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/Clean Install/

Following is a report of a clean installation and restauration of a Windows 10 laptop to a Windows 11 machine. Including all documents, mail, bookmarks, programs, the works.

Windows 11 health checkMy Windows 10 laptop was not supported for a Windows 11 upgrade, due to an older CPU, but I knew it had to be possible to anyway install Windows 11 on it.

So, what would be the best preparation to do a clean install and keep all documents and settings? It was not the first time I did something like that, so I had some experience. It is anyway a good idea to do this once a year or something. Windows gets dirty and slow after some time. This is how I did it:

A first step is to clean up the old system: reorder and clean out browser bookmarks, remove files and programs that are never used, delete duplicates, and so on.

Once that is done, a clone of the entire system needs to be made on an external hard drive. A program like Macrium Reflect is perfect for this. Version 7 of this program is still free and can be downloaded here. Version 8 has a free trial, but must be paid for after the trial.

Very important is to create a list of all logins and product keys ('serials'). Think of logins for Google, Microsoft, Dropbox and similar accounts. The list should be kept on an external environment (cloud, other computer or external drive) or, why not, on paper. Also a good idea is to make a list of download sites for the programs you are using. Very handy is Ninite, which can bundle and install a large number of apps that are very useful.

What should also be saved are the settings of, for instance, an FTP program. Filezilla has an export/import function for this. Also consider contact data in the address book of an e-mail program. This is not necessary for Thunderbird. The profile folder on a clone backup that was made can be transferred to the new configuration without further ado, including all the mails! For this, see here. A Google account will remember (if set to synchronize) all your settings like logins, bookmarks, extentions and themes, etcetera. As soon as being logged on to an account with Chrome it will place everything back to all devices. Absolutely marvelous! Even an agenda from Google Agenda can be placed back in Thunderbird Agenda when it is connected with the extension 'Provider for Google Agenda'.

Once all that is done, the clean installation can be initiated. I used the program Rufus to create an installation program from a Windows 11 .iso file on a USB stick. It should be able to hold at least 8 GB. Remember that old data on the stick will be deleted. Rufus can be used to do a regular installation of Windows 10 and 11, but can also be set up to install on a PC that cannot officially be updated to Windows 11. See also here.

To install from USB, you will probably need to change the boot order in the BIOS. You can do this in the following way:
Go to Settings > Update and Security > System Recovery > Advanced Boot Options. Select Troubleshoot from the menu, and then click Advanced Options. Click UEFI Firmware Settings, then select Restart. Change the boot order in your PC's BIOS or UEFI settings. Put USB HD first and save.

Then comes the exciting moment of the actual installation. Boot up with the USB stick and Windows Setup will appear. When the Windows desktop appears, you can then choose to remove all the ballast that came with Windows. You can use a 'debloat' program to do this. This will usually be a script executed via Powershell. A list of Windows 11 debloaters can be found here.

At last the process of restoring all documents and settings can be done... and you've finished the procedure.

Extra

Explorer PatcherWindows 11's taskbar cannot officially be moved to the top or side of the screen. A Google search will often yield a way to do this via a Registry tweak. This will not work with the later versions of Windows 11. It does work via the Explorer Patcher program you can download here. Don't take the latest version, because Windows will prohibit the download and will say it contains a virus. Instructions for the program can be found here.

Another customisation of the Windows screen is with a 'dock', similar to what you find on a Macintosh. For Windows, there is the free Nexus dock. I don't find it convenient at the bottom, but on the left side is fine for me.

And this is what my Windows 11 Desktop (in 'dark mode') looks like now:

My Windows 11 desktop