Windows 8.1 Clean Install

Installing Windows 8.1 on a Clean Hard Drive

Windows 8It's true to say that most people who buy a copy of Windows 8 will have gone ahead and updated their current Operating System (Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7) to Windows 8, with no easy way to get back to the Operating System they were using before.

Another and often better way to install Windows 8 is as a clean install which involves completely removing your PC's Operating System from your C drive and installing Windows 8 on that same drive as the only installed Windows Operating System.

This clean install is often the best method of installing Windows 8 and is always better than upgrading, say from a previous version of Windows, like Windows Vista.

A clean install of Windows 8 will actually format your C drive and so erase whatever resides on this drive and then install and configure a new copy of Windows 8 for you to use.

So the most important thing to consider before performing a clean install is that every bit of information on the C drive that you are going to install Windows 8 on will be completely erased.

This means that the entire Operating System that's on there now will be gone - and this includes all the programs you've installed since you first purchased your computer. More importantly, all your precious files, music and other data you've saved to that drive will also disappear.

So before you begin this clean install make sure you backup all your important data. Backup whatever data you want to keep like your saved work or personal documents, downloaded music and videos etc.

Be sure also to backup any data files from your programs (such as the backup files for an accounts program or saved game files).

Backing up your actual programs isn't usually possible, so locate all the installation CD/DVD's and any downloaded installation files along with any needed passwords, so they're available to reinstall once the Windows 8 installation is finalised.

Locate Your Product Key

Your next concern should your Windows 8 product key. This 25-digit alphanumeric code is required during the clean install process.

If you've purchased Windows 8 yourself, the product key should be included with the DVD media you received, or in the email confirmation you received when you purchased Windows 8 as a download from the Microsoft website. If Windows 8 came pre-installed on your computer, look for a sticker with the product key somewhere on your computers case.

Start the Windows 8.1 Clean Install

Once you are absolutely sure that everything on the primary hard drive partition can be removed (e.g. you've backed everything up that you want to keep) then proceed with the clean install.

Please remember that once you delete everything from this drive, which is done in a later step, you won't be able to get any of that data back - it will be gone!

To begin the clean install process for Windows 8, you will need to boot your computer from whatever installation source you happen to be using, normally a DVD disc or a bootable flash drive.

In other words, if you have a Windows 8 DVD and you would like to install Windows 8 from an optical drive, then boot from the Windows 8 DVD. Alternatively, if you have the Windows 8 installation files properly copied to a USB based flash drive, then boot from that USB device.

Insert the Windows 8 DVD into your optical drive, or plug the properly configured flash drive into a free USB port and then turn on or restart your computer.

Watch for a Press any key to boot from CD or DVD... message if you're booting from a disc, or a Press any key to boot from external device... message if you're booting from a flash drive or other USB device.

Press a key to force your computer to boot from either the Windows 8 DVD or a flash drive with the Windows 8 installation files on it.

If you don't press a key to force the boot from the external flash drive or DVD disc, your computer will try to boot from the next device listed in the boot order in BIOS, probably your hard drive, in which case your currently installed operating system will start up. If that happens, just restart your computer and try again.

If you see one of the messages above, and your current operating system starts or you receive some kind of error, the most likely reason is that the boot order in your PC's BIOS is set incorrectly.

You probably just need to change the boot order in BIOS, being sure to rank the CD/DVD Drive or External Devices entry above the hard drive in the list.

To amend your computers BIOS see this article - Changing the BIOS Boot Order.

The first screen you will see is the 'Choose the Language to install, the Time and currency format, and the Keyboard or input method that you'd prefer to use in Windows 8'.

Once your options are selected, click or touch Next.

product key Here is where you enter your product key, the 25-digit code you received when you purchased Windows 8. You do not need to enter the dashes that are probably shown as part of your product key.

If you downloaded Windows 8, chances are the product key is in your purchase confirmation email. If you purchased a Windows 8 DVD in a retail store or online, your product key should have been included on your disc.

If Windows 8 came pre-installed on your computer, and you are now performing a clean install of Windows 8 on that same computer, your product key is probably located on a sticker located somewhere on your PC.

Once you've entered the product key, click or touch Next.

The next screen you encounter will be the Microsoft Software License Agreement page, which is essentially a giant text box containing the license terms for the edition of Windows 8 you're installing.

The next screen presents you with an important question: Which type of installation do you want?

Windows 8 Install Choice

You have two options: Upgrade and Custom.

Click on, or touch, Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).

