How-To

How to Reinstall Windows 10 without USB or DVD Recovery Media

You can perform a clean install of Windows 10 even if you don’t have the original installation DVD.

The advanced recovery environment in Windows 10 is used to diagnose and fix issues with your Windows installation. This includes performing a clean Windows 10 install, too. There are several methods for loading the recovery environment. These methods work even if you don’t have the original Windows 10 installation media you used for your first installation. With these steps, you can use the recovery partition built-in to Windows 10 to reinstall the operating system.

Perform a Clean Install Using Advanced Recovery Options in Windows 10

The advanced recovery environment is used to resolve problems that might prevent your Windows 10 installation from starting. There are several ways you can boot into it.

Option 1: Load the Recovery Environment When You Start Your Computer

This is the most common method because it can be used when you can’t boot to the Windows 10 sign in screen or desktop.

Press the power button to start your computer. Immediately when the Windows 10 splash screen appears, power off the system. Repeat this process two more times. Upon the third try, Windows will load into the recovery environment.

Click Advanced options.

Click Troubleshoot.

Click Reset this PC.

Click Fully clean the drive.

Click Reset.


The rest of the process is just like performing a new install of Windows 10.


Option 2: Load the Recovery Environment at the Sign In Screen

If your Windows 10 installation is able to make it to the sign in screen, but you cannot load the desktop, you can still boot into the recovery environment.

Hold down the shift key on your keyboard while clicking the Power button on the screen.


Keep holding down the shift key while clicking Restart.

Keep holding down the shift key until the Advanced Recovery Options menu loads.

Click Troubleshoot.

Click Reset this PC.

Choose to Keep my files or perform a clean install and Remove everything.

Windows 10 will then reboot into a second phase.

On the Reset this PC screen, choose whether or not you want to fully clean your drive.

If you plan to keep the device though, Just remove my files should be sufficient. If you are selling or donating your Windows 10 PC, or experiencing issues loading Windows 10 due to a corrupt user profile, Fully clean the drive may be the best option.


Click Reset.


Option 3: Load the Recovery Environment from the Desktop

If you are able to boot to your Windows desktop, you can boot into the recovery environment to perform a clean install.

Open Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery. Under Advanced startup, click Restart now.

Windows will reboot into the recovery environment. Click Troubleshoot.  Click Reset this PC then repeat the same steps as described in Option 2.

Conclusion

These are the three best methods for starting a clean installation of Windows 10 from a computer with Windows 10 installed already.  These options come in handy if you don’t happen to have any physical reinstall media such as a USB or DVD. Remember you can also create a recovery drive in advance, since this can be helpful if your system reserve drive is damaged.

If your computer can’t even boot into the recovery environment, check out our previous article Windows 10 Won’t Boot? Fix it with Startup Repair and BootRec Commands.

Have you had to reinstall Windows 10? What method did you use and how did it go? Share your experience in the comments.


9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. AL SEAWELL  

    This site is awesome!

  2. Amazon now sells disks that offer the latest tricks and tips; everything BUT a serial number (natch). I have used mine several times, and it’s by far the fastest method. I got mine for $10 ($9.99…); they went up as far as fifty bucks for (essentially) the same thing. It was what saved my bacon when Dell’s recovery system got hacked (along with a hard drive that was pulled PRIOR to complete failure).

    • Lisa Hamreus  

      Andre, I am thrilled with your comprehensive tutorials outlining how to fix Windows 10 problems, especially this article you have written, showing the methods for loading the recovery environment, can be a life saver. One step I take when I receive critical information from you, Brian or Steve (GroovyPost) is to save the information to my Google Drive in the event that my computer has crashed and I need to reference your tutorials to get back into my machine. Thank you, and the team for your time and the valuable information you provide. Haro

  3. lewb41  

    A computer initially came with Windows 7 and was upgraded to Windows 10 using the free upgrade. Will the above procedures work? Will it reinstall Windows 7 or Windows 10?

    • Glenn Charles  

      7. Although the free upgrade is available I’d buy one of those disks on Amazon I mentioned, which is also mentioned as useful for that in the advertisement and in practice–I frankly forgot to mention it, even though I’ve used it. Much smoother than any download and no triggering of AV.

      • lewb41  

        Apparently my comment wasn’t clear. I upgraded using the upgrade directly from Microsoft when they offered it initially free to get people to convert from 7 to 10. If I use the above procedures, which system will it reinstall (Windows 7 or Windows 10)?

        • Lisa  

          @lewb41, from what I’ve learned from various Windows 10 forums, unless you “roll-back” to Windows 7, if you need to do a reinstall (directives in this article) or a clean install you will still run Windows 10. Only you can revert back to Windows 7 or 8.1.

        • lewb41  

          I believe I now know the answer. I did a restart to see if it would fix a problem I was having. It failed during restart. The message was “boot disk inaccessible”. I don’t believe it was Microsoft options that then showed on the screen. I believe they were probably DELL options. I tried the restart and troubleshooting options. Still inaccessible. I then selected the “RESET” option. It had the options of saving data or complete redo. It did save my data. It removed everything else and did a total new install of the Windows 10 operating system including the latest updates.

  4. Geoff Harris  

    I do a repair install every 6 months. ( Just for fun! ). I build the installation files on to a bootable USB stick using MediaCreationTool. This stick also allows me to install Windows 10 on any PC/Laptop. G

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