A full, de­struc­tive re­in­stall

If you’re look­ing to wipe the slate clean, or need to re­cover from ma­jor is­sues, the nu­clear op­tion is al­ways the best one


Re­in­stalling Win­dows from scratch – namely, wip­ing your sys­tem drive to in­stall a fresh ver­sion of Win­dows on to it – is the ul­ti­mate choice for any­one look­ing to re­vive a slow PC or re­solve a ma­jor, non-hard­ware is­sue. Here we’ll step you through the en­tire process – if you’re sim­ply look­ing to re­pair an ex­ist­ing Win­dows in­stall, turn to our guide on page 70.

Be­fore you be­gin, make sure your PC is fully backed up by fol­low­ing the ‘Back up Win­dows 10’ tu­to­rial on page 43 of is­sue 148. A full re­in­stall re­ally is de­struc­tive – noth­ing left on your C drive will ex­ist once you’ve fin­ished.

If you’d like to trans­fer se­lected pro­gram set­tings from old in­stal­la­tion to new, down­load the por­ta­ble CloneApp tool (www.mirin­soft.com) to your backup drive. Once com­plete launch the tool by right-click­ing CloneApp.exe and choos­ing ‘Run as ad­min­is­tra­tor’ and go through its list of 247 sup­ported apps to see if yours are there. If any are, tick the box be­side each one you want to save the set­tings for. If any apps aren’t cov­ered – or you want to back up ad­di­tional set­tings – then choose Cus­tom where you man­u­ally spec­ify the files, fold­ers and Registry keys where your pro­gram set­tings are stored. You should also fol­low the step-by-step guide on page 71 to en­sure you have the lat­est in­stal­la­tion me­dia for your tar­get ver­sion of Win­dows. This will en­sure a cleaner, more up-to-date in­stal­la­tion from the off.

It’s also worth sourc­ing net­work­ing and graph­ics driv­ers now rather than re­ly­ing on Win­dows. Con­sult your PC or moth­er­board man­u­fac­turer’s web­site for these, or visit your Wi-Fi adapter or graph­ics card man­u­fac­turer’s site – down­load them to your backup drive.

Unin­stall any prod­ucts that re­quire ac­ti­va­tion – this should de­ac­ti­vate the li­cences and al­low you to use them with your new in­stall. Be sure to have prod­uct keys and pro­gram in­stall­ers to hand.

flash drive. Check the step-by-step guide on page 71 for some point­ers. The re­in­stall process doesn’t dif­fer much across Win­dows 7, 8.1 or 10. You’ll be asked to ver­ify your lan­guage, lo­ca­tion and key­board are set cor­rectly, then it’s a case of click­ing In­stall Now. If prompted, en­ter your prod­uct key or click Skip if you’re run­ning Win­dows 10 on a PC you up­graded dur­ing the free pe­riod. When asked what type of in­stal­la­tion you wish to per­form, choose the Cus­tom op­tion.

Next comes the trick­i­est part of the process. A list of drives and par­ti­tions will ap­pear – you need to se­lect the one Win­dows is cur­rently in­stalled on. By de­fault, it should be de­tected and se­lected, but ver­ify it’s cor­rect be­fore click­ing For­mat (click the ad­vanced Drive Op­tions but­ton if it’s not vis­i­ble). Click ‘OK’, then once for­mat­ted, ver­ify the drive is still se­lected and click Next. You’ll see a check­list of tasks to be per­formed – sit back and wait. When Win­dows re­boots, you may a ‘press any key’ prompt to boot from CD or DVD. Ig­nore and let the in­staller con­tinue.

Set up post-in­stall

The post-setup prompt be­gins with Win­dows 7 users be­ing prompted for their prod­uct key, then it’s a case of set­ting up a user ac­count. Win­dows 8.1 users will get an Ex­press Set­tings prompt – click the op­tion to cus­tomise these and go through them care­fully.

Post-Cre­ators Up­date, Win­dows 10 no longer gives you an Ex­press Set­tings op­tion. For now, con­firm your lo­ca­tion and key­board, set up your net­work if re­quired and choose ‘per­sonal use’ when prompted. You can ei­ther sign in with your Mi­crosoft ac­count or click ‘Off­line ac­count’ > ‘Maybe later’ if you plan to stick with the old-style Win­dows 7 lo­cal user ac­count. If you opt for the Mi­crosoft ac­count op­tion now is a good time to set up a PIN to speed up fu­ture lo­gins (note: the PIN is tied specif­i­cally to this PC, and you can al­ways by­pass it us­ing your reg­u­lar ac­count pass­word should you for­get it at any point). You’ll then be asked to set up Cor­tana – this is where Win­dows 10’s no­to­ri­ous pri­vacy set­tings come into play, so re­view all of the op­tions care­fully, flick­ing the slider to Off for any you don’t need or use.

That’s the end of the setup process – Win­dows will con­fig­ure it­self based on your choices and you’ll see a se­ries of mes­sages ap­pear on-screen. When all is ready, you’ll find your­self back at the fa­mil­iar Win­dows desk­top screen of a fresher, faster, smoother-run­ning PC.

“Next comes po­ten­tially the trick­i­est part of the process. A list of drives and par­ti­tions will ap­pear – you need to se­lect the one Win­dows is cur­rently in­stalled on”

Win­dows 10 users can launch a re­pair in­stall di­rectly from the Me­dia Cre­ation Tool.

Make sure you’ve got net­work and graph­ics driv­ers sourced.

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