Clean Install with a Full Version of Vista

How to Do a Clean Install and Setup with a Full Version of Vista
This will show you how to do a clean install and setup of a Full Retail or Express installation DVD version of Vista.
How to Do a Clean Install and Setup with a Full Version of Vista

information   Information
This will show you how to do a clean install and setup of a Full Retail or Express installation DVD version of Vista.
Note   Note

  • A OEM Recovery installation DVD can only do a clean install. It is just a clone of the hard drive that will set your computer back like it was from day one. The installation process is basically the same though, but can only be reinstalled on the same computer it was originally installed on.
  • A Express or Retail Vista can be installed on any one computer at a time for as many times as you like.
  • The product key number for the Vista 32 bit version is the same one for it's 64 bit version. You can only have the Product Key activated on one computer and version of 32 bit or 64 bit Vista at a time. See: Microsoft: License Terms for Software Licensed from Microsoft
  • Sometimes people have problems installing Vista with more than 2 GB of RAM installed. If you have this problem, then you should install Vista with a maximum of 2GB of RAM installed and add the rest of the RAM after Vista is fully installed.
Tip   Tip
For more information, see: Microsoft Windows Vista: Recommended System Requirements

Vista Home Basic
  • Processor: 1GHz (32 or 64 bit)
  • System Memory (RAM): 512MB
  • Hard Drive: 20GB with 15GB available for Vista
  • Video Card: 32MB Memory and DirectX 9 Support
  • DVD-ROM Drive
Vista Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate
  • Processor: 1GHz (32 or 64 bit)
  • System Memory (RAM): 1GB
  • Hard Drive: 40GB with 15GB available for Vista
  • Video Card: 128MB Memory, DirectX 9 Support with: WDDM Driver, Pixel Shader 2.0, 32bits per pixel
  • DVD-ROM Drive

Installing Vista
warning   Warning
Before doing this clean install, you should download and save all of your device drivers to DVD, or some other media, to have them handy to make setting Vista back up easier.

1. Boot the computer from your Vista installation DVD.​
NOTE: Make sure that the CD/DVD drive is selected first in the boot order in the BIOS.
2. When prompted, press any key to start Vista from the installation DVD. (See screenshot below)​
NOTE: You will only have about 8 seconds to press this key. If you miss it, you will have to restart the computer.

3. Set up your language preferences and click on Next. (See screeshot below).​

4. Click on Install Now to start the installation. (See screenshot below)​

5. Type in your product key number. (See screenshot below)​
6. Leave the Automatically activate Windows when I'm online box unchecked.​
NOTE: You can activate Vista later when you make sure it is running properly. (See STEP TWO step 11 below)
7. Click on Next.​

8. Check I accept the license terms box and click Next. (See screenshot below)​

9. Click on Custom (advanced). (See screenshot below)​

10. Select the hard drive or partition that you want to install Vista on and click on the Drive Options (advanced) link. (see screenshot below)​
NOTE: If the hard drive or partition that you have selected is unallocated, then you can just click on the Next button instead and go to step 12 since it is already empty.​
WARNING: You may not have the Drive options (advanced) option unless the installation is done at boot, and not running the installation from within your current OS.​

11. Select a hard drive or partition that you want to do a clean install of Vista on, do what Drive options (advanced) you want if any, and click on the Next button when finished. (See screenshot below)​
NOTE: If you have your hard drives in a RAID setup, then connect your USB key with the RAID drivers on it, click on Load Driver, select the folder on the USB key that contains the RAID drivers to install them. Afterwards, your RAID drives will be available to select from to install Vista on.​
Tip   Tip
Drive options (advanced)
Tip   Tip

  • If you have more than one partition for a disk # (hard drive) and want to get rid of them to make that disk # one partition drive again, then select a partition with that disk # and click on the Delete option for each partition with the same disk # until there is only one "unallocated space" with that disk # left as in the screenshot below.
  • To shrink an existing partition to create another partition to install Vista on instead, select the partition you want shrink and click on the Extend option. Type in how much in MB (1 GB = 1024 MB) that you want to shrink it by. Now select the new extended partition.


