How to Use Windows 10 Fresh Start

Perform a clean install while leaving personal files intact

A photo of the Microsoft Surface Laptop

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If your Windows desktop or laptop is loaded with bloatware, or your aging device is feeling kind of sluggish, it might be time use Windows 10 Fresh Start to install a clean copy of the latest version of Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro. Doing so could improve your device's startup and shutdown process, memory usage, browsing experience, and battery life.

The Fresh Start tool won't work for people using an Enterprise or Education edition of Windows 10.

Before You Begin Using Windows 10 Fresh Start

Before you launch Fresh Start, make sure you have a working internet connection and enough storage available on your device for a clean install. Downloading the tool and the Windows 10 install will take up at least 3GB. Additionally, make sure you backup anything you want to keep, like documents or personal photos.

Most importantly, Fresh Start will wipe out most of your apps, including ones pre-installed on your device and applications that don't come standard with Windows, such as other Microsoft apps like Office. Most of your personal settings will also be lost.

You might also lose your digital licenses and digital content associated with those applications, which could impact your ability to use them. For this reason, Microsoft doesn't recommend using the tool if you want to ensure all of your apps remain properly installed and licensed.

Where to Find the Windows 10 Fresh Start Tool

If you own a copy of Windows 10, it's likely you already have the Fresh Start tool.

  1. Open the Windows Defender Security Center app. The easiest way to find it is by typing it into the Windows 10 search bar.

  2. Select Device Performance & Health.

    Device performance & health button in Security Center for Windows 10
  3. Select Additional Info under the Fresh Start header.

If you don't have the Fresh Start tool on your device, you can download it here.

How to Use Windows 10 Fresh Start

  1. If you're accessing Fresh Start via Windows Defender Security Center, select Get Started, then follow the on-screen prompts. If you downloaded the tool, launch it and accept the license terms.

  2. Choose what you want to keep. If you want to hold onto your personal files, select Keep Personal Files Only option. Otherwise, select Nothing.

    PC Fresh Start options: keep personal files, Nothing
  3. Select Start.

  4. At this point, the tool will perform a clean Windows 10 installation. The rest of the process should be automatic, but you can cancel if you need to up until your PC reboots.

    Fresh Start can take 20 minutes or more to complete depending on your device.

  5. If you're missing any device drivers after Fresh Start finishes its tasks, you can go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update to download the latest ones, or you can download them from third-party manufacturers.