Windows 10 is used on more than 1 billion computers and devices, and many users want to install it on their own. One way is to use a USB memory stick with the Windows 10 setup, a disc (like a DVD or CD), or an ISO file with the installation. The installation process is the same no matter the source you use, just booting from a different source involves different selections. This guide shows you how to make a clean install of Windows 10 for free, using the following types of installation media: DVD, USB memory stick, and ISO file. There are many steps involved, so let's get started:
NOTE: This guide is based on Windows 10 May 2021 Update, the most recent version of Windows 10 when this tutorial was created.
Before installing Windows 10, read the Windows 10 Specifications on Microsoft's website and review its system requirements. Windows 10 demands at least the following:
- Processor or System on a Chip (SoC): 1 GHz or faster, compatible with Windows 10
- RAM: minimum 1 gigabyte (GB) for the 32-bit version or 2 GB for the 64-bit version
- Free hard drive space: 32 GB or more, for both the 32-bit version and 64-bit version. For the best experience, it is better to use 60 GB or more.
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 compatible graphics card
- A display with a minimum resolution of 800 x 600 pixels
Before you start, you should have the Windows 10 product key, even though you can install it without one. However, you cannot fully use Windows 10 until you activate it and provide the product key. We recommend using a working internet connection and a Microsoft account.
If you need the ISO setup image file for Windows 10, read Windows 10 Media Creation Tool: Create a setup USB stick or ISO. We also recommend a third-party tool that you can use to download any edition of Windows 10: Download ISO files with Windows 10 and Office (all versions).
If you want to run Windows 10 in a virtual machine, the best virtualization applications that can run Windows 10 are VirtualBox, VMware Workstation (Player and Pro), and Hyper-V. VMware Workstation Player, Hyper-V, and VirtualBox are the free products on this list. If you want to install Windows 10 on a virtual machine, you need to mount the Windows 10 ISO setup file before starting the virtual machine.
During our tests, we discovered that, in some cases, the Windows 10 installation process might not offer you the option to create a local (non-Microsoft) offline account. If you are not comfortable sharing your data with Microsoft, avoid connecting your computer to the internet before the installation is complete. This ensures you can finish the Windows 10 install process using a local account without being forced to create a Microsoft account to finish the process.
Finally, regardless of whether you want to know "How to install Windows 10 from DVD or CD?", "How to install Windows 10 from ISO file?", or "How to install Windows 10 from USB?", the steps you need to take are identical, so let's see how to make a clean Windows 10 install:
Boot your computer or virtual machine using the installation disc, USB flash drive, or the ISO file with the Windows 10 installation. In a couple of seconds, you see a quick message on the screen stating that you need to press any key to continue. Do what the message says, and the Windows 10 logo is shown while the installation wizard is loaded.
First, the Windows 10 Setup asks what language, time and currency format, and keyboard input settings you want to use. Make the selections you prefer and press Next.
Click or tap Install now to start the Windows 10 installation.
The setup takes a couple of seconds to start and asks you to enter the product key for Windows 10. Type it and press Next. If you are reinstalling Windows 10, click or tap that you do not have a product key, and your copy is automatically activated later. You can also clean install Windows 10 without providing the key if you click or tap on "I don't have a product key."
Choose which Windows 10 edition you want to install: from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Education, all the way to Windows 10 Pro. If you need to know more about the different editions and versions of this operating system, read: How to check the Windows 10 version, OS build, edition, or type.
You are shown the Windows 10 license terms. Read them if you wish and have the time. Then, check the box for "I accept the license terms" and press Next.
You are asked for the type of installation you want to perform. To make a clean install of Windows 10, click or tap "Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)." Otherwise, choose Upgrade.
You are asked to select where you want to install Windows. Choose the drive or partition that you want to use for Windows 10 and press Next. If you need to configure your partitions in a specific way, do not hesitate to use the tools available for creating new partitions, deleting old ones, formatting, and so on before clicking Next.
The setup takes some minutes to copy all the required files, and then it installs Windows 10. It also installs updates if it detects that it can connect to the internet. On a computer with an SSD drive, this step is surprisingly quick.
Once the installation is done, the Windows 10 setup automatically reboots at least once, to run the first-time configuration scripts. Wait for the process to finish. If you see the prompt below, you can skip the waiting by pressing Restart now.
While you wait, Windows 10 shows you the status of its "Getting ready" activities.
During this step in the installation procedure, you might witness a couple of restarts. Don’t worry, they are normal.
After the reboots are finished, Windows 10 asks you to choose the region where you live. Select your country from the list, and then click or tap Yes.
You are asked to confirm the keyboard layout that you want to use. Choose the keyboard you prefer from the list, and press Yes.
If you need to use a secondary keyboard layout, you can add a second one during the next step. Otherwise, choose Skip. You can also add new keyboards after installing Windows 10, using the instructions from this guide: How to change the keyboard language on Windows 10.
If you have a working internet connection, Windows 10 checks if there are any updates available. If that is the case, it downloads and installs them. You don’t need to do anything during this step. Just wait.
You are asked to select how you want to set up Windows 10. If your computer belongs to an organization (for example, the company you work at), select "Set up for an organization" and use your business account to sign in and access your resources. Otherwise, choose "Set up for personal use" and press Next. Since our guide is for home users, this is what we also selected.
Read the second page of this tutorial to see how to configure the user account as part of the Windows 10 install process. The second page is especially useful if you want to install Windows 10 and use a local account instead of a Microsoft account.