OS upgrades suck. Many of us would prefer to have a shiny clean Windows 10 install, instead of an upgrade from an earlier version of Windows. Well, Microsoft doesn't make it easy, but there is a way to get a Windows 10 clean installation.
This method is counter-intuitive, time-consuming, and, frankly, downright stupid. But Microsoft couldn't apparently transform our Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 key to a Windows 10 key - admittedly, this would have some problems - so this is our only option.
To follow this method, we need to have a legitimate Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license and be eligible for the free Windows 10 upgrade.
Table of Contents
First, do a Windows 10 upgrade
No matter how much we want a clean Windows 10 install, we need to do an upgrade of Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 just once on our PC.
After we upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft will store our computer's Hardware Identification (HWID) to their servers, and they will recognize it on future installations. HWID is a unique number that is generated according to our PC's hardware.
After that, we can do a clean Windows 10 install, without a product key. Since the HWID stays the same, Microsoft will activate Windows, even without the product key, as soon as we are online.
So, we just do the damn upgrade, no way around it. If you need any help with that, check out our guide:
Upgrade Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 Without a Reservation
(it will work for Windows 7 too)
It doesn't matter if we select to keep our files, apps, and settings, or we select to keep nothing at all. After all, with a clean Windows 10 installation we will not be able to uninstall Windows 10.
Make sure Windows 10 is activated
The method to do a clean Windows 10 install will only work if Windows was activates after the upgrade.
So, we open the file explorer, right-click on "This PC" and select "Properties".
On the bottom of the System Properties window, we will find our activation status.
Because Microsoft's servers have been a bit overloaded the last couple of days, with the Windows 10 launch, there is a chance the activation hasn't gone through yet.
The best advice is "patience". Provided we upgraded from a genuine version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, it's a matter of time until the activation goes through to the servers.
How to do a clean Windows 10 install
This part of the guide will also work if we have bought a Windows 10 key and want to install Windows 10.
For a clean Windows 10 install, we need to either create a Windows 10 USB or download the Windows 10 ISO and burn it on a DVD.
Then, we set up our BIOS or UEFI to boot from the installation medium, or we select it from a boot menu if our motherboard has one.
We need to press a key to enter the installation...
If we created a USB or ISO with both architectures, we get to select which one we want.
Remember, 64-bit Windows is only necessary if we have 6GB RAM or more. For 4GB RAM or less, 32-bit is enough, and it uses less RAM than 64-bit.
So, we select the language, the time and currency format, and the Keyboard...
...and click on "Install now".
If we do a clean Windows 10 install after an upgrade, when asked for the product key we click "Skip".
We don't type the Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 product key; that won't work.
We read and accept the license terms...
...and select Custom install.
Having upgraded from a previous version of Windows, we will probably have three partitions. One large Windows partition, a "System Reserved" partition of 100MB (Windows 7) or 350MB (Windows 8.1), and an OEM (Reserved) windows partition.
We don't need any of those partitions. Unless we had a separate "Data" partition, we can delete all of them. Just make sure you didn't forget any personal files inside Windows because deleting the partition will erase them.
After that, we select the unallocated space and click next.
From here on, a large part of the installation is automated.
The PC will reboot a couple of times automatically.
Once the main installation is done, it will again ask us for a product key. We again skip this procedure, with the "Do this later" option.
It's a good idea to customize our personal settings, to ensure our privacy.
Make sure you read all the descriptions and decide which options you want to turn off, if any. It's completely up to you.
After selecting our options, we can either login with our Microsoft account...
...or skip this step and create a local account.
Windows will take a couple of minutes to set up everything.
And, this is it. We now have a clean Windows 10 install
As soon as we are online, it should be automatically activated.
Can I find the Windows 10 product key?
There is a lot of misinformation, especially in forums, regarding whether after the upgrade we get a unique Windows 10 product key, that we can retrieve using software such as Belarc Advisor or NirSoft ProduKey.
Well, you can get a product key from Windows 10, but it will be less than useless.
You see, when we upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, we don't get a unique product key. We just get a generic product key, that can't be used by itself to install Windows.
There are not too many such product keys used. YTMG3-N6DKC-DKB77-7M9GH-8HVX7 is usually the one for Windows 10 Home and VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T for Windows 10 Pro.
So, don't bother getting the product key. A clean Windows 10 install after the upgrade doesn't need a product key, and if we used the generic product key, Windows wouldn't be able to activate.
So, the advice to use Belarc or NirSoft or any other app is not just useless, it will create a problem with the activation.
Did you have any trouble with the clean Windows 10 install?
Do you intend to do a clean Windows 10 install, even though you went through the upgrade? Did you have trouble at any part of the procedure? Leave us a comment.
- How To Install Windows 8.1 without a Product Key
- Upgrade Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 Without a Reservation
- Windows 8.1 Product Key: How to Get it from the BIOS
- Download Windows 8.1 ISOs, Legally & Free from Microsoft
- How to Transfer Windows & Activate It from an Old to a New PC
Do you want to support PCsteps, so we can post high quality articles throughout the week?
If you prefer your purchases from China, we are affiliated with one of the largest international e-shops: