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Windows 10 is still Windows, meaning it will need a fresh start every once in a while.

Why is that? With Windows 10 Microsoft is switching its operating system (OS) to a mandatory update process that is similar to Android and OS X. Rather than releasing major OS versions that have to be purchased separately every couple of years, the OS is updated internally on a regular basis. In other words, if you’re running Windows 10, you will always be running the latest and safest version of Windows.

While this process reduces friction and increases safety, it can also introduce or compound system issues. That’s because, by design, new stuff keeps getting added and you always keep your personal files, settings, and applications. Fortunately, you have a few options to flush out sour system files and remove irksome applications that managed to sneak in.

We show you how you can get a fresh Windows 10 installation with as little effort as possible. Be sure to create a backup of your personal files 5 Basic Backup Facts Every Windows User Should Know 5 Basic Backup Facts Every Windows User Should Know We never tire to remind you to make backups and keep your data safe. If you're wondering what, how often, and where you should back up your files, we have straight forward answers. Read More before you proceed with any of these solutions.

1. Reset Windows 10

Windows 10 comes with a reset feature similar to Windows 8 How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation In addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for "refreshing" and "resetting" your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows -- either keeping your personal files or deleting... Read More . A system reset essentially gives you a fresh Windows installation, although in Windows 10 you have the option to keep your personal files.

factory-reset

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To reduce the storage footprint of Windows 10, Microsoft redesigned the Reset feature “to rebuild the operating system in place using runtime system files.” This means the Reset feature draws on a (potentially customized) recovery image on your system drive (typically found under C:\RecoveryImage\) to initiate a fresh installation.

The beauty of this solution is that Windows does not need to download any files to initiate the setup and you don’t have to provide installation media, either. On the other hand, manufacturers can provide a custom system image for the Reset feature and inject bloatware.

To reset your computer from within Windows 10, press Windows + I to launch the Settings app, head to Update & security > Recovery, and under Reset this PC click the Get started button.

Windows 10 Reset

Note: If your issues started after upgrading Windows 10, either from a previous Windows version or an earlier build, rather than reset or reinstall Windows, you can also try a downgrade. This works because every time Windows installs a new version, it keeps a copy of the previous one in a folder called Windows.old Free Up Disk Space by Removing Windows.old Folder Free Up Disk Space by Removing Windows.old Folder Windows prepares an automatic backup before you re-install. The Windows.old folder includes user profiles and personal files. Here's how to restore the data and remove the folder to free up space. Read More . Press Get started under the respective option to go back to that previous Windows installation.

2. Refresh Windows 10

In Windows 8, a Refresh was a Reset, but with keeping your personal files. The Refresh option relied on a recovery image provided by the manufacturer and would thus re-install bloatware that came with the computer. As we’ve learned above, you can keep your files when you do a Reset in Windows 10. And seemingly just to confuse you further (or finally simplify things), Microsoft released a Refresh tool for Windows 10 that works slightly different than what we know from Windows 8.

The Windows 10 Refresh Tool (download here) requires an Internet connection and approximately 3 GB of available storage space because it downloads the latest version of Windows 10 before refreshing your PC. This ensures that your fresh Windows 10 installation will be completely free of manufacturer bloatware How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops How To Remove Bloatware & Avoid It On New Laptops Tired of software you never wanted consuming your laptop's resources? Your computer isn't free ad space. Here's how to get rid of bloatware. Read More , though you will still find Microsoft bloatware How to Easily Remove Bloatware From Windows 10 How to Easily Remove Bloatware From Windows 10 Windows 10 comes with several pre-installed apps that take up space on your device and aren't easy to remove. Sounds like bloatware, doesn't it? We show you how to remove these apps. Read More .

Refresh Windows

A Windows 10 Refresh will not re-install any of your applications and to re-install hardware drivers, you may have to run Windows Update under Settings > Update & security > Windows Update after the installation has completed. As with the Reset option, you can choose to keep your personal files. If you would like to back up and restore your Windows 10 settings and apps How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You Windows 10 is coming and you have a choice to make. Either you upgrade your existing Windows installation, or you can install Windows 10 from scratch. We show you how to migrate to Windows 10... Read More , check out our respective article.