Important: Even if you're upgrading from a previous version of Windows to Windows 8, I don't recommend that you upgrade. It sounds like a great option, with your files, settings, and programs all remaining in place, but the reality is often much different. You will get better performance from Windows 8 and whatever software you choose to install again if you continue with this clean install procedure.

On the Where do you want to install Windows? screen you'll see a list of all the partitions that Windows 8 sees on the computer.

Partition options

Removing the Current Operating System

The thing that makes a Windows 8 clean install "clean" is the removal of the partition that the current operating system is installed on, as well as any auxiliary partitions that the operating system was using, usually for recovery purposes. This is what will happen over the next few steps.

Windows 8 Setup considers partition management an advanced task so before we can remove any partitions, you'll have to touch or click on Drive options (advanced).

First we must remove the partition(s) for the current operating system that you're replacing with Windows 8. Remember, it doesn't matter what operating system is currently on the computer - an old installation of Windows 8, Ubuntu Linux, Windows 7, Windows XP, etc.

After choosing to delete the partition, Windows 8 Setup will prompt you to confirm that you really do want to delete the partition.

Please be aware that all the data stored on the partition that you're removing will be lost forever. If you have not backed up everything you want to keep, click Cancel, end the Windows 8 clean install process, restart your computer to boot back into whatever operating system you have installed, and backup anything you want to keep.

After this deletion exercise the space on your hard drive will be listed as Unallocated Space. In other words, you will have no partitions setup and your soon-to-begin installation of Windows 8 will be "clean" and "from scratch" on this empty drive.

Note: The number of partitions displayed and whether those partitions are unallocated portions of a hard drive, previously partitioned spaces, or previously formatted and blank partitions will depend on your specific setup and what partitions you've deleted in the last several steps.

Select the appropriate unallocated space to install Windows 8 onto and then click or touch Next.

Installation StartWindows 8 Setup will now begin installing Windows 8 onto the partition it created from the free space you selected in the last step.

All you have to do here is wait for the clean install to progress a little further.




The next screen you see is an introduction to a wizard you're about to complete that helps customize Windows 8 to your preferences.

Four sections are shown, including Personalize, Wireless, Settings, and Sign in. This screen only appears for a few seconds before automatically progressing to Personalize.

Personalize Windows 8

Two pretty simple options are presented on the Personalize screen: one for colour you like and another for your computers name.

On the next screen choose from the list of available wireless networks that Windows 8 sees at the moment.

Once chosen, enter the password if the network is encrypted and requires one. Click or touch Next to continue.

The next screen is the Sign in to your PC step.

Windows 8 Sign InYou have two pretty big options here for how to sign in with Windows 8:

Sign in with your Microsoft account

If you already have an email associated with a major Microsoft service then you can use that here.

If you don't, that's OK, enter any email address and Microsoft will create an account for you based on that email address.

The advantage of using a Microsoft account is that you can easily use the Windows Store, you can sync major settings between multiple Windows 8 computers, and more.

Sign in with a Local account

This is the standard way that previous versions of Windows, like Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP worked.

Your account is only stored locally on this Windows 8 computer. Please note though that you'll still need to create a, or use your current, Microsoft account sometime in the future if you plan on using the Windows Store to download apps.

So it makes things easier if you use your existing Microsoft account or create a new one.

Assuming you decide to do that, enter your email address and then click or press Next.

This completes the final step of your clean install of Windows 8! Congratulations!

Now you can begin installing your programs and restoring your backed up documents and files.

You'll notice that the Windows 8 desktop view (not the tiled view) has lost its Start button. If you want that back again download a free copy of Classic Shell from sourceforge.net - http://www.classicshell.net.

You can only install Windows 8 (clean install or upgrade install) using an upgrade license if you currently have a copy of Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP installed on your computer. True, the clean install process involves removing that operating system, but it still has to be there when the Windows 8 setup process begins.

If you Download a copy of Windows 8

If you are running a previous version of Windows (XP, Vista, or Windows 7) and want to download and install Windows 8 onto the same PC using Microsoft's web based installer, called the Upgrade Assistant, the online Setup program will walk you through the entire install process.

When it asks, Choose what to keep, just choose Nothing. This is a clean install, and is the easiest method.

Choose What to Keep

You can also use the Upgrade Assistant to create install media (if your current OS is Windows Vista or Windows 7).

You will want to choose this method if you want to format your hard drive during the installation process, or if you need to install Windows 8 on another PC.

When the Setup program gets to the Install Windows 8 screen, choose Install by creating media.

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