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Clean a Drive without Uninstalling Windows

Old 02-01-21, 05:08 PM
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Clean a Drive without Uninstalling Windows

I have a couple of laptops that i want to clean the drives (as maybe selling them), but i dont have a copy of Windows to reinstall. Whats the best way to clean the drives without removing Windows?
Old 02-01-21, 11:00 PM
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Re: Clean a Drive without Uninstalling Windows

..can't really be done. Windows becomes a mishmash, hodgepodge, and quagmire of fossilized and skeletonized "stuff" which you CAN'T get rid of unless you wipe the drive and reinstall.

One possibility is to fool Windows into a free Windows 10 "upgrade", which you should be able to write to a bootable (UEFI) flash media or USB stick via a program called Rufus. See:


There are ways to "fool" the tool and get access to the Windows 10 Home .ISO from Microsoft, which you write to USB stick, and thereby install a virgin copy of the OS on your laptop, if you're going to sell it, etc.

No trace of your old, bloated, fossilized copy of Windows will remain on the "new" system.
Old 02-02-21, 07:24 AM
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Re: Clean a Drive without Uninstalling Windows

Yeah, what zyzzle said. Use the downloadable Windows 10 installer and just reinstall Windows, it may install without prompting you for a key, or if it does request one it'll accept any Windows 7/8/10 key.

Really quick process too (amazing how fast W10 installs). Otherwise, it's pretty difficult to clean out every nook and cranny on a Windows box.
Old 02-02-21, 01:57 PM
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Re: Clean a Drive without Uninstalling Windows

I guess I'll give an alternative view, which is that it really depends on how paranoid you want to be and how much effort you're willing to put in. You can uninstall any software that you used, permanently delete your files, create a new user profile and permanently delete the old one, and then use CCleaner to clean up other temp files and overwrite empty space on the drive with a multi-pass secure erase algorithm. You run the risk of forgetting or missing things though, like browser settings that might be stored somewhere other than the User area of the file system.

Just re-installing Windows requires far less effort and will blanketly limit the easy access to any residual data, but you should still overwrite the free space after re-installing Windows, as there are ways for bad actors to recover data that hasn't been explicitly ovewritten.

If you're more paranoid, you could securely erase the whole drive with a tool like DBAN before re-installing Windows. Or you could just buy a new, cheap hard drive and replace the existing one before selling it.
Old 02-02-21, 02:15 PM
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Re: Clean a Drive without Uninstalling Windows

You can create a Windows install for free on a cheap usb flash drive. If you're on Win10 already, it'd automatically authenticate for you, no serial # needed.

I generally do a fresh install of Windows once a every year or two because Windows becomes a bogged down and slow to boot over time.

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