Wayne from Florida writes: So I upgrade to Windows 10 and sometime after next July my hard drive gives up the ghost. How will re-installs on a new HDD be handled? Will there be a product key; registration verification; or do we have to pay after July 2016?

The early Windows 10 adopters have experienced their fair share of issues as the operating system finally sees widespread use – like updates suddenly erasing everything from the Start menu or constant “Cortana and the Start Menu failed to load” error messages when you boot up your PC.

These problems will no doubt be resolved as Microsoft works out the kinks, but eventually many users will still want to perform a clean installation to get rid of troubled programs and speed up your system anyway.

A big question mark has surrounded that process for Windows 10 however, since many people upgraded for free online and don’t have any sort of reinstall disc. Wayne isn’t the only one wondering if those who took the offered upgrade are going to be left holding the bag and end up having to buy a new Windows disc.

Thankfully, Microsoft has now clarified that anyone who snagged the free upgrade from Windows 7/8 to Windows 10 can still perform a clean install at any time, although the process will vary depending on why the re-install is occurring.

See, Microsoft will let you reinstall on the same device any time you want – but there’s the rub, if you replace major components, your computer is no longer considered the “same device.” For instance if you swap out your motherboard, well, you’re not covered anymore, because you’ve essentially got a new machine.

The hard drive is a different issue though, since they may die and need to be replaced on the same machine – but with a different hard drive, you won’t have any of your free Windows 10 upgrade files. In that instance, you’ll actually have to call Microsoft and have them remotely install Windows 10 for you, which will almost certainly be a hassle. If you want to avoid all that trouble in the future, you can make an installation disc of your own ahead of time using your current computer’s Windows product key. Microsoft explains all about how to perform that process right here.

If you are performing a clean install on the same hard drive, however, the process is quite simple – starting with heading to the “Settings” area of the Start menu.

Settings
Settings

From there, click the “Update and Security” button at the bottom of the window.

Update and Security
Update and Security

Navigate to the “Recovery” tab on the left and then and click the “Get Started” button at the right side of the window.

Reinstalling Windows 10
Reinstalling Windows 10

Now just follow the on-screen prompts to decide if you want to keep any files or completely wipe everything and start over.

~ Ty Arthur