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How to perform a clean Windows 10 installation

Doing computer repair for a living, I see quite a few computers that could benefit from a clean, fresh installation of Windows 10. Almost always, these computers started out running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and, at some point in time, were upgraded to Windows 10.

How to perform a clean Windows 10 installation

Then, of course, there are times that the registry has gotten corrupted or the hard drive has failed. But whatever the case, a clean, fresh installation of Windows 10 is always a great way to get your computer back to tip-top shape.

Now you might be thinking that just performing a reset of Windows 10 would work perfectly fine. And in most cases, you would be right. But if your computer originally came with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you could have problems. Let me explain.

When you bought your computer new, it came with a hidden recovery partition with all of the installation files for your version of Windows. If that version was Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, the data got replaced when you upgraded to Windows 10.

The recovery media issue with upgrading to Windows 10
The recovery media issue with upgrading to Windows 10

But the problem that I have encountered is the upgraded recovery partition sometimes doesn't work. So, when you try and reset Windows 10, it fails. A clean installation of Windows 10 fixes that issue. With a clean, fresh Windows 10 installation, you will know that everything will work.

The only down-side to a clean Windows 10 install is the fact that you have to reinstall all of the programs you installed. But if your system will not boot, then it is a moot point. You would have to reinstall them anyway.

Backup and inventory

So, the first thing to do is to backup your computer. You will need an external drive that is relatively large (I use 1TB, and 2TB drives myself) and a blank CD/DVD (system repair disk). Here is an article on how to use Windows 10 Backup.

Backup your files with File History and Windows Backup in Windows 10

The second thing to do is to take inventory of the hardware and software inside of your computer. Use a program like Belarc Advisor to create a list of hardware and software on your computer.

Make sure you print a copy of the results. You can also save a copy to an external drive if you like. But a printed copy will work the best, as you can check off items that you install after the reinstallation of Windows 10.

Create the Windows 10 installation media

This step is relatively easy. All you have to do is download the Windows 10 media creation tool. It is a stand-alone program that does not require installation to run. Just double-click on the application, and you are ready to start.

Windows 10 Media Creation Tool options
Windows 10 Media Creation Tool options

You will need either a blank DVD or an 8GB USB drive to create the bootable installation media. If you run the media creation tool on the same computer as you are going to reinstall Windows 10 on, it will automatically select the recommenced options.

Clearing the hard drive

Now comes the time to wipe the drive or just the Windows 10 partition. If you have a Dell or HP computer, they have a diagnostic partition, so you may want to wipe just the OS partition only.

Keep in mind that if you upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, the recovery partition that came with your computer to restore factory settings no longer functions. Sometimes it might be better to wipe the whole drive clean and be done with it. But that is entirely up to you.

I like to use the disk wiping tools included on the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD). All you have to do is download the most current ISO image and burn it to a CD. You can create a bootable USB drive too. The instructions are on the UBCD website.

Now, since the UBCD uses a version of Linux, it may take a little work to get your computer to boot up. If your system has Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) enabled, you will have to go into the BIOS and disable it temporarily.

Installing Windows 10

Now that your drive is wiped clean, it is time to install Windows 10. If you are using a DVD, turn your computer on, eject the DVD tray, insert the Windows 10 DVD you created, and restart your computer. If you are using a USB drive, plug it in, and start your computer.

Since there is no operating system, your computer will search all available media for a boot record. Once it finds the Windows 10 media, the installation will begin.

During the installation, you may get a dialog box requesting your Windows 10 product key. Windows 10 is a little different from previous versions of Windows, in that the product key is not stored on your computer, but in the cloud. Microsoft calls it Digital Entitlement.

With Digital Entitlement, you do not need to enter your product key during installation. Just click on the I don't have a product key link on the bottom of the screen. Once the installation is complete, Windows will automatically activate the first time your system can get online.

From here, all you have to do is install the programs and features you want. Then sit back and enjoy your clean, fresh Windows 10 installation.

Use the Microsoft Update Catalog to find and install Windows drivers and updates

Are you having problems finding Windows drivers for your older hardware? Or have you had an update to Windows recently fail to install and want to install it manually? Then the Microsoft Update Catalog may be just what you need.

Using the Microsoft Update Catalog to find Windows drivers and updates

Sometimes repairing Windows computers can be hard, especially when it comes to drivers and updates. Usually, using the standard means of obtaining drivers (Device Manager / manufacturer website) and updates (Windows Update) is relatively easy.

But there are times when I cannot find a device driver or an update to Windows fails to install. That is when I go over to the Microsoft Update Catalog and see what I can find.

