Noob Guide: How To Clean Your PC By Re-Installing Windows

In an attempt to update my PC spring cleaning posts I realized one of my biggest recommendations was to re-install Windows and to start your PC from scratch without providing any information on how to do it. Today’s Noob Guide focuses on how to clean your PC in the most dramatic way.

Get it? He’s cleaning “Windows”!

If you’re too stubborn to wipe your digital work-space from existence, a full guide on how to clean your PC without starting from the beginning will be coming soon.

Most people don’t want to delete all of their precious files / programs and start from scratch but honestly it’s the easiest and most efficient way to get rid of the excess software and files on your computer. It will still take some time to set up but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Here’s a simple step-by-step on how to do it. Really this process is going to be different for every person depending on how you use your PC and which programs you use on a daily basis but it’s generally the same idea across the board.

1) Back-Up Your Files

  • This is probably the most important step to a lot of people. You’re going to want to look all over your PC for any files you may have saved in a strange place and throw them into a ‘New Folder’ in a safe place (use your desktop, who cares; since it’ll be gone soon).
  • Click the “start” (Windows) button in the bottom left your screen and go to “This PC” (for Windows 10, ‘My Computer’ for all older versions). You’ll want to check out folders labeled “Desktop”, “Documents”, “Downloads”. “Pictures”, and “Videos”. You could have saved files elsewhere but these are the default locations and I can’t really help you find anything else you moved around because, well, you could have put it ANYWHERE. Even check your Recycling Bin if you want, there will be no chance to recover this once you’re done.
  • Once you’ve gathered all your files and put them into a folder you’re going to want to see how big this folder is. Right click it and select “Properties”. Pay attention to the ‘size on disk number’. You’re going to want a flash drive (16gb-256gb) or external hard drive (1TB-3TB) to copy all these too. You may have one laying around but if you don’t I recommend the ones in the above links based on price and performance.
  • Once all your files are securely placed on an external device, remove it from your computer.

2) Take Note Of Your Used Software

  • This is something I forget to do myself and is extremely helpful when you actually remember to do it! Make a list on either pen and paper like neanderthals or in OneNote / Evernote of everything you use. You could even use Notepad and save a .txt file to your fancy new flash drive or external hard drive!
  • I recommend only re-installing programs you actually use, no matter how tempted you are to reinstall The Sims 3 that you played once 5 years ago.
  • You’ll need this list once Windows is finished reinstalling so hold onto it and keep it safe.

3) Have An Ethernet Cable Ready or Back-Up Your WiFi Driver

  • One of the more common and frustrating problems I run into is getting a device connected to the internet to be able to update drivers and replace your old software. This is easily fixed with an Ethernet cord plugged directly into your modem or router. You can take it directly from your modem if it’s plugged into your router since chances are you Internet Service Provider (ISP) gave you one to connect to your router. Or maybe they gave you a combo modem/router but then again they should have still provided at least one Ethernet cord.
  • There’s an off chance that your laptop (common) or PC (uncommon) doesn’t have a place to plug in an Ethernet cord or you lost it and don’t want to buy a new one. If this is the case, you’ll want to download a back-up of your WiFi driver and place an update file on your flash drive or external hard drive; just in case. Trust me, it could save you a lot of grief.
  • You can find your driver by going into your Device Manager (click the start menu and type ‘Device Manager’ and open the link). Click on ‘Network adapters’ and look for a Wifi or Ethernet controller. Simply whatever it says into Google and see if there’s a way to download a driver from the official website. This is different for most people so you’ll have to use a little common sense on your own here.

4) Reinstall Windows!

  • This is exciting because it’s like you’re dropping a nuke onto your digital workplace (America loves nukes, right!?) and building a new (digital) office. I personally love doing this, as daunting as it may seem to someone who has never done it before.
  • Windows has a tool readily available to help if you don’t have an installation disk handy. Basically any version of Windows 8 through Windows 10 can be recreated with this however if you’re still using Windows XP for whatever god awful reason; you’ll have to update to use it. Honestly if you’re still using Windows XP we can’t be friends anyways so I don’t feel bad for you.
  • The tool is easy and will walk you through the steps. It’s a fairly simple process but it could take awhile so go grab some lunch. You’ll need to confirm a couple times that you know what you’re doing and willing to erase everything in your PC. This is why we backed-up earlier.

5) Update Your Drivers

  • Back to the point that the ‘anyone can create a PC and sell it’ – This means all the hardware is considered ‘assorted’ and may have some issues out of the box with a fresh Windows. This is pretty normal and where most people get frustrated. Cheaper computers will have more problems but fixing them is honestly really easy with 3rd party software (it’s like a cheat code).
  • This is where you would make sure your device is connected to the internet first. If it doesn’t connect automatically, you would need to install the WiFi driver we mentioned previously.
  • Once you’re on the interwebs the rest will be a breeze. Whether your computer is functioning properly or not, it’s recommended that you update all of your drivers for security and performance purposes.
  • I recommend downloading and installing ioBit’s Driver Booster (I love ioBit and am always recommending their full product line). It’s free, easy to use, and does exactly what you need it too. Of course it’ll say that buying it will allow it to do more, but you don’t need it. Just continue with the free version. Scan. Install. Restart your PC.
  • If on the off chance this breaks something, Driver Booster saves back-ups of your drivers by defaults. Just open it and ‘roll back’ to a previous version of whatever is broken.

6) Reinstall Your Software & Enjoy

  • Now pull out that pen and paper (or digital list) we made previously. Simply go down the list and install everything you need to operate.
  • Once you’re all set up, customize your new installation of Windows by applying an edgy wallpaper and go back to surfing Facebook until you’re late for work tomorrow.