How to Perform a Clean Install of Windows

How to Perform a Clean Install of Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8

How to Perform a Clean Install of Windows

How to Perform a Clean Install of Windows

How to Perform a Clean Install of Windows

The operating system that we deal with most here at CRCL is Windows. Here is a small selection of popular Windows operating system related articles you can find on our site:

+How to Perform a Clean Install of Windows - XP, Vista, 7, 8

A clean install of Windows is valuable when all other software troubleshooting has been unsuccessful and you wish to install a “clean” copy of Windows back on your computer.

A clean installation is often the thing you try after a Startup Repair or Repair Install of Windows has not solved your problem. A clean install will return your computer to much the same state as the day you purchased it.

A clean install should be reserved for the most serious of Windows operating system problems since all the data on your primary hard drive partition is destroyed in the process.

A Windows 8 clean install involves removing the existing operating system installed on a partition (a previous Windows 8 installation, Windows XP, Linux, Windows 7… it doesn’t matter) and then installing Windows 8 from scratch on that same drive. A clean install is also sometimes referred to as a”custom install.”

In other words, a clean install of Windows 8 is the erase-whatever-is-there-and-install-a-new-copy-of-Windows-8 process and is usually the best method of installing Windows 8. I always suggest a clean install over upgrading, say from a previous version of Windows like Windows 7.

Tip: It is possible to clean install Windows 8 using the Windows 8 Upgrade or Windows 8 Pro Upgrade download available from Microsoft. See How To Clean Install Windows 8 Pro Upgrade for a complete tutorial, after which you can return here to actually get the clean install going.

You might also want to look through my Installing Windows 8 FAQ which should answer most of your other questions.

The walkthrough that follows contains a total of 31 steps, broken into 2 parts, and will guide you through every detail of the Windows 8 clean install process.

The most important thing to consider before performing a clean install of Windows 8 is that every bit of information on the drive you’re going to install Windows 8 on will be erased. This means that the entire operating system that’s on there now, whatever that may be, will be gone, as will all the programs you’ve installed, and yes, most importantly, all of your precious data you’ve saved to that drive.

Backup Your Important Data

So the first thing to do, if you can, is to backup whatever data you’d like to keep like your saved documents, downloaded music and videos, etc. Backing up your actual programs isn’t usually possible, so locate all the installation media and downloaded installation files that you used to install the programs so they’re available to reinstall once the Windows 8 clean install is done. Be sure also to backup any data files from your programs, assuming they have any, that might not be located with your other saved files.

Locate Your Product Key

Your next concern should your product key. This 25-digit alphanumeric code is required during the Windows 8 clean install process. If you’ve purchased Windows 8 yourself, the product key should be included with the DVD media you received or in the email confirmation you received when you purchased Windows 8 for download. If Windows 8 came preinstalled on your computer, look for a sticker with the product key somewhere on your desktop, laptop, or tablet device.

Note: If you can’t locate your Windows 8 product key but the following is true: a) Windows 8 is installed on the computer right now, b) it’s working, and c) it was not preinstalled by your computer maker, then you do have the option of extracting the key from your current installation. See How To Find Your Windows 8 Product Key for help doing that.

Start the Windows 8 Clean Install

Once you are absolutely positive that everything on the primary hard drive partition you’re about to install Windows 8 on, probably your C: drive, can be removed (e.g. you’ve backed everything up that you want to keep) then proceed on to the next step in this tutorial. Please remember that once you delete everything from this drive, which is done in a later step (I’ll let you know when), you won’t be able to get any of that data back.

Note: The procedure described below refer specifically to Windows 8 Pro but are equally valid for the standard Windows 8 edition that’s also available.

To start the Windows 8 clean install process, you’ll need to boot your computer from whatever installation source you happen to be using: either a DVD disc or a flash drive.

In other words, if you have a Windows 8 DVD and you would like to install Windows 8 from an optical drive, then boot from the Windows 8 DVD. Alternatively, if you have the Windows 8 installation files properly copied to a USB based drive, then boot from the USB device.

Note: See the What To Do… section further down this page if you need to change the media (disc vs flash drive) that you install Windows 8 from, or if you have an ISO file of Windows 8 and you’re not sure what to do with it.

There are really three basic steps here:

  1. Insert the Windows 8 DVD into your optical drive, or plug into a free USB port the flash drive with the Windows 8 installation files on it, and then turn on or restart the computer.
  2. Watch for a Press any key to boot from CD or DVD… message (shown above) if you’re booting from a disc, or a Press any key to boot from external device… message if you’re booting from a flash drive or other USB device.
  3. Press a key to force your computer to boot from either the Windows 8 DVD or a flash drive with the Windows 8 installation files on it.

If you don’t press a key to force the boot from the external drive or DVD disc, your computer will try to boot from the next device listed in the boot order in BIOS, probably your hard drive, in which case your currently installed operating system will start. If that happens, just restart your computer and try again.

Note: If you see one of the messages above, and your current operating system starts or you receive some kind of error, the most likely reason is that the boot order is set incorrectly. You probably just need to change the boot order in BIOS, being sure to rank the CD/DVD Drive or External Devices entry somewhere before or above the hard drive in the list.

It’s also OK if you don’t actually see one of the above messages, but the Windows 8 setup process (see the next step) beings automatically. If that happens just consider this step over and move on.

