Per­form a clean in­stall – the easy way

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How did you in­stall Win­dows 10? If, like the vast ma­jor­ity of Win­dows 10 users, you in­stalled it over the top of a pre­vi­ous ver­sion – such as 7 or 8.1 – you’ve prob­a­bly never en­joyed a full and clean ver­sion of Win­dows 10. That’s be­cause in­stalling one op­er­at­ing sys­tem over an­other is sim­i­lar to wip­ing a white­board with an eraser. Most of what you scrawled on there has gone, but look close enough and you’ll see rem­nants of what was writ­ten there be­fore.

The good news is that Mi­crosoft’s new Re­fresh tool is there for users look­ing to make their ver­sion of Win­dows 10 as fresh as if it had come pre-in­stalled on a new com­puter.

Here, we’ll take you through the process, start­ing with mak­ing a backup of all the im­por­tant files and in­for­ma­tion on your PC, be­fore ex­plain­ing how to re­fresh Win­dows 10 and then get it off to the best pos­si­ble start.

Back up your PC

Us­ing Win­dows’ Re­fresh Tool (added as part of 2016’s An­niver­sary Up­date) will leave your Doc­u­ments, Down­loads, Mu­sic, Pic­ture and Videos fold­ers un­af­fected. That said, when­ever you plan to make sig­nif­i­cant changes to Win­dows, we al­ways sug­gest you back up im­por­tant files as a mat­ter of course.

If you have a lot to back up – per­haps in­clud­ing large video and photo files – an ex­ter­nal hard drive might be your best bet. How­ever, we found that the free 5GB avail­able via Mi­crosoft’s Onedrive cloud stor­age was more than am­ple for the doc­u­ments and files stored on our PC.

You’ll want to make a note of any serial num­bers for any pro­grams you own (such as Mi­crosoft Of­fice, Kasper­sky and even Win­dows 10 it­self). If you’ve mis­placed th­ese along the way, you can use Mag­i­cal Jelly Bean Keyfinder ( www.snipca. com/23696) to re­trieve them. Click the Down­load but­ton un­der ‘Mag­i­cal Jelly Bean Keyfinder’. Dou­ble-click the down­loaded file and fol­low the in­struc­tions to in­stall it.

Open the tool to see the serial num­bers of any in­stalled pro­grams that re­quire them (in­clud­ing Win­dows 10). You can make a note of th­ese, or click File, Save As, then save as a text file to a USB stick or cloud drive (so that it’s stored some­where other than your C drive). If there’s a serial num­ber Keyfinder can’t re­trieve, check with the com­pany who made the pro­gram.

It’s also worth mak­ing a note of the apps and pro­grams you have in­stalled on your com­puter, so you can quickly re-in­stall any you want to keep us­ing. One of the eas­i­est ways to do this is to use Ccleaner ( Down­load and in­stall the free ver­sion, open it and click Tools (on the left), then the ‘Save to text file’ but­ton (see screen­shot be­low left). In the Save As win­dow that opens, nav­i­gate to a save lo­ca­tion that’s not on your main PC (such as a USB drive or cloud-stor­age folder), en­ter a name in the ‘File name’ field, then click Save.

How to use the Re­fresh tool

To launch the Re­fresh Tool, click the Start but­ton, then Set­tings (cog icon), ‘Up­date & se­cu­rity’, Re­cov­ery (on the left), then ‘Get started’. This brings up a blue screen which prompts you to choose one of two op­tions: ‘Keep my files’ or ‘Re­move ev­ery­thing’. The ‘Re­move ev­ery­thing’ op­tion will wipe ev­ery­thing ex­cept Win­dows 10 off your PC. The ‘Keep my files’ op­tion leaves your Doc­u­ments,

Down­loads, Mu­sic, Pic­ture and Videos fold­ers un­touched.

Click the op­tion you pre­fer (we opted for the slightly less dras­tic ‘Keep my files’ – see screen­shot right) and you’ll see a ‘Get­ting things ready’ mes­sage. Af­ter a few min­utes you’ll see a screen that says: ‘Your apps will be re­moved’, which lists ev­ery­thing you’re about to ditch. Click Next, then Re­set.

