For IT admins, there are several ways to take care of Windows deployment. Some tools like InTune and Windows AutoPilot simplify things greatly, making deployment a piece of cake. In this post, I will simply forget all about deployment on a grand scale. Instead, I will explain how a private Windows computer should be set up (in my humble opinion, at least). I am also forgetting self-assembled computers because it is up to the buyer to decide how and where to get components and an operating system.
This post is about setting up computers that come with Windows 10 pre-installed. I fully understand that some of you geeks may disagree with my approach. Even so, this is a procedure which has always worked for me. As always: comments are welcome!
Unpacking a new PC or laptop gives me great pleasure. It is a nice feeling to press that power button for the first time and see Windows come to life. However, depending on the manufacturer, a new computer can be full of so-called bloatware — that is, software that may be completely unnecessary or impractical. I am an HP fan, but to be honest I’ve never seen any useful software pre-installed on any of their computers or laptops I’ve bought or otherwise acquired, be it a third party media player or a trial of some AV suite.
When booting up a new PC for the first time, I’ll create a local user account and let it boot to the pre-installed Windows desktop. I do this for three reasons before wiping the SSD / HDD and re-installing from scratch. First, I want to get Windows licensed with a valid digital license. Once this is accomplished, all future installs of the same edition on that device will be automatically activated. Next, I backup all drivers using PowerShell, for them to be injected into my custom deployment image later on. Windows is pretty good at finding necessary drivers. In fact, I have not had to manually download any drivers in years.
Last but not least, I install Macrium Reflect and create a full image backup, in case I might want to restore the computer to factory condition. Note: it is extremely important is to include the manufacture’s OEM recovery partition in such a backup.
That’s everything I do with pre-installed Windows. When that’s done, I shut the PC down. Then I inject the exported drivers into the custom deployment image I prepared earlier (see this series of posts for details). You can also check out my tutorial on TenForums on how to export current drivers and inject them into a Windows image.
Booting the computer up from my custom install media, the autounattend.xml answer file I use completely wipes the disk / disks. Everything is removed, from pre-installed Windows to the OEM recovery partition. Windows 10 gets clean installed, with pre-installed software I choose for my custom image. When the PC desktop appears after the first boot, everything is as I want it to be. No bloatware, just Windows plus my chosen software. As soon as that desktop appears, I create a custom recovery partition, using my captured custom Windows image to build it. See this post for more information about creating such a custom recovery partition.
That’s it! In a few simple steps I have removed all bloatware, made the Windows footprint much smaller and sped up the PC. In case I for instance want to sell the computer later on in “factory condition”, I have my Macrium Reflect image to restore everything as it was when I first got it.
In my opinion, there’s absolutely no reason to use pre-installed Windows 10. Earlier, before Windows 10 and digital licensing, I didn’t boot pre-installed Vista, 7 or 8 on new machines. In fact, the first press of the power button booted into my custom install media. Of course, that also involved some work no longer needed like getting drivers. Now that Windows 10 is so good at finding the correct drivers, and with digital licensing, I’ll boot once to pre-installed Windows for the aforementioned reasons. Then, the second boot wipes out everything and allows me to start with a fresh, clean Windows 10 installation. I recommend you do likewise.
Author: Kari Finn
A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.