The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (2023)

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (1)

Reinstalling Windowsisn’t as simple as just clicking through an installer. You’ll want to have important data backed up first, and then you’ll need installation media and a product key before continuing—andthose are just the basics. This checklist will walk you through reinstalling Windows and ensure you won’t forget anything.

First: Back Up Your Files

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (2)

You may also want to ensure programs you use are backing up your critical settings, likeyour browser’s data. For example, if you use Chrome, ensure you’ve signed into Chrome with your Google account and enabled the browser sync features. This ensures your bookmarks and other data can be accessed afterwards. Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge have similar sync features.

Consider all the important data on your computer and ensure it’s backed up. If you’re still usingPOP3 for your email, which you shouldn’t be, all your emails may be stored on your PC and need to be backed up before continuing. If you’re using web-based email or even just IMAP in a desktop email client, your emails are stored with your email service and you don’t need to back them up. If you play a lot of PC games, check whether those gamessync their savesonline with a feature like Steam Cloud, or whether you need to back them up yourself.

You can back up many program’s settings at once through backing upyour AppData folder, or by backing up individual folders in AppData.

Make a List of Your Installed Programs

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (3)

RELATED: How to Create a List of Your Installed Programs on Windows

You may also want to create a list of your installed programs, just in case. You won’t be left wondering what the name of that useful little utility was. You can just check the list and see what you hadinstalled before you reinstalled Windows.

(Video) The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC

You can create a list of your installed programs and print it to a text fileusing the PowerShell toolincluded in Windows. You don’t need any additional software. However, if you haveCCleanerinstalled, you can also do this by launching CCleaner and clicking Tools > Uninstall > Save to a text file. This feature is in the free version of CCleaner; you don’t need the paid version. Be sure to add the text file to your backups!

If you have any important programs you’ve installed from disc, be sure you’ve found their installation discs. But, these days, many people should be able to download everything from the Internet and won’t need discs to install programs.

Get the Product Keys You Need

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (4)

Ensure you have any product keys you might need before continuing. At a minimum, you’ll need a product key to install Windows. This is actually more complicated than it seems, as many modern PCs have these product keys “baked in” to theUEFI firmwareon their motherboards, and Windows will automatically detect them during installation.

For example, “BIOS OEM Key” in the screenshot above means the product key for the installed version of Windows is embedded in our computer’s BIOS (or UEFI firmware, technically). We don’t have to write it down, and Windows will automatically use it when we reinstall the same version of Windows.

RELATED: How to Find Your Lost Windows or Office Product Keys

Followour instructions to track down your Windows product key. If it’s printed on a sticker or your computer itself—or if you purchased Windows and were given a product key—you already know it. Otherwise, you may need to do some digging. This can be a little complicated. Be careful, as the key you see displayed in Windows may not actually be the key you need to activate your PC. This is particularly common on Windows 7. In these cases, you need the key printed on the sticker on your PC instead of the keythat appears to be in use on your PC.

You may also have Microsoft Office or other applications installed with a product key, and you’ll need that product key to reinstall them. If you already know all the product keys you need or know you’re just using a service likeOffice 365, which doesn’t require these product keys, you can skip this part. To see the various product keys used on your PC for applications like Microsoft Office, we recommendNirSoft ProduKey.

Be sure to write down the keys you need or otherwise make a copy before reinstalling your operating system, as they’ll be erased from your drive.

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Create Your Windows Installation Media

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (5)

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Microsoft now allows you tocreate Windows installation mediareally easily. It’s all official and legal, and all you need is a legitimate product key. You can do this for Windows 7, 8.1, or 10—any version of Windows you might be using. These tools will also guide you through creating a USB installer drive, or burning the installation media to a DVD.

You can even use these tools to create Windows installation media for another PC. Just be sure to choose the correct operating system version, edition (Home or Pro), and32-bit or 64-bitinstallation media the PC requires.

RELATED: How to Easily Reinstall Windows 10 Without the Bloatware

If you’re using Windows 10, you can skip the process of creating installation media anduse the “Fresh start” featureto wipe everything away and get a fresh installation. Unlike the standard“reset this PC” feature, this will also erase bloatware installed by your manufacturer.

