How to use the new Windows Refresh Tool to clean install Windows 10

Jack Wilkinson

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Over time, your PCs performance can begin to degrade. To counteract this, we would normally need to begin uninstalling programs, and using performance enhancement tools such as CCleaner to remove old registry entries and help fight some of the issues inherent in our systems that are causing bottlenecks. Microsoft, however, offer their own set of tools to allow the user to quickly get their PC running how optimally, such as ‘Refresh’ or ‘Reset’.

For fast ring Insider’s on Windows 10, the company has released their new tool to clean install the operating system. This tool brings your PC back to its original state, as well as installing one of the more recent Insider builds, although not necessarily the latest one available. Provided that you are on one of the ‘Redstone’ builds, you should be able to use this tool without any issues.

Where do I access this new tool?

This new tool can be downloaded freely. The quickest route to obtain the tool is by heading straight to this download link, alternatively, you can go to the Settings app, then select Update & Security, and finally, Recovery. From there you will see a link at the bottom that reads “Learn how to start afresh with a clean installation of Windows”, this link will take you through to the announcement post on the Microsoft Answer’s site.

Clean install tool from Settings app
Clean install tool from Settings app

Got it. Now how do I use this to clean install Windows 10?

Once you have opened the downloaded file, it will ask you to provide it with elevated privileges, and then you will be prompted to accept the License Agreement. Provided that you agree with the terms, you’ll then be asked whether you would like to keep your personal files or have everything completely wiped.

Tip: Backup anything you might want to keep!

Clean install - to keep or not to keep?
Clean install – to keep or not to keep?

After you have selected your files preference, and clicked Install, the process will begin. It will download one of the more recent fast ring Insider build’s and begin applying it to your system. Whilst the tool downloads the required files, you will be able to cancel the process. Buttons will appear to be disabled, and during this period you can exit the tool, which will stop the process.

In what ways can this tool help me?

The Refresh Tool is a great way to start your PC from fresh, which is its main use. One great advantage to this tool is that, once you buy a new PC from an OEM, such as Lenovo, you can use this tool to completely wipe the device and remove any bloatware that may have come pre-installed. This has its own advantages: bloatware is known to cause performance degradation, and also exhibit security flaws. So, if you go out and buy a new machine, make sure to run this tool before you begin using it!

Just a few things to keep in mind…

This is a new tool for Windows 10, and as such, it has a few oddities that you may want to be aware of before you begin the process of clean installing your operating system.

  • The build installed is not necessarily going to be the latest build, although it will be a fairly recent one
  • It removes all applications that do not ship with a clean version of Windows 10 – including drivers, OEM tools and user-installed programs
  • Paid-for content, such as in-app content and digital licenses may not be carried over on to your new installation
  • If your currently installed build is more recent that the one the tool will install, you will be prompted to keep ‘Nothing’. You won’t be able to keep your files in this scenario.
  • Apps that have been downloaded or purchased from the Store can be re-downloaded by going to Store > My Library

As always – Microsoft recommends you do not use this tool, nor Insider builds, on your day-to-day PC. These utilities are there for testing and reporting issues; always backup anything you need either to an external storage device (USB drive, external hard drive, etc) or cloud storage (OneDrive, Dropbox, etc).