Microsoft has revealed an upcoming system by which Windows 10 will be able to reinstall itself over the internet, without the need to download a disc image - a feature Apple's macOS already offers and which was previously only available on Microsoft's own Surface devices.
At present, Windows 10 has a range of features designed to restore itself to a known-good state in the event of corruption or the desire to start from a clean slate. A true fresh install, on anything other than a Surface-branded device, still requires the user to download a disc image - known as an ISO, for the ISO 9660 standard format for optical disc media - from Microsoft's website to create a USB boot drive.
The latest Windows 10 Insider Preview, Build 18950, suggests that is to change in the near future. Designed to test out the features coming to 20H1, the feature release due in the first half of next year, the new build of Windows 10 includes non-functional references to 'Cloud Download' in the context of resetting or refreshing a PC.
While details of how the feature will work are not yet officially available, one Twitter commenter with a history of pulling out as-yet unannounced functionality has stated that Cloud Download will pull down the latest version of Windows from remote servers and install it without the need for a manual download or external storage device.
The feature is designed to make Windows easier to refresh, and older hardware easier to repurpose or sell on - but Microsoft's addition of it in 2020 puts it considerably behind rival Apple, whose macOS platform has long included the option to pull down and install the latest operating system image directly from the recovery boot mode.
More on the changes available in the latest Windows 10 Insider build are available on the official blog, but those looking to try it out are given a warning: Opting in to the Fast Ring release through the Windows Insider programme will prevent you from switching to the more thoroughly-tested Slow or Release Rings without performing a complete clean install of the operating system - manually, of course.
November 22 2019 | 13:00