Whether you arrived at Windows 10 through a dedicated upgrade or — in case you were not eligible for a free upgrade from Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 — purchased a shiny new Windows 10 license to upgrade to, eventually you will have to restore or reset Windows 10.
There are now a whole host of ways to install Windows 10, and we’ve covered a comprehensive selection of how you can create your own installation media.
1. Windows Media Creation Tool
The first and most obvious choice for creating Windows 10 installation media is the Windows Media Creation Tool. This application allows you to get the Home or Pro versions of Windows 10, and you can pick from the 32-bit or 64-bit version for both. Following your selections, you can choose to install directly to a USB drive, or download a single or dual use ISO to install to a disc at a later time.
Download the Windows Media Creation Tool. Once downloaded, run the application and select Create installation media for another PC. Windows 10 will download within the application, ready for you to choose your version, system architecture, and which versions you’d like to include in your Windows 10 installation media.
If you choose to install directly to a USB or disc, follow the onscreen instructions to complete your installation. If you’re installing further down the line, read the next section.
Without the Help of Microsoft?
If you’d like to press on without the Windows Media Creation Tool, Microsoft has made provision. The Windows 10 Tech Bench Upgrade Program [No Longer Available] allows us to download both 32-bit and 64-bit ISOs of Windows 10 without using their download and creation tool. There is no indication that the versions downloaded here or using the Media Creation Tool are in any way different, so it really is down to personal preference.
2. Make Your Own Bootable Media
If you opted to download your ISO to install at a later date, this is the section for you. Let’s take a quick look at how to transfer that ISO to a USB or a disc.
USB Installation Media
Now you have your shiny new ISO, you need to create some bootable media. I’ll be using Rufus to create our bootable USB. It is a tiny, free application, and scores relatively well among similar applications with more extensive features. For the purpose of this installation, we only need to create a bootable disk, so go ahead and download Rufus.
Once downloaded, open the application. Select the Device you’d like to install to. Now, head to the button highlighted in the below image. This opens a File Explorer window for you to locate your Windows 10 ISO. Once you’ve found it, select Open. Rufus should now automatically update the information for you.
Double-check the Partition type is set to MBR partition scheme for BIOS or UEFI-CSM, the file system is NTFS, and your cluster size should be set to 4096 bytes. Also ensure the option to Create a bootable disk is actually checked. It should have automatically selected when you chose the Windows 10 ISO. Set an appropriate volume label, e.g. Windows 10 64-bit ISO, and then you can press Start.
Rufus will take care of the rest. Go and make a cup of tea, and come back in about 15 minutes.
Disc Installation Media
You don’t have to use a USB to create your installation media. Many people prefer the traditional disc approach, and there are numerous free applications to help you get the job done. For this example, I’m going to use ImgBurn.
Once downloaded, install and open the application. Select Write image file to disc. Select the folder icon as highlighted in the image below.
This will open the File Explorer window, where you can select your Windows 10 ISO. ImgBurn should take care of the vitals, much the same as Rufus, but check the Imp ID is for a Microsoft CDIMAGE UDF, and it clearly states Bootable next to File Sys.
Make sure the disc you’re burning to has enough free space. Ideally, use a new disc. Finally, set your Write Speed. MAX sets the maximum speed available to your drive. If the write fails, you can always try setting a slower write speed. Now you’re ready to burn!
3. Unattended Windows 10 Installation
If you’re pressed for time, heading out for the evening, or simply have other tasks to get on with while installing Windows 10, you could try an unattended install. An unattended install is as it sounds: you have no input during the installation. All it takes is a little setting up beforehand.
I will be creating a bootable USB for this part of the article.
First off, we’ll need to generate an Autounattend.xml answer file. This answer file will be included in our bootable USB, and will “answer” the questions throughout the Windows 10 installation.
Head to the Windows Answer File Generator. Enter your product key, and choose which options you’d like to include, such as accepting the EULA, skipping automatic activation, skipping the license rearm, the setup language, entering your computer name, keyboard language and input, whether to use express privacy and sharing settings, and a handful of other options.
Next, we’ll deal with partition settings. We must be sure to select the right settings, or it could end rather badly.
To begin, decide if you are performing a clean install or upgrading your system. If you’re opting for a clean install, change the Wipe Disk option to Yes. Select the number of the disk to install to. If you’re unsure of the disk number, head to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Disk Management. Note the disk number and the partition number. Use my image as a reference:
I will be installing to disk 0. Select Yes to Main Partition Active. Ensure your Main Partition Format is NTFS. Set a name for your Main Partition Label. Make sure your Main Partition Letter matches the Partition Order, e.g. my C: partition is equivalent of partition order number two.
Finally, enter your User Account information, including a User Name, whether you’d like UAC enabled, and whether you’d like your account to Auto-Logon. You’re all set!
Scroll down to the console box. Download your Autounattend.xml file using the Download File located underneath the box.
To complete the creation of your unattended Windows 10 installation media, follow the Bootable USB section we covered earlier in the article. When the USB is finalized, copy the Autounattend.xml to the root of the USB, alongside the installation files. The next time you need to install Windows 10, the entire process will be automated, leaving you free to drink tea and eat scones.
You’re Ready to Install
Be it through the official Windows Media Creation Tool, bootable USB or disc, you should be ready for a clean installation of Windows 10. Before commencing with your clean install, please make sure to back up any important files to a safe location – not the same drive you’ll be installing to!
It is easier than ever to install Windows 10. Are there any techniques we have missed other readers might benefit from? Let us know below!