Your step-by-step guide to repairing Windows 10

When Windows 10 gets wonky, there's a whole set of activities to try and set things right. If approached in the right order, the time required to restore a system is seldom more than half a day and often less than that.

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Step 5: Clean (re)install of Windows 10

This means starting over with a completely new OS installation. Why might this be necessary? Aside from reasons such as incurable system instability, malware infestation or problems that take longer to fix than the time is worth, it may be desirable to switch from legacy BIOS emulation to using available UEFI. It might also be desirable to wipe the boot/system drive clean to remove leftover items from older Windows versions (recovery partitions, OEM partitions and so forth) and let Windows 10 start over with a clean slate.

The good news is that as long as you've got a valid Windows 10 key or you've already upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1, Microsoft will recognize your PC and permit it to activate itself without requiring you to supply that key again. Nevertheless, if you've got access to the key, it's a good idea to put that file on a UFD or some other storage media just in case it's requested. This seldom happens, but should it be needed, it's good to have. (There's a great tutorial at TenForums about how to find and record your Windows 10 key and digital entitlements.)

The process for performing a clean install is 99 percent the same as that for the in-place upgrade from step 3. Just boot from your installation UFD, select Install Now, accept the license terms and pick the "Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)" option when it's presented to you. The rest of the details — and there are many — are all nicely covered in the TenForums tutorial on this subject.

When you complete this process you'll be starting over from scratch. It usually takes me more than 8 but less than 12 hours to work all the way through this process when manually setting up a new production PC, so that's the worst-case scenario. That means reinstalling Office plus all the apps and utilities that I customarily use on a production machine. (Be sure to check out the great Ninite utility, which lets you create a custom menu of common applications and tools that it will then install on your behalf.) For me, this covers about half of what I normally outfit my production PCs with, so I still have to download another dozen programs or so to finish up after that.

Figure 9: Ninite offers dozens of options for automated download and install; I pick at least 18 mys Ed Tittel

Figure 9: Ninite offers dozens of options for automated download and install; I pick at least 18 myself.

Picking up the pieces after the repair

Hopefully, you'll never have to venture further than Step 2 in this list. But if you must dig deeper than that, remember to clean up after it's all over. That means running Disk Cleanup (or some third-party alternative) and making sure all your applications are installed and working. It also means making another backup when you've got things the way you want them, so you'll have it at your disposal should things go south again. In the meantime, enjoy your repaired and rejuvenated Windows 10 system!

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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