WIndows 10 Fresh Start vs USB-based clean install

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I want to perform a clean install of Windows 10 on my laptop (rather than reset to factory state). I understand my two options here are 1) Fresh Start (found in Windows Security app) and 2) Installation media from Microsoft’s website. However I’m not sure of the pros and cons of each approach.

I would appreciate if anyone could clarify as well as let me know which approach they take and why.

Many thanks

Comments (14)

14 responses to “WIndows 10 Fresh Start vs USB-based clean install”

  1. madthinus

    Both will give you a clean start. Installing from the media will give you the cleanest setup, the down side is that you don't get the system drivers. If you do the fresh start, you will get the factory image from the device maker.

  2. Paul Thurrott

    There are more options than that. Reset this PC (in Settings > Update & security > Recovery) is the most common option.


    I discuss all of these options in my ebook Windows 10 Field Guide.

    • ozaz

      In reply to paul-thurrott:


      But doesn't 'reset this pc' simply get you back to the factory image (including bloatware and factory installed drivers) from the OEM?

      I want a clean install of Windows without bloatware.


      After doing a bit more reading since yesterday my understanding is now this


      * Reset this PC - takes you back to factory image/state

      * Fresh start - clean install of Windows without bloatware or drivers from OEM. Will always be installed on existing C partition

      * USB-based clean install - Like fresh start but with the ability to do partition management prior to the installation.


      Is this correct?


      Thanks for the link to your book. I will consider getting a copy.





  3. Orin

    For my personal machines, I always use the installation media from Microsoft.


    I enjoy having the fresh feeling of wiping away my system partitions during the install and letting the Microsoft installer create new ones and install Windows from scratch.


    The Windows 10 install process almost always installs all drivers automatically. But then after the fact, I enjoy heading to the manufacturers website to see if there are any updated drivers worth installing.


    I don't know if there is an actual technical benefit to doing it the way I do it. For me, the benefits are probably more emotional (enjoying the "clean" feeling of wiping / new partitions and such).


    I usually download the ISO and burn it to a DVD. I don't love hassling with a USB thumb drive.

    • snow.steve22

      In reply to Orin:

      The "Official" DVD image for Windows 10 (for a number of releases now) is pretty huge (around 5-plus gigabytes) and will not fit on a single-layer DVD. However, the Media Creation Tool does some magic and will create a 4Gb image that fits fine on standard single-layer DVD's. I prefer to use a USB stick since I can add items I think I will need; especially if I plan to do a number of similar PC's at once.

  4. evox81

    I would go the clean install route with a USB stick, via the Media Creation Tool. As you've pointed out, you can do partition management with this method and you what know exactly what you're getting.

  5. waethorn

    Microsoft has changed some policies on bootloader partitions since the initial release of Windows 10. Namely, they're getting larger. For what reason, I have no idea.

  6. Peter Cook

    Why, when I use the Media creation tool does the install fail because it cannot find drivers for the storage devices on the PC? I struggled for days with this until I purchased an OEM DVD and the installs went faultlessly.

      • Peter Cook

        In reply to madthinus:

        I agree, it doesn't sound right but it is exactly what happened. Update is that I created a USB install using the Media creation tool as there was no DVD drive in the PC. Once the OEM DVD arrived I purchased a portable DVD drive to install it.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Peter_Cook:

      That used to happen all the time with XP and Windows 7, but I haven't seen that with Windows 10. Does it use some sort of exotic controller?

      On our Windows Server installs under VMWare, we need the tools CD loaded into the virtual environment to get access to the VMXNet network card and Paravirtual SCSI controller. It really depends on whether the hardware manufacturer supplied Microsoft with suitable drivers for Windows Update / Media Creation Tool. If it is a lesser known controller, it is possible that the drivers are missing, but rare.

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