You’ll now see a se­ries of screens that say ‘Re­set­ting this PC’ with progress coun­ters. Even­tu­ally (usu­ally be­tween 30 to 60 min­utes later), you’ll see a black screen headed In­stalling Win­dows.

An­other progress counter starts on this screen. When it hits 100 per cent (this could take about 20 min­utes), your PC will re­boot and you’ll be prompted to log in us­ing your Win­dows ac­count de­tails.

Next, you’ll see a mes­sage that says ‘Hi’, fol­lowed by as­sur­ances that Win­dows is ‘Get­ting things ready’. Af­ter a few more min­utes Win­dows 10 will load and you’ll see your clean desk­top de­void of all your old clut­ter.

Re­in­stall your an­tivirus soft­ware

Among other things, the process will have re­moved your an­tivirus (AV) soft­ware, mean­ing your PC is only be­ing pro­tected by Win­dows De­fender. While there’s no need to panic, we feel duty bound to point out that De­fender was one of the worst per­form­ing AVS in our re­cent an­tivirus group test (see our Cover Fea­ture, Is­sue 493). So be­fore you do any­thing else, in­stall your old se­cu­rity soft­ware.

Re­move Win­dows 10’s de­fault apps

One down­side of start­ing afresh with Win­dows 10 is that Mi­crosoft takes this op­por­tu­nity to re­store its de­fault apps: Get Of­fice and Groove Mu­sic, for ex­am­ple. To shift th­ese be­fore they have a chance to get com­fort­able, we sug­gest you use Io­bit Unistaller ( 23705). Click the green Down­load Now but­ton then fol­low the on­screen in­struc­tions to in­stall it.

Open Io­bit Unin­staller, then click Win­dows Apps on the left to see ev­ery app cur­rently in­stalled (see screen­shot be­low). For the record, we man­aged to unin­stall 3D Builder, Game­bar, App In­staller, Cam­era, Get Of­fice, Get Started, Groove Mu­sic, Mi­crosoft Wal­let, Paid Wi-fi & Cel­lu­lar, Skype Pre­view, Xbox, Xbox Iden­tity, Candy Crush and Royal Re­volt.

Tick the apps you want to unin­stall, then click the Unin­stall but­ton (top right) and then Unin­stall again. Once the process has run, click Pow­er­ful Scan, then Delete to re­move all traces of those apps (you can al­ways re­in­stall them from the Win­dows Store if nec­es­sary).

Open the Start menu and you’ll also see a Sug­gested sec­tion with ad­verts for apps. To re­move this, right-click it, then click ‘Turn off all sug­ges­tions’. When the set­tings win­dow opens, scroll down to

‘Oc­ca­sion­ally show sug­ges­tions in Start’ and move its slider to off.

Set your de­fault pro­grams

Now that you’ve made Win­dows 10 as lean as pos­si­ble, we sug­gest you in­stall only es­sen­tial pro­grams and apps (see the box above for our sug­ges­tions). Once that’s done it’s im­por­tant to change Win­dow’s de­fault apps so that images, mu­sic, videos, PDFS, etc. open in the pro­grams you want.

Click the Start but­ton, type de­fault then press En­ter to open Win­dows 10’s ‘De­fault apps’ set­tings screen. You’ll im­me­di­ately see op­tions to re­place the de­fault pro­grams for the likes of email, maps and mu­sic. How­ever, for some file types you’ll need to scroll down to the bot­tom of the ‘De­fault apps’ screen, click ‘Choose de­fault apps by file type’, then scroll down to the rel­e­vant file type (for ex­am­ple, PDF), click the cur­rent pro­gram (Edge in this case) and choose the pro­gram you want to use from the list (see screen­shot above left).

Cre­ate a list of pro­grams cur­rently in­stalled on your PC us­ing Ccleaner

Quickly re­move Win­dows 10’s un­wanted apps us­ing IO­BIT Unin­staller

Use the ‘Choose de­fault apps by file type’ menu to change Win­dows 10’s de­faults

Se­lect this op­tion to pre­serve the con­tents of your Li­brary fold­ers be­fore re­fresh­ing Win­dows 10

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