Basic things to do after a clean install of Windows 10

Aug 8, 2019
Tutorials, Windows 10

Whether you have just finished installing Windows 10 on a computer or updated to Windows 10 for the first time, there are a few things that you may want to do; this isn't a list of essential software or tweaks but essentials that Windows admins and users should consider. Tech savvy users may well be aware of them.

These aren't mandatory, but more of a precautionary measure and include backing up the system, installing updates, making sure proper drivers are installed so that all hardware is recognized and working to its fullest potential, and more.

Basic things to do after a clean install of Windows 10

Basic things to do after a clean install of Windows 10

Install all Updates

This is literally the first thing you should do in my opinion. Some may prefer to create a backup of the system first, and that is a good strategy as well as it provides restoration options if updates misfire.

Note: The guide is for most systems. Some Windows 10 users prefer to keep in control over the updating and that is fine as well. You may use third-party tools to install updates selectively only.

clean install of Windows 10

Check for updates and install all available ones. You should disable the Delivery Optimization option (download updates from other computers) from the Advanced options under Windows Updates. I would advise activating Windows immediately as well there's no point in waiting to do that. The operating system may be activated already under certain circumstances.

Check your hardware

Windows comes with a lot of drivers pre-loaded, so your computer should be working fine. But in case it isn't, you can install drivers manually. e.g. If your GPU isn't working right or if  a device is not recognized at all or functioning properly.

Tip: If you have a graphics card, you're better off downloading the driver from the official website. I have had my fair share of buggy Nvidia updates, which I had to resolve using Display Driver Uninstaller.

A good way to check if all things are working would be to play a video. Optionally, you can run Microsoft Edge (install Ublock Origin) and stream a YouTube video. This should help you test whether your internet, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and graphics card are functioning, all at once. Plug in a USB drive to see if the ports are working too. Don't forget to test other components like a Wi-Fi adapter and Bluetooth if you have those.

Backup the OS

This is the most important step, after a clean install of Windows. Some may argue that this is even the first thing that you should do. But I prefer installing updates on the computer, and then imaging the drive.

You can use Windows' built-in Backup & Restore tool, or use a third-party program like Macrium Reflect Free to backup your computer's C: Drive. Save the backup image on a different drive, like a portable or external HDD. I cannot stress this enough, if you save it on the same drive on your computer, you may not be able to access it if the drive/OS fails.

Tip: Don't forget to create a Recovery Media (USB Flash Drive) after backing up the OS. Also,  delete the browser data completely after downloading the backup application.

Things not to do before backing up the OS

Do not install any software just yet

Apart from your drive imaging program, you should not install any third-party software on a clean install of Windows before you have backed up the OS. Even the installation of antivirus can wait if you plan to switch from Windows Defender to another security solution.

Why is this so important?

The backup is a fallback option should problems arise. Let's say you install some software or driver and your PC crashes. BSODs, freezes, or something else. And if your hard drive crashes? Do you want to spend time re-installing the OS and all those updates again with multiple reboots along the way? What if a malware infects your computer? You could disinfect the PC or even format the entire drive.

Re-installing Windows is a chore that has ruined many a weekend for me. But you can save time if you have a backup of the OS, especially if it is of a clean Windows 10 installation. You get to start from scratch, without spending hours fixing the issues.

You may also create regular backups of the system, with software installed, to go back to that state and not the initial clean after-installation state of the operating system.

What are the cons of this process?

The only real con is that the backup will age rather quickly. Microsoft releases updates for Windows on a regular basis, surely you know what Patch Tuesday is. So, your backup will be missing these updates should you restore it, say after a few months. But since the updates are cumulative even a slightly older backup can still be a good option.

Get into the habit of backing up your OS from time to time. And don't forget to take a new backup before Microsoft releases a major OS update (officially called feature update), the most of recent of which is Windows 10 version 1903.

Other things to consider


May I take this as an opportunity to remind you that Windows 7 reaches end of support in January 2020.

Now you: what are the first things you do after a clean install of Windows 10.

Basic things to do after a clean install of Windows 10
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Basic things to do after a clean install of Windows 10
Basic things to do after a clean install of Windows 10. You may want to do these, before installing 3rd party software.
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  1. Anonymous said on August 8, 2019 at 7:31 am

    Verify System Restore is enabled **** important ****

    Change the number
    of rollback days for Windows 10 feature upgrades

    I dual boot, and Fast Startup can cause problems dual booting. I disable this feature in Power Settings.

    Windows 10
    installing unwanted Store apps?

    old Windows files after Update installation

    Windows Defender Exploit Guard?

    Preventing Windows Update from installing driver updates

    Under System, Advanced system settings, Select the Hardware tab. Next Press the Device Installation Settings button.


    Use Local Group Policy Editor, under Windows Update. Some report this is the only way that works.

    Use vendor tools to ensure your computer BIOS and drivers are up to date. On my Dell run Dell Command Update, and SupportAssist.
    Dell Command Update doesn’t seem to work anymore, but SupportAssist does.