The Microsoft Update Catalog is a collection of Microsoft drivers, hotfixes and software updates like Windows Update. They are the same files you receive through Windows Update.

Just like Windows Update, there are three (3) types of updates: Important, Recommended, and Optional (drivers). The only difference is that you can choose what version you download.

Searching the catalog is relatively straightforward. For failed updates, I use the Knowledge Base (KB???????) number. For drivers, I use manufacturer/model number or the hardware id from Device Manager.

Finding and installing Windows Updates

Now before downloading updates, make sure that Windows Update is working correctly. Check the Windows Update history and see if all updates are failing to install or if it is just one.

If all updates are failing, take a look at this article, Troubleshooting Windows Update problems. If it is only one particular update that is failing, then I would go ahead and download it then manually install it.

First, you will need the Knowledge Base number from the Windows Update history to use for the search query.
Finding and installing Windows Updates 1
Once you have it, type it into the search field and click on Search.

The second thing you will need to know is what version of Windows you have and if it is 32-bit or 64-bit for the search results.
Finding and installing Windows Updates 2
Some updates are specific to one version of Windows. Some are general, across the board, every version of Windows.

Once you find the update you need, click on the Download button. A separate window will open with the update name and link to it. Just left-click on the link and choose whether you want to open it or save it. Since some of these can be rather large, I like to download them to my computer first, then install them.

Finding and installing Windows device drivers

Usually, the Device Manager inside of Windows works great for finding device drivers. If there is a driver for your version of Windows, it can automatically download and install it.

But what happens when there is not a device driver for your version of Windows? That is when you need to look for one for a previous version of Windows. Let me explain.

For example, you find that Windows 10 doesn't have a driver for your older hardware. You check the manufacturer's website, and they do not have one either. Or worse, they have gone out of business.

For this exercise, I will use a Windows 10 computer and a brand-new RAID controller I have had sitting here for around eight (8) years or so. The box indicates the last operating system that was supported was Microsoft Vista, so it is safe to say that Windows 10 will not have a driver.

Usually, the first thing I do is psychically check the device for any manufacturer name or model number. If I can find a model name or number, I use it as the search query in the Microsoft Update Catalog.

If I cannot find anything on the device that identifies it, I install it a computer and start it up.
Finding and installing Windows device drivers 1
I then go into Device Manager and let it try to find a driver. If Device Manager cannot find a driver, I use the hardware id
Finding and installing Windows device drivers 2
as a search query in the Microsoft Update Catalog.

Now I know that there are no drivers for Windows 10, so I have to find one for an earlier version of Windows. I will first look for a Windows 8.1 driver, then a Windows 7 driver, then a Windows Vista, and then a Windows XP driver.
Finding and installing Windows device drivers 3
As long as it is the right platform (32-bit or 64-bit), I should be able to use it.

Once I find a driver, in this case, it's for Windows XP 64-bit, I download it to a folder on my local drive. Now the downloaded driver file will have a .CAB extension, so before I can use it, I will need to extract the data from it.

Once I get the files/folders extracted, I go into Device Manager and select Update Driver. I then select Browse my computer for driver software. From there, I browse over to and select the folder where I extracted the driver files. I also check the Include subfolders checkbox. I then click on Next,
Finding and installing Windows device drivers 4
and Windows 10 installs the driver.

For more information on the Microsoft Update Catalog, follow the links below.

Microsoft Update Catalog
How to download updates that include drivers and hotfixes from the Windows Update Catalog

How to manually install the Windows 10 Creators Update

By now, you must have heard about the Windows 10 Creators Update. There is plenty of information about the new features on the Internet, but nobody tells you how to perform a manual installation. So, let's walk through a manual Windows 10 Creators Update installation.

How to manually install the Windows 10 Creators Update

So, Microsoft has released the latest major update for Windows 10, the Creators Update. With all of the hype about the new features, it was time to check them out.

Now with major updates like this one, I used to install them the day they were released. I hate to admit it, but I went out and purchased Windows 95 the day it was released. Not one copy, but two (floppy disks and CD).

But after having issues with being an early adapter, I started taking the 'wait and let all of the bugs get worked out' approach. There is nothing like spending a couple of hours restoring your primary production computer after a failed update or upgrade.

And to make sure that nothing would happen to my production computer, I decided to use a Virtual Machine (VM). For this exercise, I wanted to work with a vanilla installation of Windows 10. No additional software had been installed, including an anti-virus program.

