Software Windows

What is Cloud Download and how can I use it to reinstall Windows 10?

what is Cloud Download
Windows 10 can now be reset using Cloud Download

Microsoft has added Cloud Download to the Windows 10 May 2020 update. Time to break out the party poppers? We think not.

In theory, it’s great news as it means Windows 10 can now download the latest version of itself directly from Microsoft’s servers. This means machines can reset or refresh without you needing to scrabble around for USB sticks or DVDs. 

If this sounds like Apple’s slick Internet Recovery feature, then you could not be more wrong.

How does Cloud Download work?

Windows 10 already had an in-built recovery feature that can preserve your files whilst resetting the operating system. Look in Settings, Update & Security, Recovery to find the options.

Windows 10 recovery

You can select to keep your files or let Windows remove everything. Always remember that both options will delete applications (including Microsoft Office) and settings.

Reset this PC

Assuming you have a working internet connection and mains power (it won’t run on battery alone), you can click the new “Cloud download” option and begin the reset procedure. 

What is Cloud Download

This process downloads over 3GB of data before beginning the reset, so if your broadband speed isn’t fabulous, it may not be a quick process. When it finally completes, your PC will be running a fresh copy of the latest version of Windows 10.

Cloud Download reset ready to launch.

Is Cloud Download only available when Windows is running?

No. It is possible to launch Cloud Download from the Windows Recovery Environment (press and hold Shift whilst selecting Restart). However, this method is fussy about certain wireless internet connections and will usually refuse to download anything without an Ethernet connection.

Cloud Download in Windows 10 Recovery Environment

The Windows Recovery Environment is stored within a (usually) hidden partition on the hard drive.

The Hidden Recovery partition.

Unfortunately, the Recovery Environment is fragile. When required to perform a reset, it’s common for Windows to shrug and do nothing. Cloud Download should be the perfect antidote to this problem, but a broken Recovery Environment disables the Cloud Download feature:

Cloud Download usually needs an ethernet connection.

In its current version, the Cloud Downloader only repairs, to a major extent, a fully working machine.

How has Apple managed to get this to work?

The Apple Internet Recovery system is part of the machine’s firmware, meaning it’s even possible to download and install macOS to a blank hard drive.

Microsoft doesn’t manufacture the firmware (BIOS in PC terms) of a machine. This is normally controlled by the motherboard manufacturer, so it will take a collaborative effort between this company and Microsoft before Cloud Download will function like Apple’s Internet Recovery system.

What should I do?

Always have some recovery media handy. Use the Microsoft Creation Tool to create a bootable USB or DVD as this can often be the only way back into your machine.

Cloud Download is useful for refreshing a machine with the latest version of Windows, but the usual reason for doing this is due to a software failure. At the moment, you may as well stare at tea leaves to know if Cloud Download will be available.

Recovery Environment not found.

Until Cloud Download can be launched from the BIOS, then don’t lose any sleep over it. We’ll let you know if anything improves.

READ NEXT How to use Windows 10 Enhanced Search

About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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