    1. Cinikal said on August 9, 2019 at 10:10 am

      “I dual boot, and Fast Startup can cause problems dual booting. I disable this feature in Power Settings”

      Dual booting with grub has never caused me any problems. I would even recommend leaving fast startup if you do not intend to access the windows partition.

  2. Gabriel said on August 8, 2019 at 8:24 am

    What’s the point of backing up a fresh Window installation?
    I get it when you already have it tuned to your liking or needs, with all the apps and drivers needed, but why fresh?
    I honestly cannot think of a reason why this is so important.
    I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? Install it again?
    Idk, maybe I’m just slow in the head.

    1. Rob said on August 8, 2019 at 9:24 am

      I don’t get it too. Upgrade install – ok, even backup shall be performed beforehand. But backup after clean install when it takes few minutes on modern hardware + SSD?

      1. Nate said on August 8, 2019 at 4:27 pm

        Especially since installing Windows 10 from a USB drive to an SSD takes what, 10 minutes soup to nuts?

  3. Anon said on August 8, 2019 at 8:29 am

    Speaking of ruined weekends due to Windows re-installation, back in my days of tinkering with software and hardware, I knew several Windows product keys by heart. This is how often I was re-installing Windows. Good ol’ days, when lack of time wasn’t an issue.

    1. ShintoPlasm said on August 8, 2019 at 1:20 pm

      Same here :)

      1. Ann said on August 8, 2019 at 2:58 pm

        I used Partition magic or simular tools and make en image copy of the windows state you want to keep (eg I like that some essential software is installed too like FireFox, office & thunderbird)
        that saves some more time. as all my data is stored on an other disk this is also part of my saved setup.
        in event of re install I just put the old image over the current one, and expand the disk.
        Saves al lot of time, but since WIN7 I never had to use that again, until W10 came along.

  4. banita said on August 8, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Useless article.

  5. LTL said on August 8, 2019 at 10:08 am

    I don’t agree with updating first. Best to uninstall all bloatware and other not needed software first. So start to install 10 without internet connection, install BCUninstaller, install Windows Firewall Control, install Windows Update Manager, set your preferences in Group Policy Editor, and then reconnect and search for updates. Ergo: a relevantly lean and clean Windows 10.

  6. Sleeping said on August 8, 2019 at 10:52 am

    I don’t see the need of disabling Delivery optimization if I’m using a decent hardware on an unlimited connection.

    1. SpywareFan said on August 8, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      Maybe because of security concerns?

  7. DaveyK said on August 8, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Interestingly, my list of things to do with a fresh Windows 10 installation differ greatly:

    1) Install and configure WuMgr to gain full control of updates
    2) Install OpenShell to bin the hideous Windows 10 Start Menu
    3) Install ShutUp10 to turn off all the spyware (I also save the settings once I’m happy with them and set up a scheduled task to re-apply the settings after every reboot)
    4) Replace the default system sounds to banish all those irritating “bingy-bong” Windows 10 sounds
    5) Install ONE (OldNewExplorer) to get rid of the ribbon from Windows Explorer
    6) Install WinAero Tweaker to get a bit more control over the visuals – ie, allows you to set colours for inactive windows and tweak/disable loads of other bits of junk as well.

  8. ZippyDSMlee said on August 8, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    I agree that you need a clean backup for trouble shooting but windows backup is not portable enough I use Macrium Reflect, which can turn 200gb install into a 20-30gb file.

    The best way I have fumbled to figure out is install, make a backup, then update(or disable updates so you can do manual updates as needed) and install your day to day software and make another backup.

    Outside of backup I like tiny wall and blackbird. Driver wise unless you got very old/odd hardware windows tends to pick the best for it, there are some USB 3.0 drivers and other that it can never pick correctly but it is best to not let it manage drivers since new drivers are more likely to cause issues.

    Really I wish windows would stop eating itself almost every couple of years windows degrades to a point dotnetframework or other core components are broken and can’t be fixed. So far the only problem I am having on this rig is update can;t update to 1903 due to “reasons”..its almost liek its a politician… the 0xc1900130 error is annoying but it’s not the first time I’ve had to download the whole ISO and upgrade it via reinstalling it…least this time its not destroyed the AMD graphics drivers…

  9. Anonymous said on August 8, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    Install Firmware updates before anything else – not all manufacturers do windows updates for their firmware (cough..cough…dell…cough…cough). Go directly to the manufacturer.
    After Windows 10 is installed, right click on start and select Device Manager and see if everything is ok there (no red x’s or yellow bangs). Take note of what is up there then do windows updates and check back to see if they’re resolved. If not, then it’s time to do specific driver hunting and installation.

  10. 3step said on August 8, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    step #1: don’t downgrade to Windows 10
    step #2: keep regular backups of your locked-down, streamlined Windows 7 system
    step #3: stay happy for years :-)

  11. nanoflooder said on August 8, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    1) Disable Windows Update
    2) Disable Windows Telemetry
    3) Install 3rd party Start Menu
    4) Whatever

  12. stefann said on August 8, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    The best thing to do after the installation of Windows 10 is to wipe the drive and upgrade to Windows 7 – 32 or 64 bit – depending on Your hardware !