Now the first thing I did was set up a VM with the most recent version (1607) of Windows 10. I then made sure that it was entirely up to date with patches. I then shut down the VM and backed it up.

If I were upgrading a regular computer, I would use Windows Backup inside Windows 10. And of course, you don't want to forget to make the accompanying System Repair Disk. See the link below for more information on Windows Backup.

Backup your files with File History and Windows Backup in Windows 10

Now that I have a known good backup, it was time to start the manual update. I opened up the
The Setting icon on the Start Menu inside of Windows 10
Settings in Windows 10 and left-clicked on Update and security.
Windows Update is the first tab on the left-hand column and is also the default page for Update and security.

In the right-hand column, there is a link below the blurb about the Windows 10 Creators Update being available.
Windows 10 Creators Update notification inside of Windows Update
Left-click on Yes, show me how and it takes you to a page about the Creators Update.

On that page, there is a link labeled Update Assistant.
The Windows 10 Creators Update download link
Left-click on it will start the download of the Windows 10 Upgrade program. Save it on your computer, open the folder you saved it to, right-click on the Windows 10 Upgrade program and select Run as Administrator from the context menu that appears.

The first screen shows me the current version of Windows 10 and what version it will be when the update is complete.
The first screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
I left-click on the Update Now button in the lower right-hand corner.

The next screen gives a compatibly report, and everything is good to go.
The second screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
Before I have a chance to click on the Next button in the lower right-hand corner, the download automatically begins.

The next screen shows me the progress of the download.
The third screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
Before I know it, the download is complete, and the installation begins-time to grab another cup of coffee.

The next screen shows the progress of the update installation.
The forth screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
I love the warning about not turning your computer off like someone would get this far and then say 'forget it' and turn their computer off. But the note on the update taking a while to install is correct.

Finally, after a couple of restarts, the VM comes back to life with the intro screens. You know the ones that say Hi, We didn't do anything with your files.

Finally, the desktop appears with a Thank you for updating page and Microsoft Edge displaying a welcome to the Windows 10 Creators Update info page.
The final screen in the Windows 10 Update Assistant
The update is now complete.

So how long did the update take? Almost two (2) hours. And remember that this was a vanilla install of Windows 10 that I updated. I would imagine updating a system that has been in use for a while may take longer.

You will notice that the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant was been installed with the update. There are shortcuts to it on the Desktop and the Start Menu. If you would like to uninstall the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant, here's how.

  1. Left-click on the Start Menu and left-click the Settings icon (it looks like a gear).
  2. Then left-click on Apps.
  3. Scroll down the list of apps in the right-hand column until you find the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant.
  4. Left-click on it and then left-click on Uninstall.

How to setup Family Safety for Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

I don't know about you, but keeping my family safe on their Windows 10 computers is priority number one. Sure, you can install anti-virus software and browser extensions, but what about the kids under 18? Here's how to set up Family Safety using Microsoft accounts.

How to setup Family Safety for Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

Years ago, the only way I found to lock down my kid's computers was to add it to a domain and restrict the user permissions. And it did work. But not everyone has a server/domain controller. So, what is a parent to do?

Well, back in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, Microsoft had a product called Family Safety. It was part of Windows Essentials, which was a separate download. It worked quite well, but Microsoft dropped support Windows Essentials, and it is no longer available for download.

So, if you think that Family Safety just faded away, you would be wrong. Microsoft has taken all of the original program features and added them to its Microsoft account interface.

All of the same great features are there. You can still filter what websites your kids can visit and restrict access to certain apps and games. You can also set what time(s) your kids can use their Windows 10 computer. You can even set the appropriate age for the apps and games that can be accessed.

Now there are some requirements for using Family Safety in Windows 10 that may be a bit disturbing. Everyone, you, and your child need to have a Microsoft account. That, in itself, is no biggie. But your child will need an email address to create a Microsoft Account.

I don't know many five-year-old kids that have an email address, but if you create and monitor it yourself, you should be alright. You don't have to let them have access to it. They will only need the Microsoft account email address and password to log into Windows 10.

If you are looking at ways to protect your family when they are online, using Microsoft accounts is one way to go.

How to set up Family Safety in Windows 10 using Microsoft accounts

  1. Log into your personal Microsoft account. If you don't have one, then you will need to create one.
  2. Once you log in, look along the top menu bar and click on the tab named Family.
  3. Under Your Family, click on Add a child.
  4. Enter your child's email address and click on Send invite. If they don't have one, create one by clicking Create a new email address for your child. If you do that, then you'll be creating a Microsoft account at the same time. When you have your child's account all set up, you will still need to send them an invite. To protect your child's privacy, Microsoft does charge a small one-time fee ($.50) to verify your identity.
  5. Once they (or you) accept the email invite, then you can start configuring their online settings.

