Sometimes, in fact, most of the time, a clean install of Windows 10 on a PC, laptop or tablet will cure even the most stubborn issues. And if you change the SSD or hard disk, you must do a clean install or at worst clone the old drive.
No, Microsoft does not recommend doing a clean install of Windows 10. It would rather you went to Settings, Update and Security, Reset this PC. It is also not the Fresh Start Option – these assume that you are keeping the drive.
What are your drive replacement options?
First, we assume you can use a Philips head screwdriver and can open the PC or laptop to
get at the hard disk or M.2 SSD slot. If you
cannot then discontinue reading and take the device to a computer repair place
that can do the change. That option will cost a couple of hundred dollars on
top of the replacement disk cost.
Assuming you have a 2.5” or 3.5” hard disk in a PC made in the
last seven years, it should have a SATA 3
(3Gbps) or SATA 6 (6Gbps) interface – these are backwards compatible. You can simply replace the old hard disk with a new one
or SSD and do a clean install Windows.
Or you may have a laptop with an M.2 keyed slot (or two keys)
and have simply run out of space. All you
need to know is if the laptop has an M.2
slot or a SATA 600 and or both. If it has one key pin, it does both PCIe NVMe and SATA 6, if it has two key pins it
only does SATA.
There are many replacements
SATA 6 SSD 2.5″ and M.2 (SATA 6 and PCIe NVMe) SSD come from Crucial, Seagate, Samsung, WD and many more. These range in size from 128GB to 2TB. Here are a few reviews from 2018.
Our advice is that any SSD is better than an HDD for the boot
drive. SSD will reduce the boot time from often over two minutes to several
seconds and speed up data transfers by a factor of 5 to 20 times.
Depending on your PC case or laptop you may have room for two drives (or more). You can use the HDD as a second storage drive. Or you may want to look at Intel Optane memory to speed up a hard disk as well.
Clean install of Windows 10 – the preferred method
All instructions assume that you have at least backed up the
folders My Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, Downloads and Desktop to an external
storage device. Use Windows Explorer to
drag and drop these to the backup device – do not use proprietary back-up/restore
Do not back up your Windows System files – they are of no use.
A clean install always gives the best results. The downside
is that you must reinstall Windows, all drivers and all your existing software
again. So, make sure you have licences etc.
With your existing system intact
Jelly Bean Finder (MJBF – there is a Mac version as well) and use it to
find the Windows 10 CD Key – it looks like this DA246-4VFG4-RBS8C-YRZYV-YY49C.
Write it down and also put a copy in a plain text file. You may need this key
to activate Windows again (Control Panel, System, Activate Windows) if your machine
does not recognise all you are doing is changing the storage.
MJBF may also be able to find other installed software keys
like Office, Antivirus etc. Also, copy these down.
Next, go to Windows ISO downloader and download the ISO Tool to make a bootable Windows install USB flash drive. The USB needs to be 8GB or more and should be quick formatted first. This is free and the USB can do a clean install of Windows 10 on any PC.
SATA 3 or 6 SSD 2.5”
Power off and remove the existing boot hard disk. The new
SSD disk should plug straight into the
cables – if not you can’t proceed and will need to take the SSD back to the
Put the bootable USB drive in the USB-A port and switch on. The
computer BIOS should recognise it as a bootable device. If not, you need to go
into the BIOS and set it accordingly or look up how to access the boot menu (often
pressing FG2 or F10 during boot) on your device. It must boot from the USB to
install Windows. If not off to the computer repair store.
After boot, a Blue Windows
install screen should appear, and you set
the country, keyboard, can allocate disk partitions and turn off all Windows snooping.
M2 SATA 6 or PCIe NVMe
Power off Power off and remove the existing M.2 SSD card.
The new M.2 should plug straight into the slot – if not you can’t proceed and
will need to take the M.2 SSD back to the store
The repeat the USB clean install process above.
Or clone it
Cloning is making an exact copy of the system, programs,
boot tracks etc., to new storage. The
problem with cloning is that any issues you already have will remain on the new storage. That could be a virus, malware, spyware, corrupted sectors and software
To use cloning, you must have an existing bootable, trouble-free hard disk or SSD and a spare set
of SATA 3 or 6 drive cables or PCIe NVMe M.2 slot.
Most don’t have spare cables or M.2 slots
so you can buy external USB 3.0 adaptors.
If you don’t have a spare M.2 slot (with singe M key for PCIe or SATA compatibility or dual M key for SATA 600 only), you will need an M.2 PCIe with M Key to USB 3.0 adaptor. For reference one of the first available is here. Or if you have a desktop with a spare PCIe slot mwave has a Simplecom EC412 Dual M.2 to PCI-E x4 and SATA Expansion Card.
You can get a USB 3.0 -SATA adaptor for under $21.99 from mwave or a large number of online sellers. Or Officeworks has a Comsol adapter for under $50.
GadgetGuy’s take: A clean install of Windows 10 is easy if you have done it 100 times
I have done it thousands of times, so it
is muscle memory. So too have computer repair places, and we know if it all goes right it will take a couple of hours at the
going rate. By the way, it will either
work the first time – or seek
Don’t worry about asking repairers to
reinstall software or download updates – you can save that money and DIY.
In summary – Any SSD is a vast speed and reliability improvement over a hard spinning disk.