Windows Clean Installation – The Order of Things

Windows Installation – A Clean Orderly Approach

I’d like to talk about a new, clean  Windows 7 installation, not an upgrade. These ideas have come about from years of installing Windows systems on multiple computers. I believe the following advice is the best I can give based on the many mistakes I have made in the past. The school of hard knocks may not be the fastest way to learn things, but it is a certain method of keeping your memory intact.

There is a definite order in which to install the Operating System (OS), drivers and programs in a way I deem to be best practice. If you do things in the order I will lay out for you, it will lessen the chance of something going terribly wrong. You’ll notice I didn’t guarantee anything?


This is the first and most important thing you should do for a headache-free installation. Prepare. Get ahead of the game…

Before you begin you should have:

  • Windows OS installation disc
  • Motherboard Drivers (these should have been provided with your motherboard)
  • Graphics Drivers (if you have a dedicated graphics card)
  • AntiVirus Program with the latest definition files

Note: If you save all these drivers on your C drive, that is the drive where your operating system will ultimately be installed, they will be overwritten. This will make all your preparation pointless. Temporarily store these drivers on a thumb drive or CD/DVD RW so you will be able to access them after installing Windows.

Install the above Operating System, Drivers and AV in that order. There should be no reason to be connected to the Internet at this point.

Internet Connection Point

After installing everything in the above-listed order, then you can connect to the internet. Connecting to the internet before you have installed a good Antivirus program is really asking for trouble. It has been documented that an unprotected computer can be infected in a matter of minutes these days. Believe me, the Internet is a dangerous place. Bring your best suit of armor.

You must realize that the drivers provided with your motherboard are nearly guaranteed to be out-of-date at the moment you receive them. I strongly advise you to get the latest and greatest drivers currently available before you start this process. These can be found at your motherboard manufacturer’s site, your graphics card manufacturer’s site, etc.

 Installation Order

  1. Windows
  2. Motherboard Chipset Drivers
  3. Graphics Drivers (for dedicated graphics cards)
  4. Antivirus (AV) software and updated definition files
  5. Every single Windows update that Microsoft has to offer
  6. Programs and their various updates
  7. Games?

I think the order in which you install the drivers is important so I list the MoBo drivers first, then the Graphics Drivers. It makes sense to me and I’ve seen this advice given over and over again on many reputable web sites.

I know you will be chomping at the bit, ready to put your new OS through its rigors, but you really should get every single update that Microsoft has to offer. There may be many of them and some might be quite large but this is a necessary step. It can certainly be a lengthy process but I deem it of utmost importance. It’s a security issue that should not be ignored.

Note: By having a pristine backup created after this lengthy and possibly unpleasant experience it is possible to turn a very long process into one of under an hour. Read one of the many backup-related articles here on DCT to show you how.

Check the status of all your drivers, too. If they are outdated, update them. Last but not least, make sure your chosen AV program’s definition files are all up to date. Very important!


After spending all this mind-blowing, excruciating amount of time on rejuvenating your computer, I’ll bet you’re eager to install all those fancy programs and, of course, the most important item on the list: Games! Remember that games have updates of their own. Even games can have security holes that you should consider. Online games are, of course, most notable in this area.

Stay security-minded in all you do on the now ubiquitous and infamous Internet. Use your brain and think before you click. One of the main reasons I can think of to re-install Windows is because of a virus infection. You can never be truly certain that you are virus-free without a clean install of your operating system, whether it be Windows or anything else.

You are your own best defense against the bad guys,



About The Author

11 thoughts on “Windows Clean Installation – The Order of Things”

  1. I think you messed up your installation order. If I read right above your list, it should be Window, Mobo drivers, graphic drivers, AV software, connect to internet, Windows updates, programs. Your installation order list is different than what you suggested above that list. You also did not mention laptop clean installs, which are a bit more complicated due to the increased number of drivers needed.
    Good article though. I have done this hundreds of times and I came to the same conclusions and installation order that I mentioned above. I also install Malware Bytes and CCleaner before anything else. Then, before any other programs are installed, I do a full backup image using Acronis True Image, or the imaging program of your choice. Then I install my programs, Office suite of choice, pdf reader, Firefox, and any disk burning software you may want and a defragger (if you have a conventional HD). I defrag the drive and do another full image, not an incremental one.
    At that point, I’m finished and I can then get to work 🙂
    Hope this helps someone.