12. The installation of Vista will now start. Below are screen shots of what you’ll see during the install.​
Installing1.jpg Installing2.jpg
Installing3.jpg Installing4.jpg

Setting Up Vista

NOTE: Now that Vista is installed, it is time to set it up.
1. Type in a user name, password, optional password hint, and select a display picture for your administrator user account. (See screenshot below)​
2. Click on Next.​

3. Type in a computer name and choose a Desktop Background. (See screenshot below)​
4. Click on Next.​

5. Click on Use recommended settings. (See screenshot below)​

6. Set your time and date and time zone settings, then click on Next. (See screenshot below)​

7. Click on your computer's location to select it for the network location settings. (See screenshot below)​
NOTE: It is best to select Public location for the best security. If Vista doesn't detect your network connection, then you may not see this screen during setup.

8. Click on Start to boot Vista for the first time. (See screenshot below)​

9. Before Vista boots for the first time it must perform a performance check to see what features to turn on or off. (See screenshot below)​

10. Install all of your device drivers, then Windows Updates.​
12. When it is done, all you will need to do is to activate Vista.​
A) Right click on Computer in the Start Menu and click on Properties.​
B) Scroll down a bit and click on Activate Windows Now. (See screenshot below)​

That's it,

Last edited by a moderator:
Shawn Brink


Thanks Shawn for confirming me of my initial thought of doing. I've read somewhere on this forum that you can only dual boot with the latest(upgraded) OS version as a primary boot drive but not the other way around. So, I will heed your advice and hopefully I will prefer the Ultimate.

Thanks again.
You're welcome AbsentMinded.

There are ways around it, but it's pretty involved and a fresh install would be best to prevent problems from any potential mistake made try to work around it.
What a disappointment:mad: and confusion:confused: !!!
I forgot to mention that the Home Basic is a laptop and quite old. It was a free gift so no complaint from me. Anyhow, I didn't realize that it only have 446mb of RAM. WHAT??? I thought Vista Basic only comes with the 512 mb of RAM(at least) as stated on the Microsft website:
Windows Vista recommended system requirements:
Home Basic

* 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

* 512 MB of system memory
Is it possible that I might have lost some of the RAM elsewhere, such as Music files/Pictures/Antivirus or any heavy programs...e.t.c. If that's the case, it would still indicate the original Memory when it was built, correct?
Is there any way to increase my laptop's RAM w/o spending any $$$? I know it's inexpensive and I'm not a miser but I'm in a tight financial situation, therefore any $$$ can be saved is a great deal to me.

Most likely you do have 512 MB of RAM, but have 56 MB of it dedicated to a integrated video chip. The only way to increase your though is to purchase and add more to your laptop, if the laptop can hold more or replace the current RAM sticks with larger size ones. :(

If i backed up all my important files onto an external and left it plugged in the PC then reformated Vista, will my external be wiped or clean as well or not? Should i unplugg it?
Hey brink i dont understand step one "boot the system from you DVD drive". How do you do that? Do you just boot the DVD inside and then boot up?
Yep, you just place the Vista installation DVD in the drive and restart the computer, then be sure to press a key (step 2) before the 8 seconds is up. :)
Hi Brink, Great tutorial.

My laptops Win7/Vista dual boot, Vista has been acting up for a while. Finially found that among other things, there is no Windows Modules Installer in services, so no MS updates.

Tried sfc /scannow, found errors it couldn't fix.
Tried repair install, same issues as before and sfc /scannow came back with the same thing.
Tried restoring an Acronis image, didn't like that either, which was strange.

Quick review of the clean install of Vista tutorial, haven't done it in years, clean install and then try to restore the image again.

It's in the 'Completing installation' stage now but decided to go to spanish, and yes, I selected English and US keyboard at step 3.
Dell re-installation DVD, Home Premium 64bit.

So now, I'm using your tutorial for translation.

Hopefully, the image restore will take care if it.

Hope this hasn't been asked yet.I read through most of the comments.
I have a OEM System Builder Pack that came with my desktop.It says it must be preinstalled
using the OEM Preinstallation Kit? Do I need this OPK?
I think this might be over my head, but I would really like to do a clean install
Hope this hasn't been asked yet.I read through most of the comments.
I have a OEM System Builder Pack that came with my desktop.It says it must be preinstalled
using the OEM Preinstallation Kit? Do I need this OPK?
I think this might be over my head, but I would really like to do a clean install
Hello Sticks,

You could download an official Vista with Home Premium SP1 ISO file here: Microsoft: Vista Direct Download Links, and use Windows 7 USB-DVD Download Tool to create a bootable DVD or USB flash drive with the ISO.