What To Do if Your Windows 8 Installation Media Doesn’t Work for You

Considering the facts that Windows 8 can be purchased online and downloaded in ISO file format and that many computers, especially tablets and other smaller computers, don’t have optical drives, it’s possible you could find yourself with Windows 8’s setup files in some format, or on some media, that simply isn’t going to work for your computer.

Below are some solutions based on common situations that people find themselves in when preparing to clean install Windows 8:

Problem: You have a Windows 8 DVD but need to be able to install Windows 8 from a USB device. This is probably the most common problem I hear about.

Solution: Locate a flash drive that’s at least 4 GB in size and that you can remove all the data from. Then see How To Install Windows 8 From USB for help creating a disc image of the Windows 8 DVD, and then getting that image properly copied onto a USB flash drive.

Problem: You downloaded a Windows 8 ISO File and need to install Windows 8 from a DVD.

Solution: Burn the ISO file to a DVD (or BD) disc. This is not the same as simply burning the ISO file itself to a disc like you would with a music or video file. See How To Burn an ISO Image to a CD/DVD/BD for help.

Problem: You downloaded a Windows 8 ISO File and need to install Windows 8 from a USB device.

Solution: Find a flash drive of at least 4 GB total capacity that you can erase everything on. Then copy the ISO file onto a flash drive properly.

Once you have Windows 8 on the installation media that you want, come back here and follow the directions as given above to boot from the disc or flash drive. Then you can continue on with the rest of the Windows 8 clean install process.

You’ll know that the Windows 8 setup process is starting properly if you see the Windows 8 splash screen on your device.

During this time, Windows 8 Setup is preparing by loading files into memory so the setup process can continue. Don’t worry, nothing is being erased or copied to your hard drive right now. That all happens a bit later on.

Choose the Language to install, the Time and currency format, and the Keyboard or input method that you’d prefer to use in Windows 8 and throughout the Windows 8 clean install.

Once your options are selected, click or touch Next.

Click or touch the Install now button in the middle of the screen, right under the Windows 8 logo.

This will get the Windows 8 installation process underway.

The Windows 8 setup process is now beginning.

Nothing to do here but wait.

The next screen that you see is where you enter your product key, the 25-digit code you received when you purchased Windows 8. You do not need to enter the dashes that are probably shown as part of your product key.

If you downloaded Windows 8, chances are the product key is in your purchase confirmation email. If you purchased a Windows 8 DVD in a retail store or online, your product key should have been included alongside your disc.

If Windows 8 came preinstalled on your computer, and you are now performing a clean install of Windows 8 on that same computer, your product key is probably located on a sticker located somewhere on your computer or device.

Once you’ve entered the product key, click or touch Next.

Important: Entering your product key at this point in the Windows 8 clean install process is not optional. This is unlike in previous versions of Windows where you could skip the product key entry during installation as long as you provided one within a certain time frame, usually 30 or 60 days. Also unlike in pervious versions, activating your Windows 8 product key online is automatic and part of this process.

The next screen you encounter will be the Microsoft Software License Agreement page, which is essentially a giant text box containing the license terms for the edition of Windows 8 you’re installing.

Read through the agreement, check the I accept the license terms box, and click or touch Next.

Important: You should always read software license agreements and look for caveats you might not have expected, especially when it comes to operating systems like Windows 8. Microsoft, as well as most other software makers, have strict and legally binding limits as to how many concurrent computers their software can be operated on. For example, a copy of Windows 8 can only be installed on a single computer at a time. In reality, this means one product key per computer… period.

Note: It’s completely legal to reinstall Windows 8 via this clean install method. So long as the product key you use to install Windows 8 is only used on one computer at a time, you’re not breaking any rules.

The next screen presents you with an important question: Which type of installation do you want?. You have two options: Upgrade and Custom.

Click on, or touch, Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).

Important: Even if you’re upgrading from a previous version of Windows to Windows 8, I don’t recommend that you upgrade. It sounds like a great option, with your files, settings, and programs all remaining in place, but the reality is often much different. You’ll get better performance from Windows 8 and whatever software you choose to install again if you continue with this clean install procedure.

On the Where do you want to install Windows? screen you’ll see a list of all the partitions that Windows 8 sees on the computer.

The thing that makes a Windows 8 clean install “clean” is the removal of the partition that the current operating system is installed on, as well as any auxiliary partitions that the operating system was using, usually for recovery purposes. This is what we’re going to do over the next several steps.

Windows 8 Setup considers partition management an advanced task so before we can remove any partitions, you’ll have to touch or click on Drive options (advanced).

Over the next few steps you’ll remove the partition(s) for the operating system that you’re replacing with Windows 8. Remember, it doesn’t matter what operating system is currently on the computer – an old installation of Windows 8, Ubuntu Linux, Windows 7, Windows XP, etc.

Now that you have access to the full range of partition management options, you can delete any partitions from your hard drive that are used by the currently installed operating system.

Important: Before you delete a partition, please know that all data on that partition will be erased forever. By all data I mean all data: the operating system itself, all installed programs, all saved documents, movies, music, etc. that might be on that drive. It’s assumed that, by this point, anything you wanted to keep you’ve backed up elsewhere.

Highlight the partition you want to delete and then click or touch Delete.