    1. Hello Ken,

      I honestly don’t see a discrepancy. The order in both lists seems to be congruent.

      Help me out, here. If I have made a mistake, please show it to me. The last thing I want to do is make a mistake when it comes to sharing my experiences with the readers here on DCT. I want to be accurate and forthright. I will be the first person to admit error if deemed necessary.

      Incidentally, I don’t see how a laptop differs from a desktop in this regard. They both have the same requirements, differing complexities aside.

      Thank you for your input,

  2. Hi Richard;
    Here is what I’m trying to get across. One line in your article I quote below.
    “Install the operating system, drivers and av in that order; there should be no reason to be connected to the internet at this point.”
    Then the installation order is given as:
    2.Motherboard chipset drivers
    3.Every single Windows update that Microsoft has to offer -you need to be connected to the internet to do this. No AV software has been installed yet in your installation order.
    4.Graphics drivers
    5.AV software and updated definitions.
    My order using your numbers would be 1,2,5,4,3. I hope you see what I’m getting at.
    Also, laptops are much more complicated doing clean installs because there are so many more drivers in a typical laptop install, and they need to be installed in some kind of order usually. Otherwise the install of Windows is the same.
    I hope my input is taken in a constructive way. Just expressing my experiences doing many, many W7 clean installs.

    1. Hi Ken,

      I think the word “drivers” encapsulates items 2, 3, and 4 in the list that follows.

      Regarding laptops, I wholeheartedly agree that the driver situation is usually far more complicated, but how would that change the order of things?
      In my limited experience with laptops all those drivers you refer to are either on a CD/DVD or a separate partition on the hard drive. These certainly include the chipset drivers, touchpad, webcam and a host of others. I believe these would all be included in steps 2, 3. and 4.

      I am always up for constructive criticism and I thank you for your sharp eye and comments,

  3. Richard,

    My final step after a clean install is to take an image backup using Acronis TrueImage or one of the many other software programs that will do the same thing. And then take incremental image backups every month. Also it might be a good idea to make your own restore point within Windows (If that’s the OS your using) after adding your final programs etc.

    Take Care – Robert Taylor

    1. Hi Robert,

      I also make a pristine backup after a clean installation. It definitely speeds things up should you ever have to do it again.

      I’m afraid that monthly incremental backups wouldn’t cut it for me. My data is far too precious and frequently changing for that backup scenario.

      Whatever works for you, though…

      Thanks for your input,

  4. Richard;
    Sorry to say you are missing my point completely. If someone follows your installation order, they will be exposed to the internet without any AV software installed. You advise that they install all the Windows updates right after the motherboard drivers and BEFORE they have installed any AV software. Look at your list. This is the mistake you are making. Going on the internet without any AV software installed is asking for trouble. Even though you are installing Windows updates, you are going online without the AV protection. Please reconsider your order and put the AV software installation on the list before you do the Windows updates. You will be doing your readers a disservice if you keep the installation order the way it is.

    1. Hello Ken,

      I see your point and I stand corrected. I missed that and will change the recommendations.

      Your keen eye has either saved me a great embarrassment or has pointed it out to the masses. 🙂
      I’ll chock it up to old-timer’s disease and a true oversight on my part.

      You are absolutely correct when you point out the dangers of Internet access without AV protection.

      I apologize to DCT readers for this blunder and will try to be more observant in the future.

      Thank you for your help, Ken,

  5. The first 3 of your 4 bullets don’t apply to many/most? PCs that typically come with WINx already preinstalled by the vendor, so no disks are on hand. I suppose I could go to the mb & graphic card sites to download the drivers, but where do I get hold of a genuine Winx disk if I was never given one with my PC purchase?

  6. Hi Richard;
    I appreciate your kind words and that you took my comments in a constructive way. I feel your article will be very useful to a lot of people, so I felt it was necessary to be as accurate as possible. Thanks for making the correction. As far as old timers’ disease is concerned, I probably have you beat by a lot in that department. 🙂
    I also agree with you as far as full backups are concerned. I never do any incremental backups. I do full backups on all my clean installs and also full backups on all my office computers every month, as well as data backups daily onto multiple, different drives. Can’t be too safe; I’ve lost data due to flooding, so I take no chances! I also try to take my external drives off-site if I can remember to! (That old timers’ disease again 🙂 ) External usb drives are cheap, data loss is not.

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