Learning to reinstall Windows: get step-by-step instructions

Updated: March 01, 2023
6 min read
Learning to reinstall Windows: get step-by-step instructions
by Andrew Cheberiak
Tech Expert & Writer
Checked by
Quality Control team

In most cases, reinstalling Windows should involve formatting the local disk with the current version of Windows. This means that before you can install a new system there, you have to erase the old data. So you have to copy absolutely all the valuable information you don’t want to lose to the cloud or a physical medium beforehand.

Before we start

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If you choose not to reinstall, but to reset Windows to factory settings, you will be prompted to leave all files where they are. But it's better to play it safe and transfer all of your more important data to the cloud or an external hard drive. A backup is never a bad idea. If you have paid programs installed on your computer, do not forget to check their rules of working with licenses when reinstalling Windows, otherwise, you can lose them.

When all necessary backups have been made, you can start reinstalling. Basically, there are three ways to reinstall the system.

  • The first, and easiest, is to reset your computer directly from Windows Settings.
  • The second is almost identical to the first, the only difference is that you will perform the reset from the recovery menu. This is useful when the system does not start properly.
  • The third way is a bit more complicated - you have to prepare a bootable rescue media, flash drive, or disk and reinstall the system from it.

Choose a method according to the situation - try reinstalling from an external drive if a simple system reset does not help to solve your computer problems.

How to reinstall Windows from System Settings

How to reinstall Windows
  1. Click "Start" → "Settings" → "Update and Security" → "Restore" → "Reset Computer" → "Start".
  2. You will have two options available. The first is to save your files and only reset them. The second is to erase them and reinstall the system. The last option is quite radical but allows you to solve a wider range of problems with your computer. So, if you didn't neglect to create a backup in the previous step, feel free to choose "Delete All".
  3. Then choose the placement of the new system image to reinstall from. The system can download it from the Internet or use built-in parameters. If you have enough space for downloading about 4 GB from the network, choose the first option - this will allow you to get the updated system at once. After that, click "Next" again.
  4. Make sure that all parameters are selected according to your wishes, and press the "Factory" button.
  5. Wait till the computer reboots.
  6. Now you just have to wait for the reinstallation to complete. The computer will reboot a few more times.
  7. In the end, you will have clean and fresh Windows.

How to reinstall Windows in recovery mode

How to reinstall Windows in recovery mode

Sometimes people face the problem when the system won’t start normally. If this is your case, you probably can't get into "Settings" to start a reinstallation. In this case, Windows' built-in recovery mode can help you.

It can be activated in several ways.

  1. First, try opening the "Shutdown" menu by holding down Shift and then clicking "Restart".
  2. Second, if the system doesn't start at all, you can turn on the computer, wait a few seconds, turn it off, and repeat these steps until the "Auto Restore" menu appears on the screen.
  3. Once in the recovery environment, click on “Troubleshoot”.
  4. Then select "Reset the computer to its original state". Depending on whether you have backed up your data beforehand, you can try saving it or clearing the disk and reinstalling everything again.
  5. The computer will then reboot and ask you to select your account.
  6. Then you need to enter your password. If you don't have one, you can just press Enter.
  7. Choose where Windows should get the new system image to reinstall from. It can be downloaded from the Internet (in this case, you will need about 4 GB of traffic) or it can use the built-in one.
  8. Make sure that all settings are launched correctly and click "Reset".
  9. Now, wait for Windows to reinstall.
  10. This will reboot the computer several times. Do not touch it until you see that it is ready.

How to reinstall Windows from an external drive

How to reinstall Windows from an external drive

There are some cases when you need more radical methods to reinstall your Windows:

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  • In rare cases, resetting Windows to factory settings cannot solve the problem.
  • Also, sometimes the system won't start at all, and recovery mode won't activate.
  • Finally, sometimes you must reinstall the system on a new drive because the old one is broken.

Reinstalling Windows from a flash drive or disk may help you in all these cases. Here's a step-by-step guide.

Make sure you have not lost the activation key

If you want to install or reinstall a licensed version of Windows, make sure that you have the appropriate activation key. Even if you are already using an activated system and just want to install the same version again, the old activation key might come in handy again.

You can see it on a sticker on the bottom of your laptop or inside the package of the disc you used the last time to install the system. To see your activation status, click StartSettingsUpdate and SecurityActivation.

If the system is activated with a digital license, your laptop or computer has a key sewn into the chip and you will not have to enter any combinations when reinstalling.

Create a bootable disk or flash drive

If you already have a bootable flash drive or disk with the version of Windows you are going to install, you can skip to the next step. Otherwise, you need to download a Windows image from the Internet and burn it to any free media. Here we will briefly show you how to create the latter using the Media Creation Tool from Microsoft.

  1. Go to the Microsoft website and click "Download Tool Now" to download the Windows 10 Bootable Media Utility. If you need a different version, select it from the Windows tab.
  2. Launch the downloaded program and accept the terms of the license agreement.
  3. Click on "Create installation media".
  4. Select the settings for the new version of Windows manually or leave the "Use recommended settings for this computer" check box checked if you are installing the system on your current computer.
  5. Decide what type of media you want to use. If you choose the ISO file-, you can download the Windows image and write it to the disk with some other program, such as Rufus.
  6. Specify the path to the disk or flash drive on which you are going to write the image.
  7. Wait for the process to complete.

Most importantly, before creating the media, decide on the version of Windows you will be installing and make sure that your computer meets its system requirements. This information can be found on the official Microsoft website or on the CD with the purchased Windows. Do not forget to check that the computer supports the bit mode of the new version: 32 or 64 bits. To avoid inconvenience, you can install the same bit-type version you’re currently using.

Boot the system from a disk or flash drive

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Now that you have a physical medium with the desired Windows image, you need to go into a special BIOS software environment and select the disk or flash drive you will use as the boot source.

  1. Insert the bootable media containing the Windows image into your computer.
  2. Reboot the device. Once the computer starts booting, press the BIOS setup key. Usually, it's Delete, F2, F8, F9, or F12, depending on the hardware manufacturer. Most often the correct key will pop up on the screen during the BIOS boot process.
  3. While in the BIOS menu, navigate to the Boot section if the system did not redirect you there immediately.
  4. In the Boot section, set the USB flash drive or the disk with Windows as the boot source. If you don't know how to do this, take a look around - you will see hints on the screen about the controls.
  5. Save the changes. You might see a more modern graphical interface instead of the classic BIOS. In addition, even older versions of BIOS settings may be different. But in any case, the procedure will be approximately the same: enter the boot menu, select the desired media source, and save the changes.
  6. The computer should then boot from the selected disk or flash drive.

Start the installer wizard

If you have done everything correctly, the Windows Setup Wizard will appear. The next steps are much easier.

  1. Select the desired language and click "Next".
  2. Now click "Install".
  3. If you have an activation key, enter it. If you don't need it, click "I don't have a product key".
  4. Specify the release of the operating system you want to install, "Home" or "Professional".
  5. Accept the terms of the license agreement.
  6. Click "Update" if you want to try to save your data, or "Selective" if you want to format the disk and install the system from scratch.
  7. Choose the disk to install the operating system on. If you have several disks on your computer - for example, one for the system and one for the data - do not mix them up, or you will lose your files.
  8. Click "Next" and wait for the system to install.
  9. After the installation is complete, the computer should boot up in normal operating mode.
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