Warning: If you have multiple hard drives and/or multiple partitions on any of your drives, make sure you’re deleting the correct partition(s). Many people have second hard drives or partitions that they use for backup. That’s not a drive you want to be deleting.

After choosing to delete the partition, Windows 8 Setup will prompt you to confirm that you really do want to delete the partition.

Important: As I spelled out in the last step, please be aware that all the data stored on this partition that you’re removing will be lost forever. If you have not backed up everything you want to keep, click Cancel, end the Windows 8 clean install process, restart your computer to boot back into whatever operating system you have installed, and backup anything you want to keep.

To be completely clear: This is the point of no return! I don’t mean to scare you, especially since this is a necessary step to do a Windows 8 clean install. I just want you to have full knowledge of what you’re about to do. If you know there’s nothing on your primary drive you still need to backup then you should feel completely comfortable continuing.

Click or touch the OK button to delete the selected partition.

If there are other partitions that you need to delete, like recovery partitions in use by the previously installed operating system, now is a good time to remove them. You probably only have one of these auxiliary partitions, and probably only if you had a previous version of Windows installed.

For example, in Windows 8, Windows 7, and some Windows Vista installations, a small recovery partition, labeled here as System Reserved, is created and populated automatically during that operating system’s installation. The same thing will happen behind the scenes as you continue to clean install Windows 8. However, you no longer need the one installed by the previous Windows installation so you can remove it.

To do so, repeat the same process you followed to remove the primary partition in the last few steps:

Highlight the partition you want to delete and then touch or click Delete.

Note: You might notice that the first partition we deleted appears to still exist. Look closer, however, and you can tell that it’s gone. The description now says Unallocated Space and there’s no longer a partition Type listed. In other words, this is now empty space, which we’re getting close to putting Windows 8 on.

Important: Again, make sure you’re not removing partitions you don’t really want to remove. One of these Windows auxiliary partitions will clearly be marked as System Reserved and will be very small, probably 100 MB or 350 MB depending on the version of Windows that you had installed.

Just like you did a few steps back, Windows 8 Setup will prompt you to confirm the removal of this other partition.

Click or touch OK to confirm.

You can now see, all the space on your hard drive is listed as Unallocated Space. In other words, you have no partitions setup and your soon-to-begin installation of Windows 8 will be “clean” and “from scratch” on this empty drive.

Note: The number of partitions displayed and whether those partitions are unallocated portions of a hard drive, previously partitioned spaces, or previously formatted and blank partitions will depend on your specific setup and what partitions you’ve deleted in the last several steps.

You should now see “Where do you want to install Windows?” screen.

Select the appropriate unallocated space to install Windows 8 onto and then click or touch Next.

Note: You do not need to manually create a new partition, nor format one, as part of the Windows 8 setup process. These two actions are completed automatically, in the background, between this step and the next.

Windows 8 Setup will now begin installing Windows 8 onto the partition it created from the free space you selected in the last step. All you have to do here is wait.

This step is the most time consuming of them all. Depending on your computer specifications, this process could take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, possibly more on slower computers.

Note: This part of the Windows 8 installation is completely automatic and the next step involves a reboot of your computer.

As the bulk of the Windows 8 installation process ends, your computer will reboot automatically.

Warning: Your computer will likely present you with that Press any key to boot from… option as it starts up again and sees the boot information from your Windows 8 installation media again. Do not press a key or you’ll end up booting to the installation disc or flash drive again, which you don’t want to do. If you accidentally do that, just restart your computer and don’t press anything that time. The installation of Windows 8 should continue again as shown on the next screen.

Now that your computer has restarted, Windows 8 can continue installing.

There’s nothing to do here. Windows 8 Setup has a few important things it still needs to do before it’s done but none of them require user intervention.

You might sit at this screen for several minutes before you see Getting devices ready, which I talk about in the next step.

As you’re waiting for the Windows 8 clean install to finish up, you’ll notice a Getting devices ready indicator that works its way up to 100% in several fits and starts.

In the background, Windows 8 is identifying all of the hardware that makes up your computer and installing the appropriate drivers for those devices, if available.

This process usually takes just a few minutes and you may see your screen flicker and go blank from time to time.

After Windows 8 Setup finishes installing hardware, you’ll see a Getting ready message at the bottom of the screen.

During this short stage, Windows 8 Setup is finishing up the last few tasks, like finalizing registry and other settings.

The reboot screen only shows up for a second, maybe less, so you may not even see it, but as you can see in the screenshot above, Windows 8 setup says Restarting your PC and then promptly does just that. This is the second, and final, restart required during a Windows 8 clean install.

Note: Just as I warned you about several steps back, you’ll probably get that Press any key to boot from… option again as your computer turns back on, but don’t do it. You don’t want to start the Windows 8 installation process over again, you want to boot from your hard drive, which now has an almost-complete installation of Windows 8 on it.

Once again, you’re waiting on Windows 8 to start up. This should only take a minute or two.

You’re almost done waiting through boring black screens, I promise!

The next screen you see is an introduction to a wizard you’re about to complete that helps customize Windows 8 to your preferences.

Four sections are shown, including Personalize, Wireless, Settings, and Sign in.

This screen only appears for a few seconds before automatically progressing to Personalize.