Consider Downloading Drivers Ahead of Time

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (6)

You may want to consider downloading the hardware drivers your computer requires from its manufacturer’s website before continuing.

This is more useful if you’re using an older version of Windows, such as Windows 7. Windows 10 has more integrated drivers and should be able to automatically get more hardware devices up and running.

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This can save a bit of time afterwards, but isn’t absolutely required except in one situation. In some cases, Windows may need you to install Wi-Fi or Ethernet drivers the computer requires before it can connect to the Internet. In this case, you’ll need to have either downloaded the drivers ahead of time, or download them on another PC afterwards and move them to the offline computer using a USB drive. Once your computer has internet access again, you can download all your other drivers whenever you want.

To check for any drivers your PC may require, visit its manufacturer’s website, look for a download page, and download the drivers for the version of Windows you plan to install. Place them on a USB drive or another external storage device. If you built your own PC, you’ll need to check the manufacturer’s website for each individual hardware component.

Deauthorize iTunes

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (7)

RELATED: What You Need to Know About Deauthorizing iTunes

If you’ve purchased content from iTunes, you’ll also want todeauthorize iTunes on your PCbefore continuing.

Because of the outdated way iTunes DRM works, you must deauthorize iTunes on your PC before uninstalling it. You’re only allowed to have five authorized computers at once, and don’t want to waste one of those on a Windows installation that no longer exists. If you don’t deauthorize it now, the only way you can deauthorize it later is through the“Deauthorize All” button, and you can only use that button once per year.

Yes, it’s annoying and not user friendly. We’re thankful that most other programs have moved on from these outdated DRM schemes and at least allow easier management of authorized computers, so you probably don’t have to worry about other programs. For example, if you have Office 365 installed, you can always go into your Microsoft account online and deauthorize individual computers at any time.

Reinstall Windows

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (8)

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If you’ve followed the above steps and feel ready to continue, it’s now time to reinstall Windows. All the programs you have installed and system settings changes you’ve made will be erased. Any personal files on your computer may or may not be erased, depending on which option you choose while reinstalling Windows.

The process is pretty simple. Take the installation media you created earlier and either plug in the USB drive or insert the disc. Reboot your PC and boot from the removable device. Depending on your PC and its settings, this may happen automatically or you may need to eitherchange your boot order or select a boot device.

RELATED: How to Install Windows 10 on Your PC

Once you’ve launched the Windows installer, reinstalling Windows is just a matter of clicking through the installation wizard. We’ve demonstrated the process ofinstalling Windows 10, and Windows 7 is similar. You may need to enter the product key during the installation process.

Remember, if you’re using Windows 10, you can also just tryusing the Fresh Start featureinstead of doing a full reinstall.

Quickly Install Your Favorite Programs with Ninite

The Ultimate Checklist Guide to Reinstalling Windows on Your PC (9)

RELATED: Ninite Installs All Your Favorite Windows Programs at Once

When you’re done reinstalling Windows, we recommendNiniteforquickly installing programs—all at once, without clicking through different installation wizards, and without any annoying bloatware. It can install many of our favorite utilities, includingVLCfor watching videos,7-Zipfor extracting archives, andPaint.NETfor basic image editing.

You can also useportable appsto get up and running more easily on a new PC. Place a number of portable apps in a cloud storage folder on a service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive, or place it on a USB drive. You can then run those programs directly from the folder on any PC without any installation required.

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What are the steps to reinstall Windows? ›

The simplest way to reinstall Windows 10 is through Windows itself. Click 'Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery' and then choose 'Get started' under 'Reset this PC'. A full reinstall wipes your entire drive, so select 'Remove everything' to ensure a clean reinstall is performed.

How do I completely Reset and reinstall Windows? ›

To reset your PC, go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC > Get Started. Then, select Keep my files, choose cloud or local, change your settings, and set Restore preinstalled apps? to No.