Note: At the time of writing this article, the Refresh tool comes with several caveats, such as only working on the latest build of the Windows 10 Insider Preview Be the First to Test New Windows 10 Builds as Windows Insider Be the First to Test New Windows 10 Builds as Windows Insider Windows Insiders are the first to test new Windows 10 builds. They are also the first to suffer from bugs. Here we show you how to join or leave the program and how to share... Read More . It is expected to be fully functional with the upcoming Anniversary Update Windows 10 Anniversary Update Due in July & These Are Its Best Features Windows 10 Anniversary Update Due in July & These Are Its Best Features You will love the Windows 10 Anniversary Update! The second big upgrade to Windows 10 since its launch in July 2015 is expected this summer. Here we highlight the most exciting features. Read More , expected in late July 2016.

3. Use Installation Media

This is an advanced method you can use in place of the Reset or Refresh options described above; for example, if your PC won’t boot or your Internet bandwidth is severely limited. Maybe you bought a copy of Windows 10 that came with installation media or you were wise enough to create your own Windows 10 installation media How to Create Windows 10 Installation Media How to Create Windows 10 Installation Media Regardless of how you arrived at Windows 10, there's a way to create your own installation media. Sooner or later you might need it. Let us show you how to be prepared. Read More  using the Windows Media Creation Tool.

Windows 10 Media Creation Tool Architecture

If you need to re-install a particular version of Windows 10, you may be able to download the respective ISO file free from Microsoft How to Download Official Windows ISO Files Free from Microsoft How to Download Official Windows ISO Files Free from Microsoft You can download Windows installation files free from Microsoft. We'll show you a hack that allows you to download ISO files for any edition of Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 from Microsoft's Tech... Read More and create your own install disc using Rufus.

Before you can proceed with the Windows 10 setup, boot into the UEFI / BIOS How To Enter The BIOS On Your Computer How To Enter The BIOS On Your Computer Inside the BIOS you can change basic computer settings, like the boot order. The exact key you need to strike depends on your hardware. We have compiled a list of strategies & keys to enter... Read More and make sure the boot order The BIOS Explained: Boot Order, Video Memory, Saving, Resets & Optimum Defaults The BIOS Explained: Boot Order, Video Memory, Saving, Resets & Optimum Defaults Your computer’s BIOS (basic input/output system) is the low-level software that starts when you boot your computer. It performs a POST (power-on self test), initializes your computer’s hardware, and passes control over to the boot... Read More prioritizes booting from your installation media, i.e. your CD/DVD or USB drive, rather than booting from the system drive.

understanding-the-bios-boot-order

When your BIOS settings look good, insert your installation media and let your computer boot into the Windows setup. From here, follow the on-screen instructions and enjoy a fresh installation of Windows 10 in no time. Unfortunately, you will eventually have to run Windows Update to bring your system up to speed again.

Tip: We recommend keeping your installation media fresh by regularly updating the files with the latest updates. Otherwise, Windows Update How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10 How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10 For control freaks, Windows Update is a nightmare. It's designed to operate in the background, automatically keeping your system safe and running smoothly. We show you how it works and what you can customize. Read More might slow you down with massive downloads and multiple installation cycles.

4. Use a System Image

The methods above have one huge drawback: you lose all your personal settings and installed applications. To avoid this scenario, we recommend to regularly prepare an image of your entire system.

We have previously covered how to create an ISO image of your Windows system How to Create an ISO Image of Your Windows System How to Create an ISO Image of Your Windows System Need a quick and easy way to backup and restore Windows without relying on backup tools or the cloud? It's time to learn how to make an ISO image of your Windows PC. Read More . An alternative to the native Windows solution is to use a free third-party tool like Macrium Reflect. We have covered this tool in our article on moving Windows from a HDD to an SSD How to Move Windows from HDD to SSD to Improve Performance How to Move Windows from HDD to SSD to Improve Performance A Solid State Drive upgrade really improves performance. But how can you squeeze a large Windows installation onto a tiny SSD? Windows users can comfortably migrate from HDD to SSD in very little time. Read More . It lets you create both rescue media and an entire system backup.

