If you've ever had to pack up your house and move to another state, you know that when you finally get to the new house, it can take a long time to unpack everything. Well, two years ago, I moved my family from Kentucky to Indiana and we put the bulk of our stuff in storage and rented an apartment while we shopped for a new home. We've been in our new home for just over a year now and there are still boxes in the basement we have yet to unpack. To make a long story short, I recently came across my old laptop.
My trusty ASUS F3 with an AMD Turion 64 X2, 80GB hard disk, 1GB of RAM and running Windows 7 Ultimate. Wondering if it still worked I found the power cord, plugged it in, and pressed the power button. As it came back to life, I tapped it into the new Wi-Fi and watched as it connected to Windows Update and began downloading a series of patches and fixes.
Sometime later, after Windows 7 was completely up to date, the Get Windows 10 prompt appeared and informed me that the system was ready to for the upgrade. I declined to perform the upgrade right away and decided to use the system with Windows 7 for a while. However, after a couple of days, the system began acting quirky and I remembered why I abandoned it in favor of a new laptop several years back.
Attributing this quirkiness to some flawed update, I decided against upgrading Windows 10 over top of Windows 7 and figured that I would perform a clean install. I've performed a clean install of Windows 10 multiple times, but as I was doing so this time, I realized that I have not covered the procedure in an article. So, let's take a closer look.
What you'll need
To perform a clean install of Windows 10, you need two things: the product key you used to install the previous version of Windows and Windows 10 installation media. Fortunately, getting both of these things is easy.
In addition, you'll need your chosen installation media—either a USB flash drive with at least 3GB capacity or a writeable DVD disc, on which the tool will burn the Windows 10 ISO file.
Getting the product key
Of course if you are going to perform a clean installation of Windows 10, you are going to need a product key from a qualifying edition of a previous version of Windows. Since my old laptop is running Windows 7 Ultimate, it's eligible to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
The easiest way to get a product key is to use ProduKey from NirSoft, which I covered several years back in the article titled Track down lost Microsoft product keys with ProduKey. After I ran ProduKey on my old laptop, as shown in Figure A, I discovered the Windows 7 Ultimate product key.
I used ProduKey to track down the product key on my old laptop.
Getting the Windows 10 installation media
Microsoft makes it easy for you to get Windows 10 installation media with the newest version of its Media Creation Tool. Just point your browser to the Get Windows 10 page and click the Download Tool Now button. When the download is complete, locate the installation file, as shown in Figure B, and run it.
When the download is complete, locate the installation file and run it.
Running the Media Creation Tool
When you launch the Media Creation Tool, you'll need to work through a UAC and then accept the License Terms. Once you do so, you'll see the Windows 10 Setup wizard, which prompts you to select an installation method. Select Create Installation Media For Another PC, as shown in Figure C, and click Next.
When you launch the Media Creation Tool, you'll be prompted to select an installation method.
In a moment, the Windows 10 Setup wizard will prompt you to select a language, architecture, and edition. There's a multitude of languages to choose from, and the default is English. From the Edition dropdown, you can choose Windows 10, Windows 10 Home Single Language, and Windows 10 N. From the Architecture dropdown, you can choose 32-bit, 64-bit, or Both, as shown in Figure D.
The Media Creation Tool can create the 32-bit, 64-bit, or Both versions of the Windows 10 installation.
While my old laptop was running a 32-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate, the processor is 64-bit, so I selected 64-bit. Going from a 32-bit version of Windows to a 64-bit version is allowed when performing a clean install. Of course, for this to work, the 64-bit processor must be Windows 10 compatible. Mine is. You can learn more in this article on the Microsoft TechNet site. (Even though the article is for Windows 8, it still applies to Windows 10.)
Keep in mind that if you select Both, you are going to have to create a USB flash drive installation. When you select the Both option, the installation file grows to 6 GB which is too large to fit on one DVD-R disc. Unfortunately, the Media Creation Tool will not span the installation across two DVD-R discs.
After you click Next, the Windows 10 Setup wizard prompts you to choose an installation media. I decided to select the ISO file option, as shown in Figure E.
I chose to create an ISO file for my clean installation procedure.
When you click Next, you're prompted to select a path to save the ISO file. I selected the Downloads folder on my hard disk, as shown in Figure F.
You can save the ISO to any location you choose.
When you click Save, the Windows 10 Setup wizard will begin to download the .ISO file, as shown in Figure G. The actual download can take a little while to complete, so be patient.
The first step is to download the ISO file
Once the download is complete, the Windows 10 Setup wizard will verify that the file downloaded properly, as shown in Figure H. The verification process is key, as it ensure that your download isn't corrupted in any way.
The verification process takes a few minutes.
When the verification procedure is complete and no errors were found, the Windows 10 Setup wizard will begin creating the ISO media file, as shown in Figure I.
After the verification procedure, the Windows 10 Setup wizard will begin creating the ISO media file.
As soon as the ISO file is complete, the Windows 10 Setup wizard will prompt you to burn the ISO file to a DVD. To continue, select the folder containing your ISO, as shown in Figure J.
To continue, select the folder containing your ISO.
When the folder opens, select the ISO file, choose the Disc Image Tools Manage tab, and click the Burn button, as shown in Figure K.
You can easily launch the Windows Disc Image Burner from File Explorer.
In the Windows Disc Image Burner dialog box, select the Verify Disc After Burning check box, insert a blank DVD-R disc, and click the Burn button. After it checks the disc, Windows Disc Image Burner will begin burning the disc image to the recordable disc, as shown in Figure L.
Be sure to select the Verify Disc After Burning check box.
When the Windows Disc Image Burner finally ejected the disc, I put it into the DVD drive on my laptop and rebooted the system. Upon rebooting from the DVD, Windows Setup took over. After working through a couple of introductory screens, I was prompted to enter my Windows 7 Ultimate product key, as shown in Figure M. It took a few moments to process, but I was then prompted to accept the license terms and the rest of the installation progressed normally.
During the clean install, you will be prompted to enter a product key.
When the installation was complete, I had a fresh install of Windows 10 on a computer I hadn't booted up for two years. Best of all, this old system runs Windows 10 perfectly!
What's your take?
Do you have an old Windows 7 computer hiding away somewhere in your home or office? If you implement the technique described here, share your experiences and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.
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Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.