MAKE WINDOWS 10 RUN LIKE NEW
Perform a clean install – the easy way
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 ( www.snipca.com/23697). 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 ( www.snipca.com/ 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