Two pretty simple options are presented on the Personalize screen: one for color you like and another for PC name.

The color you choose helps shape the display on your future Windows 8 Start Screen, and in some other areas of Windows 8. This is easily changed later from the Start screen area of PC settings so don’t get too caught up on this one.

The PC name is just a friendly phrase for hostname, the name that identifies this computer on your network. Something identifiable is always good, like timswin8tablet or pcroom204… you get the idea.

Touch or click Next when complete.

On this screen, choose from the list of available wireless networks that Windows 8 sees at the moment.

Once chosen, enter the password if the network is encrypted and requires one.

Click or touch Next to continue.

Note: You will not see this step if your computer does not have wireless network capabilities or if Windows 8 does not have an included driver for the wireless hardware and so wasn’t able to enable that device. Don’t worry if the latter is the case – you can install the correct wireless driver for Windows 8 after the clean install is complete.

On the Settings screen, you have the option of accepting Microsoft’s recommended default settings for Windows 8, which are detailed on screen, or customizing them to your preferences.

For the most part, I see no problem accepting the express settings.

Click or touch Use express settings to continue.

Note: If you’d like to explore your options, you can click Customize and walk through a series of additional screens with settings for network sharing, Windows Update, automatic feedback to Microsoft, and more.

The next screen is the Sign in to your PC step.

You have two pretty big options here for how to sign in with Windows 8:

Sign in with your Microsoft account

If you already have an email associated with a major Microsoft service then you can use that here. If you don’t, that’s OK, enter any email address and Microsoft will create an account for you based on that email address.

The advantage of using a Microsoft account is that you can easily use the Windows Store, you can sync major settings between multiple Windows 8 computers, and more.

Sign in with a Local account

This is the standard way that previous versions of Windows, like Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP worked.

Your account is only stored locally on this Windows 8 computer. Please note though that you’ll still need to create a, or use your current, Microsoft account some time in the future if you plan on using the Windows Store to download apps.

My recommendation is to use your existing Microsoft account or create a new one.

Assuming you decide to do that, enter your email address and then click or press Next.

The next few screens will verify your account, ask for your password, and may ask for a telephone number to help with password recovery. If you’re setting up a Microsoft account for the first time, you may see some other screens as well.

Even though you may have chosen to create, or use your current, Microsoft account, there is still a local account created to help facilitate that.

This is what Windows 8 is doing while the Creating your account message is on screen.

Next you’ll sit through a long series of screens, the first several of which explain how to work with the Windows 8 interface.

When that’s over, you’ll see a large message in the middle of the screen that says We’re getting your PC ready with some text at the bottom that says This will take a few minutes. The background will continually change colors as this progresses.

Once you see the message change to Installing apps then you know your Windows 8 clean install is almost over.

This whole series of screen changes and message should only take a few minutes.

This completes the final step of your clean install of Windows 8! Congratulations!

What’s Next?

Most importantly, if you chose not to enable automatic updates (Step 26) then the first step after installing Windows 8 is to head to Windows Update and install all the important service packs and patches that have been issued since the version of Windows 8 you just installed was released.

If you did enable automatic updates, Windows 8 will prompt you about any important updates needed.

After Windows updates, you should update any drivers that Windows 8 didn’t automatically install for your hardware during installation. You might also want to update drivers for any devices that don’t seem to be working correctly.

A Windows 7 clean install simply means an installation of Windows 7 on an unused partition on your hard drive. In most cases, though, a clean install of Windows 7 means to remove an existing operating system (Windows XP, Linux, Windows 7… doesn’t matter) and to replace it with a fresh installation of Windows 7.

After serious Windows 7 problems or during a new Windows 7 installation with an older operating system installed that you’d like to replace, it’s best to wipe your primary hard drive partition clean and install Windows 7 from scratch – a procedure referred to as a “clean install” or sometimes as a “custom install”.

This guide is broken into 3 parts for a total of 34 steps and will walk you through every part of the Windows 7 clean install process.

Backup & Locate Your Product Key

The most important thing to realize before performing a clean install of Windows 7 is that all of the information on the drive that your current operating system is installed on (probably your C: drive) will be destroyed during this process. That means that if there’s anything you want to keep you should back it up to a disc or another drive prior to beginning this process.

You should also locate the Windows 7 product key, a 25-digit alphanumeric code unique to your copy of Windows 7. If you can’t locate it, there is a fairly easy way to find the Windows 7 product key code from your existing Windows 7 installation, but this must be done before you reinstall Windows 7.

Note: If Windows originally came preinstalled on your computer (i.e. you did not install it yourself), your product key is probably located on a sticker attached to the side, back, or bottom of your computer’s case. This is the product key you should use when installing Windows 7.

Start the Windows 7 Clean Install Process

When you’re absolutely sure sure that everything from your computer that you want to keep is backed up, proceed to the next step. Keep in mind that once you delete all of the information from this drive (as we’ll do in a future step), the action is not reversible!

To begin the Windows 7 clean install process, you’ll need to boot from the Windows 7 DVD if you’re using a Windows 7 DVD, or boot from a USB device if your Windows 7 installation files are located on a flash drive or other external USB drive.

Tip: See the How To Change From One Windows 7 Installation Media To Another section at the bottom of the page if you have a Windows 7 ISO image that you need on a flash drive or disc, or a Windows 7 DVD you need on a flash drive.