What your child sees and can do when they log into their Microsoft account

What your child sees and can do when they log into their Microsoft account

  • Manage sign-in preferences, just like a standard Microsoft account.
  • Edit personal information like gender, State, ZIP Code, and time zone.
  • Edit payment information. It only applies to their account, not yours. You can add funds to their Microsoft account through your account. They can also redeem codes and gift cards.
  • Edit their Xbox profile if they have an Xbox account. If not, they can create one.
  • Edit their Skype profile if they have a Skype account. If not, they can create one.

What you see and can do when you log into your Microsoft account

What you see and can do when you log into your Microsoft account

  • Recent activity. This section is where you can view your child's activity in a week by week format. You can also turn on or off weekly activity email reports.
  • Web browsing. You can turn on or off the blocking of inappropriate websites. You can create a (white) list of allowed sites and a (black) list of blocked websites. You can also only enable websites on the approved list, but your kid's computer will need the Windows 10 November update (11/16) or newer version installed for this option. And Safe Search is turned on, and InPrivate browsing is turned off by default. Now all of these web filters require that your kid only uses Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer. You can disable the use of Firefox and Chrome under Apps, games, and media.
  • Apps, games, and media. Here you can block inappropriate apps and games. This section applies not only to Windows 10 but also to Windows Phones and Xbox One. There is a pull-down menu that allows you to select the appropriate age for your child. This section will dictate some pre-configured settings which will enable or disable certain features. You can also view the list of blocked apps and games. If you want, you can also remove any program you feel should not be on the list.
  • Screen time. This section is where you set up the times your kid is allowed on the PC. There is a grid broken down by the week's days along the side and hours of the day going across the top. When you activate the time limits, the default time periods are triggered (7:00 AM to 10:00 PM). You can manually add, remove, or modify any of the periods, and you can have multiple periods per day.
  • Purchase and spending. This section is where you can add funds to their Microsoft account for use at the Microsoft and Xbox stores. There is also a pull-down menu that you can choose what types of apps and games your child gets; all games and apps, only free games and apps or none. You can also enable or disable receiving an email when your child gets a new app or game.
  • Find your child. With this feature, you can locate your child using the GPS inside of their Windows 10 Phone. If they don't have a Windows 10 device, you cannot use this feature.
  • Xbox privacy settings. This section I found only to apply to the logged-in adult account, not your kid's account. It is probably best to do the editing of your child's Xbox profile under their login.

Manage Mac disks inside of Windows with MacDrive

Even though we primarily work on Windows computers, there are times when we need to access Mac formatted disks. And being able to do that from inside of Windows is essential. That's where MacDrive comes into play.

Manage Mac disks inside of Windows with MacDrive

Now in repairing computers, we are often asked to recover files from old drives and transfer them to external drives. Sometimes they are two (2) different formats; NTFS (Windows) & HFS+ (Mac). And since Mac and Windows computers don't natively read and write to each other's disk format, having MacDrive is a necessity.

With MacDrive, you can read and write to Mac formatted drives inside of Windows. And since MacDrive works so seamlessly with Windows, you might not even notice you are using a Mac formatted drive. The little Apple drive icon kind of gives it away (but you can turn it off).

The Mac drive icon inside of Windows File Explorer
The Mac drive icon inside of Windows File Explorer

It can also perform various disk management tasks, including formatting and repairing Mac disks. It can also burn Mac formatted CDs and DVDs.

View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 10 Disk Management without MacDrive installed
View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 10 Disk Management without MacDrive installed

View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 7 Disk Management with MacDrive installed
View of a Mac formatted disk inside of Windows 7 Disk Management with MacDrive installed

MacDrive supports USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, eSata, SATA, IDE, SCSI, and Fibre Channel drives. It also supports legacy drives like Jaz, MO, and ZIP.

You can mount Mac OS partitions on Boot Camp systems. And you can also go through Time Machine backups. It even works with Mac files without an extension.

You can access all of the MacDrive tools from either the built-in Disk Management Window or inside Windows Explorer. And you can directly access working files straight from your favorite programs.

MacDrive comes in two (2) versions; Standard and Pro. The Standard version is more geared to the everyday user. The Pro version has more advanced features like mounting RAID sets creating Mac ISO files.

MacDrive is compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 (32-bit & 64-bit). For more information on MacDrive, follow the link below.

MacDrive from Mediafour

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