  13. Teiji said on August 8, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    The most important thing to do after a fresh install is to “Turn off fast startup.” This is the most problematic W10 “features” and cause all kinds of problem from auto waking up from sleep to preventing a proper shutdown.

  14. George said on August 8, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    If you are connected to your WiFi or BroadBand then one thing you can see is that your High Speed Data will get exhausted within 1 hour or so, that was my experience after installing new Windows 10 in my laptop.

    I really don’t know what was consuming this much data, i think most of us saw that after installing a fresh copy.

    Next day around 10GB was downloaded and the only thing i installed was Chrome.

    Then i went to service and Stopped BITS service and luckily that solved my problem.

    But stopping was not a solution after one or two restarts that service was again active!

    Oh man, BITS took a lot of my data and finally Googled how to stop this service permanently and this guide seems to be helpful :

    I recommend you to turn OFF the the DoSVC also this thing also take a lot of data and still i don’t know what these services are always downloading when enabled!

  15. Richard Steven Hack said on August 8, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Ever wonder why *every single issue* of the magazine “Windows Help and Advice” has a balloon prominently displayed on its cover advertising “How to Reinstall Windows”?

    Because that’s what Microsoft recommends for *any* and *every* problem with Windows, including malware.

    The *only* time I ever have to reinstall Linux is when I botch something major like moving the OS from a hard drive to an SSD, like I did recently.

  16. Yuliya said on August 8, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Things to do after a Windows 10 installation? My list? Sure, here we go:

    1. Install Windows 10 LTSC
    3. Always pick advanced/custom install and opt out of everything you are being asked (cortana, telemetry, etc)
    4. Once into Windows 10 desktop go to Group Policy Editor and make these changes: Read the policy description, twice if necessary – for instance you disable Telemetry by Enabling that policy, not by disabling it! Restart after you’re done.
    5. Head over to Control Panel > Turn Windows Features On or Off > disable everything, restart on prompt
    6. After restart, back to Control Panel, use the search at the top-right corner to find Action Centre / Security and Maintenance, and disable all warnings (not that important, but will help you remain sane, for the time being).
    7. Disable Troubleshooter (also use that search box to find it).
    8. Head over to Settings > Privacy and check every submenu for options; disable everything (allow the device to use sensors or peripherals such as camera, otherwise Win32 programs won’t be able to use them either, but disable modern applications access to everything) example:

    9. Head over to Task Scheduler; refer to this article to find out which tasks to disable:
    10. Head over to Services; refer to this page to help you into making your decision: The four services starting with Diagnostic… should be your priority into disabling. Then Program Compatibility Assistant Service, for the sole reason of being anoying on top of being useless.

    If you’re on a SSD, disable inderxer, it’s useless – you can safely disable the Windows Search service, despite its name that’s the indexer, though I suggest first paying a visit to the Indexing options panel and disable there whatever you can, on top of disabling the use of the index databes under file/folder options for explorer. Speaking of which, while you’re there, take some time and disable cloud suggestions (LTSC does not have this functionality anyway, but why leave it enabled..).

    Restart. Now proceed to install your drivers, DirectX 9.0x, VCredists, latest NET framework (if you need them, ofcourse). Another restart, adjust the rest of your settings according to your preference, and now it’s time to backup your Windows installation so you don’t have to do this again (this whole process might take you a couple of hours, maybe even more, so…).

    Only now go ahead and install your software (browser, audio/video players, office, etc). And finally bring Windows to the internet.

    I know I missed some things, whenever I do such an install I always go back to the image and do some more changes then do another backup, quite a few times often. There are too many damn things for me to remember them all, but in large part these are the most offensive ones which nobody should have them enabled.

    You should update your Windows manually, btw:

  17. Virtual Wirus said on August 10, 2019 at 7:30 am

    The best way to run Windows nowadays is running it in VM under Linux host, I am recalling having read that Win VM under Linux is much faster VS Linux VM under Win, always thought this could be an option, and much easier to save a snapshot of any mods done to Windows on VM, would like to hear what others think of it.

    1. booyawalla said on August 11, 2019 at 10:18 am

      @Virtual Wirus That’s a bit off topic, but I will say I much prefer the ease of VMware in Windows to run my VMs in. Also, note that VMs are not good if you need the most speed from your rig. As such, I don’t use them much, and use a sandbox instead for my simple needs, as well us backups via other means.

      As for the topic involving backups, sure, VM images are a thing, but they still need to be moved off the drive, as with any other backup.

      Other than that, search this site, as there’s plenty of talk about VMs here, such as with VirtualBox.

  18. dookeeleelay said on August 11, 2019 at 9:27 am

    I don’t fuss with all that. I just backup my files. If Windows breaks or the drive dies, I just re-install Windows on a new drive if need be. It also doesn’t take me too long to install the free software I use either, as I have no software passwords or such to fuss with.

    That way, everything is fresh, updated, and safe as can be.

    I tend to do all that about every 5 years, regardless to any known issues.

    Also, I have other computers to play with, so there’s no down time.

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