  1. Restart your computer with the Windows 7 DVD in your optical drive, or with the properly configured Windows 7 USB flash drive plugged in.
  2. Watch for a Press any key to boot from CD or DVD… message similar to the one shown in the screenshot above. If you’re booting from a flash drive, the message may be phrased differently, like Press any key to boot from external device….
  3. Press a key to force the computer to boot from the Windows 7 DVD or USB storage device. If you do not press a key, your PC will attempt to boot to the next device in the boot order, which is probably your hard drive. If this happens, chances are your current operating system will boot.

Note: If you existing Windows installation begins to boot or you see a “No Operating System Found” or “NTLDR is Missing” error here instead of the screen above, the most probable reason is that your PC is not setup to boot first from the correct source. To correct this problem, you’ll need to change the boot order in BIOS to list the CD/DVD/BD drive, or External Device, first.

Note: It’s perfectly fine if, instead of the screen above, the Windows 7 setup process begins automatically (see the next step). If this happens, consider this step complete and move on.

How To Change From One Windows 7 Installation Media To Another

With both ISO and DVD options available when purchasing Windows 7, as well as the growing number of smaller computers without optical drives, you may find that, in order to start your clean install, you need to get your Windows 7 installation files from whatever format or media they’re on now onto another.

Here are some common problems that I see people in when planning to clean install Windows 7, plus easy to follow solutions:

“I have a Windows 7 DVD but don’t have an optical drive, so I need to be able to install Windows 7 from a flash drive.”

This is the most common problem I see. The solution involves properly formatting a flash drive, or any USB storage device, and then correctly copying the Windows 7 installation files from the DVD disc to the flash drive.

“I downloaded a Windows 7 ISO file but I need to install Windows 7 from a USB drive.”

Similarly to the last question, your final goal is to get the Windows 7 installation files, which are stored in that ISO file you have, to a flash drive or other external drive.

You get to use the same How To Install Windows 7 From USB tutorial as in the last question, only you get to skip a step.

“I have a Windows 7 ISO file but I need to install Windows 7 from a DVD.”

This problem is easy to solve, as there’s a very straightforward way of properly burning ISO images to discs, like CDs, DVDs, and BDs.

Note: You can’t just burn an ISO file to a disc like you would with other data. If you’ve never burned an ISO image before, be sure to check out the tutorial.

You don’t need to do anything at this point but wait for Windows 7 to finishing loading files in preparation for the setup process.

Note: No changes are being made to your computer at this time. Windows 7 is just temporarily “loading files” into memory for the setup process. You’ll be removing everything on your computer as part of the Windows 7 clean install in a future step.

After the Windows 7 install files are loaded into memory, you’ll see the Windows 7 splash screen, indicating that the setup process is about to begin.

You don’t need to do anything at this point.

Choose the Language to install, Time and currency format, and Keyboard or input method that you’d like to use in your new Windows 7 installation.

Click Next.

Click on the Install now button in the center of the screen, under the Windows 7 logo.

This will officially begin the Windows 7 clean install process.

Note: Do not click the Repair your computer link at the bottom of the window even if you’re completing this clean install of Windows 7 as part of some larger repair project for your computer.

The Repair your computer link is used to start a Windows 7 Startup Repair or perform another recovery or repair task from System Recovery Options.

Important: If you’re performing a clean install of Windows 7 as a solution to a major problem but have not yet tried a Startup Repair, do that first. It could save you the trouble of completing this clean install process.

The Windows 7 setup process is now beginning.

No need to press any keys here.

The next screen that appears is a textbox containing the Windows 7 Software License.

Read through the agreement, check the I accept the license terms checkbox under the agreement text and then click Next to confirm that you agree with the terms.

Note: You should always read “small print” especially when it comes to operating systems and other software. Most programs, Windows 7 included, have legally binding limits on how many computers the application can be installed on, among other limitations.

Important: You are not breaking any laws or contracts by reinstalling Windows 7 via this clean install. As long as this particular copy of Windows 7 is only being operated on one computer, you’re OK.

In the Which type of installation do you want? window that appears next, you’re offered the choice of Upgrade and Custom (advanced).

Click on the Custom (advanced) button.

Important: Even if you are upgrading from a previous operating system to Windows 7, I highly recommend that you do not follow the Upgrade installation. You’ll get better performance with less chance of issues if you follow these clean install steps.

The main difference in a Windows 7 clean install verses other kinds of Windows 7 installation methods is that a clean install involves the removal of all operating system related partitions.

Windows 7 setup considers partition management as an advanced task so you’ll need to click the Drive options (advanced) link to make those options available.

In the next few steps you’ll delete the partitions containing the operating system you’re replacing with Windows 7, be it Windows Vista, Windows XP, a previous installation of Windows 7, etc.

Now that all available drive options are listed, you can delete any operating system related partitions from your existing hard drive(s).

Important: Before continuing, be aware that deleting a partition will permanently erase all data from that drive. By all data I mean the operating system installed, all programs, all data saved by those programs, all music, all video, all documents, etc. that might be on that particular drive.

Highlight the partition you want to delete and then click the Delete link.

Note: Your list of partitions may differ considerably from mine shown above. On my computer, I am performing a clean install of Windows 7 on a computer with a single 30GB hard drive that has previously had Windows 7 installed.

