configure a second layout.

  17. If the computer is using an Ethernet connection, it will connect to the network automatically. If you have a wireless connection, you will need to set up the connection manually (a security key may be required).

  18. Select the Set up for personal use option if you are setting Windows 10 Pro. The “Home” edition does not have this option.

    Set up PC for personal use
    Set up PC for personal use

  19. Click the Next button.

  20. Confirm your Microsoft account email, phone number, or Skype identification to create an account.

    OOBE create Windows 10 account
    OOBE create account option

  21. Click the Next button.

  22. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  23. Click the Next button.

  24. Click the Create a PIN button.

  25. Create a new PIN password.

    OOBE create PIN for account
    Create a PIN for the account

  26. Click the OK button.

  27. Confirm your privacy settings that best suits your needs by turning on or off the toggle switch for each setting.

  28. Click the Accept button.

    OOBE choose privacy settings
    Choose privacy settings

  29. (Optional) On the “Customize your device” page, select one or more ways you plan to use the device to allow the setup to suggest tools and services customization during this experience.

    OOBE customize device usage settings
    Customize device usage settings

  30. Click the Accept button to continue. Or click the Skip button to skip this part of the setup.

  31. Click the “Skip for now” button to skip linking your phone to your PC. (You can always do this from the Settings app.)

    OOBE skip phone link to PC
    Skip phone link to PC

  32. Click the Next button to allow OneDrive to automatically backup your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders to the cloud. Or click the “Only save file to this PC” option to skip this step.

    OOBE OneDrive setup
    OneDrive setup

  33. Click the No, thanks button to skip the Microsoft 365 setup.

    OOBE skip Microsoft 365 offer
    Skip Microsoft 365 offer

  34. Click the Not now button to disable Cortana.

    OOBE skip Cortana setup
    Skip Cortana setup

Once you complete the steps, the process will take over and reset your computer to the default settings by erasing and reinstalling a clean copy of Windows 10. The time of completion will depend on your computer hardware configuration and the reset configuration you selected.

Clean install Windows 10 from ISO file

If you only have a Windows 10 ISO file, it is not required to use a USB flash drive or disc to continue with the installation. You can always mount the ISO in File Explorer to launch a clean install or in-place upgrade on a device with the operating system already installed.

To clean install Windows 10 with an ISO file, use these steps:

  1. Download the Windows 10 ISO without using the Media Creation Tool.

  2. Right-click the ISO file, select the Mount option.

    File Explorer mount ISO
    File Explorer mount ISO

  3. Select the virtual drive from the left navigation pane.

  4. Double-click the Setup file to begin the Windows 10 installation.

    Setup launch from ISO
    Setup launch from ISO

  5. (Optional) Click the Change how Windows Setup downloads updates option.

    Windows 10 setup update options
    Windows 10 setup update options

  6. Select the Not right now option.

    Disable updates during installation
    Disable updates during installation

  7. Click the Next button.

  8. Click the Accept button to agree to the terms.

  9. Click the Change what to keep option.

    Media Creation Tools settings
    Media Creation Tools settings

  10. Select the Nothing option.

    Nothing option
    Nothing option

  11. Click the Next button.

  12. Click the Install button.

    Media Creation Tool clean install
    Media Creation Tool clean install

  13. Select your region setting after the installation on the first page of the out-of-the-box experience (OOBE).

    OOBE select region
    Region settings

  14. Click the Yes button.

  15. Select your keyboard layout setting.

    OOBE select keyboard layout
    Keyboard layout settings

  16. Click the Yes button.

  17. Click the Skip button if you do not need to configure a second layout.

  18. If the computer is using an Ethernet connection, it will connect to the network automatically. If you have a wireless connection, you will need to set up the connection manually (a security key may be required).

  19. Select the Set up for personal use option if you are setting Windows 10 Pro. The “Home” edition does not have this option.

    Set up PC for personal use
    Set up PC for personal use

  20. Click the Next button.

  21. Confirm your Microsoft account email, phone number, or Skype identification to create an account.

    OOBE create Windows 10 account
    OOBE create account option

  22. Click the Next button.

  23. Confirm your Microsoft account password.

  24. Click the Next button.

  25. Click the Create a PIN button.

  26. Create a new PIN password.

    OOBE create PIN for account
    Create a PIN for the account

  27. Click the OK button.

  28. Confirm your privacy settings that best suits your needs by turning on or off the toggle switch for each setting.

  29. Click the Accept button.

    OOBE choose privacy settings
    Choose privacy settings

  30. (Optional) On the “Customize your device” page, select one or more ways you plan to use the device to allow the setup to suggest tools and services customization during this experience.

    OOBE customize device usage settings
    Customize device usage settings

  31. Click the Accept button to continue. Or click the Skip button to skip this part of the setup.

  32. Click the “Skip for now” button to skip linking your phone to your PC. (You can always do this from the Settings app.)

    OOBE skip phone link to PC
    Skip phone link to PC

  33. Click the Next button to allow OneDrive to automatically backup your Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders to the cloud. Or click the “Only save file to this PC” option to skip this step.

    OOBE OneDrive setup
    OneDrive setup

  34. Click the No, thanks button to skip the Microsoft 365 setup.

    OOBE skip Microsoft 365 offer
    Skip Microsoft 365 offer

  35. Click the Not now button to disable Cortana.

    OOBE skip Cortana setup
    Skip Cortana setup

Once you complete the steps, the clean installation process will begin, like using the Media Creation Tools or USB flash drive to upgrade the system.