What are 2 things you should do after a Windows 10 installation? ›

What you should do immediately after installing Windows
  1. Create user accounts: Each person who will use the computer should have an individual password-protected account. ...
  2. Check antivirus software: Windows 11, Windows 10, and Windows 8. ...
  3. Activate Windows: If you did not activate Windows during installation, select Start.
Feb 10, 2023

Do I need to wipe my computer before reinstalling Windows? ›

Wiping your hard drive prior to reinstalling Windows 7 is the preferred installation method, and ensures optimal performance. You may perform a clean installation even if you're reinstalling an upgrade edition of Windows, but in that case you must wipe the drive during the installation process and not before.

Does a clean install erase everything? ›

Remember, a clean install will erase everything from the drive that Windows is installed on. When we say everything, we mean everything. You'll need to back up anything you want to save before you begin this process! You can back up your files online or use an offline backup tool.

How to reinstall Windows from BIOS? ›

To perform system recovery from the BIOS:
  1. Power on or restart the workstation.
  2. Enter the BIOS by tapping either the right or left bottom of the screen.
  3. Tap Advanced, and then tap Special Configuration.
  4. Tap Factory Recovery.
  5. Select Enabled from drop-down menu.
  6. Tap Home.
  7. Tap Save and Exit.

What happens if I remove everything and reinstall Windows? ›

Warning: All of your personal files will be deleted and your settings will be reset. All apps that you installed will be removed. Only apps that came with your PC will be reinstalled.

Does reinstalling Windows clear viruses? ›

Running a factory reset, also referred to as a Windows Reset or reformat and reinstall, will destroy all data stored on the computer's hard drive and all but the most complex viruses with it. Viruses can't damage the computer itself and factory resets clear out where viruses hide.

Do I need to deactivate Windows 10 before reinstalling? ›

Hi Mike, there is no need to deactivate Windows on that PC, you do not need to worry about your Product key or licencing, you can reinstall Windows 10 at any time and it will not cost you anything !

What partitions to delete when reinstalling Windows? ›

But if you are trying to reinstall a new Windows operating system like Windows 10 on your PC and re-manage your computer space, you'll need to delete all Windows hard drive partitions together with the OS.

How do I wipe my hard drive clean and reinstall Windows 10? ›

In Windows 10, open Settings > Update & security > Recovery, and then click the Get Started button. When asked what you want to erase, select Remove everything. Choose the Local reinstall option to reinstall Windows from your computer. Click Change Settings and turn on the switch next to Wipe the drive.

How do I completely factory reset my computer? ›

Click Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery.

On the Recovery screen, click Get started under Reset this PC, which offers you two choices – Keep my files or Remove everything. The latter is what you want if you're getting rid of your computer and want to factory reset it first.

What are the five tasks completed after a Windows installation? ›

After Installing Windows 10, You're All Set
  • Windows.
  • Data Backup.
  • Drivers.
  • Computer Maintenance.
  • Windows 10.
  • Install Software.
  • Windows Update.
  • Windows Tips.
Jul 22, 2021

What are the 5 components that we need for the installation of Windows 10? ›

Here's what Microsoft says you need to run Windows 10:
  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster.
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Free hard disk space: 16 GB.
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver.
  • A Microsoft account and Internet access.
Mar 5, 2015

Do and write steps for Windows 10 installation? ›

How to install Windows 10: Full installation
  1. Check your device meets the Windows 10 system requirements. ...
  2. Create USB installation media. ...
  3. Run the installer tool. ...
  4. Use your installation media. ...
  5. Change your computer's boot order. ...
  6. Restart your device. ...
  7. Complete the installation.
Jul 29, 2021

Will reinstalling Windows delete D drive? ›

There is no doubt that a clean Windows reinstallation will delete all the data on your hard drive. To avoid any data loss, make sure that you have a backup in advance.

Will reinstalling Windows speed up my computer? ›

Yes, it will affect the performance, it will run faster and improve the performance, it will repair and replace any corrupted system files.