If you have multiple hard drives and/or multiple partitions on those drive(s), take great care in confirming that you’re deleting the correct partition(s). Many people, for example, have second hard drives or partitions that act as backup drives. That’s certainly not a drive you want to be deleting.

After deleting the partition, Windows 7 setup will prompt you to confirm the deletion.

The message says “The partition might contain recovery files, system files, or important software from your computer manufacturer. If you delete this partition, any data stored on it will be lost.”

Click the OK button.

Important: As I spelled out in the last step, please be aware that all the data stored on that drive will be lost. If you have not backed up everything you want to keep, click Cancel, end the Windows 7 clean install process, restart your computer to boot back into whatever operating system you have installed, and backup everything you want to keep.

To be clear: This is the point of no return! There’s no reason to be scared, I just want it to be very clear that you can’t undo the deletion of the drive you selected after you click this OK button.

If there are any other partitions that need to be deleted, you can do so at this time.

For example, the Windows 7 installation I had on my PC previously created this special 100MB (very small) partition to store system data in. This is most definitely related to the operating system that I’m trying to completely remove from my computer so I’ll delete this as well.

Highlight the partition and click the Delete link.

Just as in Step 12, Windows 7 setup will prompt you to confirm the deletion of this partition.

Click the OK button to confirm.

Important: Just as before, please be aware that all the data stored on this particular drive will be lost.

As you can now see, all the space on the installed hard drive is unallocated. No partitions exist on this computer.

Note: The number of partitions displayed and whether those partitions are unallocated portions of a hard drive, previously partitioned spaces, or previously formatted and blank partitions will depend on your specific system and which partitions you deleted in the last several steps.

If you’re installing Windows 7 on a computer with a single hard drive on which you’ve just deleted all the partitions from, your screen should look like the one above, aside from your hard drive being a different size.

Choose the appropriate unallocated space to install Windows 7 on and then click Next.

Note: You do not need to manually create a new partition nor are you required to manually format a new partition. Windows 7 Setup will do this automatically.

Windows 7 Setup will now install a clean copy of Windows 7 to the location you chose in the previous step. You don’t need to do anything here but wait.

This is the most time consuming of any of the 34 steps. Depending on the speed of your computer, this process could take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.

Now that the Windows 7 clean install process is nearly complete, you need to restart your computer.

If you do nothing, your computer will reset automatically after 10 seconds or so. If you’d rather not wait, you can click the Restart now button at the bottom of the Windows needs to restart to continue screen.

The Windows 7 clean install is now continuing.

You don’t need to do anything here. There are a few more automatic Windows 7 setup steps to come.

Windows 7 Setup is now updating registry settings in preparation for the final stages of the operating system clean install.

Wait while Windows 7 Setup starts various necessary services. This starting of services will occur during every Windows 7 boot as well but you won’t see it like this again. Services start in the background during a normal Windows 7 startup.

This last Windows 7 Setup screen says “Completing installation” and may take several minutes. All you need to do is wait – everything is automatic.

If the Windows 7 Setup process is complete, why are we only on step 21 of 34?

The remainder of the steps in this clean install process include several easy but important con

Wait while the Windows 7 setup process automatically restarts your computer.

Important: Do not restart your computer manually at this point. Windows 7 Setup will restart your PC for you. If you interrupt the setup process by restarting manually, the clean install process may fail. You may then need to start the Windows 7 setup over again from the beginning.

Wait while Windows 7 starts.

No user intervention is required here.

Windows 7 Setup is now preparing your computer for “first use.”

Windows 7 is now loading drivers, checking to make sure everything has been setup properly, removing temporary files, etc.

You don’t need to do anything here.

Note: Remember, this clean install of Windows 7 has completely removed your old operating system. Windows 7 is being installed and configured just as it would on a brand new computer.

Wait while Windows 7 checks the video performance of your computer.

Windows 7 needs to know how well your video card and related hardware works so it can properly adjust performance options for your computer.

For example, if your video system is too slow, Windows 7 may disable features like Aero Peek, translucent windows, and other graphically intense features of the operating system.

Windows 7 needs to know what use name you’d like to use and how you’d like your computer to be identified on your local network.

In the Type a user name (for example, John): text box, enter your name. You can enter a single name, your first and last name, or any other identifiable text you like. This is the name you’ll be identified by in Windows 7.

Note: You’re more than welcome to use the same user name that you used in your old operating system installation.

In the Type a computer name: text box, enter the name you’d like your computer to have when being viewed by other computers on your network.

Note: If it makes sense in your specific situation, I recommend using the same computer name you used in the operating system installation you’ve deleted as part of this clean install, especially if any other computers on your network connect to resources on your PC.

Otherwise, a good computer name might be Office-PC, Windows-7-Test-PC, Bob-Dell, etc. You get the idea. Anything identifiable that makes sense to you will work.

Click Next when you’re done entering both the user name and computer name.

Note: Planning on having more than one user on your computer? Don’t worry – you can set up more users inside Windows 7 later.

figurations that need to take place before you can use Windows 7.