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Note: Rather than regularly creating full system images, you can also turn on System Restore in Windows 10 (which is off by default). We’ve covered that method in our ultimate Windows backup guide The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide Windows 10 makes data backups effortless. We have summarized every native backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More . Briefly, press Windows key + Q to launch the search menu, find Create a restore point, select your system drive, click Configure…, select Turn on system protection, and click OK.

Windows 10 System Protection

You will need at least 20 GB of available storage and we recommend that you manually create your first system restore point 12 Tips to Fix Windows System Restore 12 Tips to Fix Windows System Restore Struggling with creating a system restore point or rolling back to a system state? Here are twelve tips to help get your Windows System Restore up and running once again. Read More .

Keep Windows Fresh

Whatever you do, never restore your computer to factory settings Why Not to Restore Your Computer to Factory Settings & What to Do Instead Why Not to Restore Your Computer to Factory Settings & What to Do Instead A factory reset restores the bloatware your system originally came with. It weighs down your system and you shouldn't have to put up with that. We show you how to avoid it. Read More using the manufacturer’s system image. Use one of the methods above to make Windows 10 as good as new. If you can’t decide which one to go with, follow our guide on whether to refresh, reset, restore, or reinstall Windows Should You Refresh, Reset, Restore, or Reinstall Windows? Should You Refresh, Reset, Restore, or Reinstall Windows? Ever wanted to reset Windows 7 without losing personal data? Between a factory reset and a reinstall, it was tough. Since Windows 8, we have two new options: Refresh and Reset. Which one is right... Read More .

Which routines do you apply to keep Windows fresh? Can you recommend any tools that work particularly well with Windows 10? Or are you looking for a solution for a specific issue? Please let us know!

  1. Andriamihaja RASOLOFONIRINA
    July 5, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    this article help everybody for instaling windows 10

  2. DMBrody
    July 4, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Microsoft will only admit that they've really screwed up with their Orwellian Windows 10 when they're in bankruptcy court.

    • Tina Sieber
      July 4, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      Not even then. I bet they'd just push around the blame. Microsoft isn't one person, it's a bunch of different teams and they may not all have the same objectives. In the end they all have to be profitable though, which leads to such "Orwellian" developments I guess.

  3. James Hanson
    June 27, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    I think it was MakeUseOf which brought the program Rollback Rx to my attention. I installed it on my own machines after a re-formatting and now it's more effective to restore with it. It's not perfect by any means but it works well enough for what I need.

    I also generally don't trust Windows built-in recovery means. It's rarely if ever worked for me since Windows 7.

  4. aspecialee.me
    June 24, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I recently ordered an HP Envy Laptop. Fresh from the factory (China) the Win 10 was corrupt. Half of the OS accessories didn't function, including Cortana. I used every method I could think of to reset/restore the hard drive. Fortunately I had ordered the restore disks. The shortest reset period I experienced was ~ 3 hours. The restore from the disks or the hard drive both took more than 5 hours each. Got some of the accessories back but Cortana never did show.

    The thing I despise the most about Win 10 is that you could turn off Defender but if the OS thought it was off too long, it would turn it back on. I really didn't like this since it was basically big brother Microsoft over ruling my preferred choices. I noticed the OS made other changes & it got to the point where half of the ram was being used while the computer sat idle! Any time Thunderbird was started it would lock up for awhile. Sometimes happened with Firefox 45 too.

    Checked out downgrading to Win 7 Pro but that was prevented by HP proprietary drivers necessary to get the goodies on the laptop to work. I was able to get Ubuntu loaded into a partition but once again the bios didn't want to play nice & let it run. I sent the HP back yesterday. Today I stumbled across some older business laptop stock that had never left the warehouse & ordered it with Win 7 Pro already installed.

    Looks like from here I'll either have to use an Android tablet or go back to building desktops so I can completely transfer to Open Source OS's. What ever my future holds (computing wise) from here, it certainly won't have Microsoft in it.

    • Tina Sieber
      June 27, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      It's really sad how thoroughly Microsoft is alienating users with Windows 10. It could have been so great.

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