How do you wipe a computer clean to sell it? ›

For Windows 10, go to the Start Menu and click on Settings. Then navigate to Update & Security, and find the Recovery menu. Next, select Reset this PC and choose Get Started. Follow the instructions to revert your computer to when it was first unboxed.

What are the disadvantages of a clean install? ›

Clean Install
Clears spyware and registry file.Setting up the new operating system will take longer.
Faster startup due to lack of startup programs and applications.Need to manually backup documents, applications, and settings in old OS.
1 more row
Aug 6, 2015

Can malware survive a clean install? ›

Hence, the malware can persist even if you reinstall the computer's OS or swap out the storage.

Can Disk Cleanup harm your computer? ›

For the most part, the items and files in Disk Cleanup are safe to delete. But if your computer isn't running properly, deleting some of them may prevent you from uninstalling updates, rolling back your operating system, and more. so they're handy to keep around if you have the space.

Should I install Windows UEFI or Legacy? ›

In general, install Windows using the newer UEFI mode, as it includes more security features than the legacy BIOS mode. If you're booting from a network that only supports BIOS, you'll need to boot to legacy BIOS mode. After Windows is installed, the device boots automatically using the same mode it was installed with.

Can I reinstall Windows with UEFI? ›

Then you can use the tool to create a bootable media to install Windows 10 on a UEFI device without needing the Media Creation Tool. When you have the USB boot media with support for UEFI systems, you can use it to launch the "Windows Setup" wizard to perform a clean installation of Windows 10 or an in-place upgrade.

How to repair Windows 10 from BIOS? ›

When using a USB drive, make sure to set up your BIOS to boot from the USB drive. After booting into setup, choose the Repair Computer option > Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Command Prompt. If you are using a recovery drive, click Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Command Prompt.

What personal files are kept when resetting Windows 10? ›

This reset option will reinstall Windows operating system and keeps your personal files, such as photos, music, videos or personal files. However, it will remove apps and drivers you installed, and also removes the changes you made to the settings.

How long does it take to remove everything and reinstall Windows? ›

Microsoft provides two methods to reinstall Windows, and you can choose either one to perform it. (Resetting a PC can take between thirty minutes to a few hours on average, depends on different models/spec.)

Does factory reset get rid of administrator? ›

Resetting your PC usually involves a complete reinstallation of the operating system, which will erase all data, including your user accounts and files. This means that after a reset, you will need to create a new user account, including the administrator account, and set it up from scratch.

Can Trojan virus be removed by factory reset? ›

Performing a factory reset is the best way to get rid of viruses, spyware, and other malware. A factory reset will delete everything that wasn't originally installed on the device. This includes any viruses that infected your operating system and files.

Will formatting remove Trojans? ›

But formatting doesn't work always because the virus can write itself onto the portion of the drive that remains unaffected by the process of formatting and it is hard to tell whether the virus is truly gone or not.

How do I check my computer for malware? ›

How To Know if You Have Malware
  1. suddenly slows down, crashes, or displays repeated error messages.
  2. won't shut down or restart.
  3. won't let you remove software.
  4. serves up lots of pop-ups, inappropriate ads, or ads that interfere with page content.
  5. shows ads in places you typically wouldn't see them, like government websites.

Where can I find my Windows product key? ›

Generally, if you bought a physical copy of Windows, the product key should be on a label or card inside the box that Windows came in. If Windows came preinstalled on your PC, the product key should appear on a sticker on your device. If you've lost or can't find the product key, contact the manufacturer.

What happens if I install Windows 10 without a product key? ›

Even if you don't have a product key, you'll still be able to use an unactivated version of Windows 10, although some features may be limited. Inactivated versions of Windows 10 have a watermark in the bottom right saying, “Activate Windows”. You also can't personalize any colors, themes, backgrounds, etc.

What should you do before reinstalling the application? ›

Before reinstallation
  1. Document your login IDs, passwords, and settings. ...
  2. Export your e-mail and address book, bookmarks/favorites, and cookies. ...
  3. Download the latest applications and drivers. ...
  4. Housecleaning and backing up your data. ...
  5. Service packs.
Oct 15, 2008


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