 

 

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  • How To Clean Install Windows 8
  • How To Clean Install Windows 7
  • How To Clean Install Windows Vista
  • How To Clean Install Windows XP

Important: In case it’s not clear, a clean install of Windows will erase everything from the drive that Windows is installed on. When I say everything, I mean everything. You must backup anything you wish to save before you begin the clean install process.

Important: In addition to backing up the individual files you wish to keep, you should also prepare to reinstall your programs. Gather the original installation discs and downloaded program setups to any program you wish to put back on your computer.

Note: If you only have a restore disc from your computer manufacturer but not an original Windows Setup disc or download, a clean install as described in the linked guides above may not be possible. Your restore disc may instead have a relatively similar process that will restore your entire PC, Windows and programs, back to the factory default.

Please reference the documentation that came with your computer or contact your computer manufacturer directly for directions.

+How To Perform a Startup Repair in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8

Question: How Do I Perform a Startup Repair or Repair Install of Windows?

A Windows repair installation or a Startup Repair is valuable when you need to reinstall important Windows files but keep all of your personal files and programs intact.

A repair install can be thought of as a “copy over” of Windows. A Startup Repair is a smarter version of a repair install.

A Startup Repair or repair install is very often a relatively easy fix for many serious Windows operating system problems. Since these Windows repair options don’t erase anything from your computer, they are simple ways to restore important Windows files.

The specific steps involved in performing a Startup Repair or repair install of Windows can differ considerably depending on the operating system used:

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The Startup Repair tool repairs Windows 7 by replacing important operating system files that might be damaged or missing. Startup Repair is an easy diagnostic and repair tool to use when Windows 7 fails to start properly.

To begin the Windows 7 Startup Repair process, you will need to boot from the Windows 7 DVD.

  1. Watch for a Press any key to boot from CD or DVD… message similar to the one shown in the screenshot above.
  2. Press a key to force the computer to boot from the Windows 7 DVD. If you do not press a key, your PC will try to boot to the operating system that’s currently installed on your hard drive. If this happens, just restart your computer and try to boot to the Windows 7 DVD again.

Note: Not using Windows 7? Every modern Windows operating system has a similar operating system file repair process.

No user intervention is required here. Just wait for the Windows 7 setup process to load files in preparation for whatever task you might want to complete. In our case it’s a Startup Repair but there are a lot of tasks that could be completed with the Windows 7 DVD.

Note: No changes are being made to your computer during this step. Windows 7 is only temporarily “loading files.”

Choose the Language to install, Time and currency format, and Keyboard or input method that you’d like to use in Windows 7.

Click on the Repair your computer link on the bottom-left of the Install Windows window.

This link will begin the Windows 7 System Recovery Options which contains several useful diagnostic and repair tools, one of which is Startup Repair.

Note: Do not click on Install now. If you already have Windows 7 installed, this option is used to perform a Clean Install of Windows 7 or a Parallel Install of Windows 7.

Click Next.

Click on the Repair your computer link on the bottom-left of the Install Windows window.

This link will begin the Windows 7 System Recovery Options which contains several useful diagnostic and repair tools, one of which is Startup Repair.

Note: Do not click on Install now. If you already have Windows 7 installed, this option is used to perform a Clean Install of Windows 7 or a Parallel Install of Windows 7.

System Recovery Options, the set of tools that contains Startup Repair, will now search your hard drive(s) for any Windows 7 installations.

You don’t need to do anything here but wait. This Windows installation search shouldn’t take more than a few minutes at most.

Choose the Windows 7 installation that you’d like to perform the Startup Repair on.

Click the Next button.

Note: Don’t worry if the drive letter in the Location column does not match the drive letter that you know Windows 7 is installed on in your PC. Drive letters are somewhat dynamic, especially when using diagnostic tools like System Recovery Options.

For example, as you can see above, my Windows 7 installation is listed as being on drive D: when I know that it’s actually the C: drive when Windows 7 is running.

Choose the Windows 7 installation that you’d like to perform the Startup Repair on.

Click the Next button.

Note: Don’t worry if the drive letter in the Location column does not match the drive letter that you know Windows 7 is installed on in your PC. Drive letters are somewhat dynamic, especially when using diagnostic tools like System Recovery Options.

Click on the Startup Repair link from list of recovery tools in System Recovery Options.

As you can see, several other diagnostic and recovery tools are available in the Windows 7 System Recovery Options including System Restore, System Image Recovery, Windows Memory Diagnostic, and Command Prompt.

In this guide, however, we’re only repairing operating system files using the Startup Repair tool.

The Startup Repair tool will now search for problems with files that are important to the proper functioning of Windows 7.

If Startup Repair finds a problem with an important operating system file, the tool may suggest a solution of some kind that you have to confirm or may solve the problem automatically.

Whatever happens, follow the prompts as necessary and accept any changes suggested by Startup Repair.

Important Note:

If you want the Startup Repair to work properly, you must remove any flash drives or other USB storage devices, like external hard drives, from your computer before running the tool. Due to the way some computers report the storage space on USB connected drives, the Windows 7 Startup Repair may incorrectly report that it found no problems when in fact there may actually be an issue.

If you’ve already started, or completed, the Startup Repair and you realize that you have a USB storage device connected, just remove it and restart these instructions at Step 1.

Startup Repair will now attempt to repair whatever problems it found with Windows 7 files. No user intervention is required during this step.