Afterwards, you can use this DVD/USB to do a clean install of Vista in the tutorial on the first page here. :)

Be sure that you have your product key from the COA sticker on your computer first. You will not be able to activate Vista without it.

Thank you again Brink
I will check this out,I have the product key so that's not a problem
I am thinking it might be better to just buy a windows 7 retail and install that instead
I don't use ms office/word so the price is not that bad
Maybe a new hard drive to :)
edit...with the sp1 would i be looking at a whole bunch of windows updates?
Unfortunately, even with the SP1 already included in the installation disc, you'll still have quite a few more updates to install afterwards.
Hello Brink, I plan on doing a clean install of vista 32 bit on my PC here in a few weeks. I was wondering ...hoping your self or someone you know would be willing - available to be with me on the phone to get me thru the bulk of it, I know people want to say its easy but when I do this I want to make sure its done perfectly - correct... in every aspect. Im saving all my files I want to keep on a thumb drive, another thumb drive has the factory Vista CD. If you would consider it I could maybe send you some gold on Facebook or something for your trouble. I considered getting Microsoft support to help but they need $100.00 for one issue or $150.00 for a years worth. My PC is running great actually except for a few minor but irratating as hell issues. I will share just one that happened today... I downloaded some recommended drivers at today... one was for Drive E. CDrom drive... while it installed it stopped suddenly & said it wasnt for my funny since it was a recommended driver showing in the list right after it scanned my PC to verify my system, later I deleted the driver from the downloads folder since it didnt work then a bit later I happened to click computer on the decktop... it opened up & my E Drive was GONE ! Completly vanished... nowhere in the system, I tried to update or reinstall the driver & it says " cant find device " ! I had 3 drives C: - D: & E: ... now just C: & D: ... Anyway... I wait to hear back from you before I bore you with further details... One thing that troubles me is no matter if your just resetting or reinstalling Vista where it saves your files, or doing a full factory clean install... the instructions I have read so far everyone seems to do them both a little different as far as the steps they take. Thank you for your time & Post.....


Dale... DBV1K1NG
Hello Dale, :)

We do all support here in the forum, but I'll be here if you have any questions.

If you like, you can print out the tutorial to have handy to reference as needed during the clean install.
Hello Dale, :)

We do all support here in the forum, but I'll be here if you have any questions.

If you like, you can print out the tutorial to have handy to reference as needed during the clean install.
******************* ******************* *******************

Hello Brink, TY for speedy reply... yes a print out that is like a step by step intructions list would be great... please advise how I can do that. Well I guess I have quite a few questions,

1. Is there a way to save program files so when you install them back to Vista they will still work as in exe. ?

2. I saved all 8 folders on C: drive except Windows... saved folders are .... Users - Program files - ProgramData - Dell - MDT -Intel - MATS - Perflogs... Is this correct ?

3. I guess " Users " saves all my pictures documents - Email & important info ect...Is there a way to re-install this folder so it saves all my settings in Windows Explorer & things like my Desktop & Icons ?

4. I didnt save any thing from D: drive.. is this correct ?

5. I have everything saved on 2 thumb drives, Vista on 1 & all the above folders on the other.. do I have both of these thumb drives plugged in when I start the clean Install ?

6. Lastly... for now anyway sorry for so many questions, I can start the install by using F8. Dell has a program there that takes you through the install or do I use the thumb drive with the Vista install CD, do I select updates or no updates ?

Thank you so much for your time & help...


Hey Dale, :)

In Internet Explorer, you can click on File (menu bar) and Print to print the tutorial page.

Q1) Usually programs will need to be reinstalled after a clean install.

Q2) Those folder wouldn't be able to recovered after a clean install.

Q3) You'll want to back up any files inside your user folders (ex: Music, Documents, etc...) to another location. These files can be copied back afterwards.

Email is a different story. It depends on what email client program you are using, and what options is has to backup and restore.

Q4) It depends on if your D drive is just another partition on the same disk Windows is installed on, or a separate physical hard disk drive.

If on the same disk as Windows, then it'll get wiped out during a clean install.

If separate, then you are good to go. I would recommend to leave it disconnected until after finished installing Windows on the other drive to avoid Windows Setup possibly installing anything on it.

Q5) I would leave them disconnected until after the clean install is finished.

Q6) It depends on if you want to do a Dell factory recovery or a clean install.

F8 with the Dell program for a factory recovery to how it was when first out of the box.