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Windows 10 can be clean installed during and after free upgrade

Windows 10 can be clean installed during and after free upgrade

Questions about how the Windows 10 free upgrade will work beginning on 29 July are all over social media and popular tech websites.

This may feel very familiar because the same thing happened as the Windows 8.1 Update was being released in the fall of 2013.  It has also come up when new versions of Windows are being released that are not being offered for free.

Maybe it is a good thing that Windows 10 is the last full release of Windows because this cycle may finally come to an end.

The questions being asked are good ones as well and make sense. There is concern about being able to clean install Windows 10 on a system that was upgraded for free from Windows 7 and 8.1.

  • Will I be able to clean install at the moment of upgrade once a license for Windows 7 and 8.1 has been validated?
  • Will I be able to clean install Windows 10 after upgrading a 7 or 8.1 system with the free upgrade?

Most of the questions out there are about clean installs and this stems from past experiences upgrading older versions of Windows.

Prior to Windows 8, upgrades from one Windows OS to another always seemed to leave behind baggage and issues. Most enthusiasts/prosumers preferred to just reformat their system and then install the new OS on a fresh hard drive - in other words clean.

Of course, those were also the days when we received a Windows installation disc with our computers and not recovery discs that we sometimes had to create ourselves.

You might remember how this worked back then for a straight forward OS upgrade. The new OS installation disc went into the system and began the process. Then the user was asked to insert the installation disc of the previous version of Windows into the CD/DVD drive to validate that you had the previous version of the OS. After that was successful you then put the new OS install disc back in the drive and continued the installation.

Things began to change with the upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1.

This free update, which came out just one year after Windows 8 was released, was offered through the new Windows Store and not with a digital ISO download. That meant installing the update on top of Windows 8 itself. In the process of this update a new version of the OS was installed and the previous Windows 8 install was moved to a folder called Windows.old.

Since your apps, settings and files were carried over that info was imported from the previous install.

What many did not realize that this upgrade was in fact a clean install of Windows.

Windows 8 also introduced two new features for dealing with system related issues - Reset and Refresh. 

Reset meant all of your information was removed from the system and the OS was returned to its Out of the Box state requiring you to go through the setup process again including the reinstallation of your apps and desktop programs.  By using a Microsoft account this process is much easier because you can sync those settings across devices to get back to your original state quickly.

Refresh on the other hand retained all of your files, reinstalled your apps but reset Windows settings to clear up any configuration related issues you might be experiencing. Any desktop related apps had to be reinstalled separately.  There was no need to go back through the entire setup process to get logged in as your account was still on the machine.

In the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview it only has the Reset entry however, options under it allow you to keep your files or to remove all files and reinstall Windows. Since logging in with your Microsoft account syncs settings and apps there is no longer a need for those to be saved during the process. This option gives you an opportunity to get a fresh start with Windows 10 - same benefits of what we refer to as a clean install.

In fact, I have used the Reset option on each new Windows Insider Preview build over the last six weeks or so with great success for testing purposes.

On 29 July users of Windows 7 and 8.1 will be offered the Windows 10 upgrade through Windows Update much in the same way it has worked for Windows Insider builds.

For those who use the Get Windows App and reserve their copy of Windows 10 it will be downloaded to your system ahead of time to speed up your upgrade process on release day.

Microsoft has told me that this upgrade will work very similar to the way it did for Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 and they sent me to this page which has a tutorial for that process. That process did include the ability to either retain your files or wipe everything off the system for a clean install.

However, the official response from a Microsoft spokesperson when it comes to Windows 10 is “We look forward to sharing more details about how the upgrade will be offered at a later date.” .

Some of those details were released earlier this week when Microsoft confirmed that Windows 10 would be available on 29 July 2015 and that is when the questions and speculation kicks into overdrive.

There are still more details that need to be laid out for this upgrade process including licensing and the availability of ISO's for later use. In the interim Gabe Aul, our intrepid Ring Master, is trying to answer some of these concerns on Twitter as questions are sent his way.

One of the items he did confirm is that clean installs are possible after the free upgrade to Windows 10:

So between this and having the ability to use the Reset feature after you have upgraded to Windows 10 a clean install is easily within reach for those who may need it/want to do it.


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