Important: Your computer may or may not restart several times during this repair process. Do not boot from the Windows 7 DVD on any restart. If you do, you’ll need to restart immediately so the Startup Repair process can continue normally.

Click the Finish button once you see the Restart your computer to complete the repairs window to restart your PC and start Windows 7 normally.

Important: It’s possible that Startup Repair didn’t fix whatever problem you were having. If the Startup Repair tool determines this itself, it may automatically run again after your computer restarts. If it does not automatically run but you’re still seeing problems with Windows 7, repeat these steps to run Startup Repair again manually.

Also, be sure to read the Important Note on Step 8.

If it becomes apparent that Startup Repair is not going to solve your Windows 7 problem, you do have some additional recovery options including a System Restore or a System Image Recovery, assuming you have previously backed up your entire computer.

You could also try a Parallel Install of Windows 7 or a Clean Install of Windows 7.

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  • How To Perform a Startup Repair in Windows 7
  • How To Perform a Startup Repair in Windows Vista
  • How To Repair Install Windows XP

Note: In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, Startup Repair exists in place of the repair installation option that was available in Windows XP. Startup Repair replaces only damaged or missing Windows startup files. In a Windows XP repair install, all Windows files are replaced no matter if they need to be or not.

Important: While the repair install process in Windows XP is not designed to remove any files, I recommend that you play it safe by backing up your important files. You should also prepare to reinstall your programs just in case the repair install damages any of their installations. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to worry about this possibility in Windows Vista or Windows 7 considering the differences in how Startup Repair works.

Note: If you’re using a restore disc from your computer manufacturer instead of an original Windows Setup disc or download, a Startup Repair or repair install as described in the linked guides above may not be possible.

Please reference the documentation that came with your computer or contact your computer manufacturer directly for directions.

 

 

 

 

+How To Recover a Lost Windows Password

Windows password recovery tools are used to recover, or reset lost user and administrator passwords used to log on to Windows operating systems.

Password recovery tools are often called “password cracker” tools because they are sometimes used to “crack” passwords by hackers. Legally cracking or unlocking your own Windows password is certainly a legitimate practice!

Note: Using a Windows password recovery program is just one of several ways to find a lost Windows password.

Important: Please read my Windows Password Recovery Programs FAQ for more information. I also have an easy-to-read comparison of these programs too that might help.

Need to Crack a Different Kind of Password? See my list of free password crackers for free programs to crack PDF files, Word & Excel documents, RAR & ZIP archives, and more.

Here are the top 7 free Windows password recovery programs available. I also keep a list of premium Windows password recovery tools.

1. Ophcrack

Ophcrack Version 3.3.1 - LiveCD Version 2.3.1

The Ophcrack Windows password cracker is by far the best free Windows password recovery tool available. It’s fast and easy enough for a first time Windows password cracker with a basic knowledge of Windows.

With Ophcrack, you don’t need any access to Windows to be able to recover your lost passwords. Simply visit the site, download the free ISO image, burn it to a CD and boot from the CD. The Ophcrack program starts, locates the Windows user accounts, and proceeds to recover (crack) the passwords – all automatically.

In a test on a Windows 7 PC, Ophcrack recovered the 10-character password to my administrator account in 40 seconds. Ophcrack supports Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

Ophcrack v3.4.0 Review and Free Download
+What Is A Product Key?

Definition: The product key, often called a CD key, is a usually unique, alphanumeric code of any length required by many software programs during installation. Unique product keys help software manufacturers ensure that each copy of their software was legally purchased.

All Microsoft Windows operating system versions require the entry of unique product keys during the installation process. Below are examples of what these product keys look like:

  • Windows 8: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows 7: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows Server 2008: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows Vista: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows Server 2003: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows XP: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows 2000: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows ME: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows 98: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows NT: xxxxx-xxx-xxxxxxx-xxxxx
  • Windows 95: xxxxx-xxx-xxxxxxx-xxxxx

Important: See my Windows Product Key FAQ for more information about Windows keys.

Many other operating systems and most other programs from nearly every software maker require product keys. Some, including Microsoft, often require product activation in addition to product keys to help further ensure that software is obtained legally.

Since product keys are required during installation, finding that you’ve lost a product key could be a serious problem if you need to reinstall a program. Luckily, there are a number of ways to retrieve lost product keys:

Find Microsoft Windows Product Keys Find Microsoft Office Product Keys

+What is the Windows Registry?

The Windows Registry, usually referred to as “the registry,” is a collection of databases of configuration settings in Microsoft Windows operating systems.

The Windows Registry is sometimes incorrectly spelled as the “registery” or the “regestry.”

What is the Windows Registry Used For?:

The Windows Registry is used to store much of the information and settings for software programs, hardware devices, user preferences, operating system configurations, and much more.

In many ways, the registry can be thought of as a kind of DNA for the Windows operating system.

How To Access the Windows Registry:

The Windows Registry is accessed and configured using the Registry Editor program, a free registry editing utility included with every version of Microsoft Windows.

Registry Editor can be accessed by executing regedit from the Command Prompt or from the search or run box from the Start menu. See How To Open Registry Editor if you need help.

Registry Editor is the face of the registry, and is the way to view and make changes to the registry, but it’s not the registry itself. Technically, the registry is the collective name for various database files located within the Windows installation directory.