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Reset and Refresh Windows Instead of Doing a Complete Reinstall

Having so many problems with Microsoft Windows 8 that you need to reinstall it? There’s a simpler way: Use Microsoft Windows 8’s Reset or Refresh alternative options instead.

You know the moment, that moment when you realize that your OS has such problems that there’s only one solution: clean it out and begin from scratch by re-installing it.

A full reinstall is a troublesome, time consuming headache, because you have to backup all your data somewhere, wipe your hard disk, reinstall Microsoft Windows, and then restore your data. It is rare that you will get it exactly right. And that assumes that you even remember where your Windows installations disc is.

Microsoft Windows 8, for the first time in Windows history, provides you a better way. It introduces two related new features that allow you essentially reset Microsoft Windows 8 to the condition it was in when you first installed it. The two new features are named Reset and Refresh. Here’s exactly what they do, and the differences between them:

Windows 8’s Reset

This option puts your PC in the state it was in to either when you first started it —if it came with Microsoft Windows 8 on it—or when you first setup Microsoft Windows 8. It wipes out your data and any software applications you installed and puts your PC back into its original state, pure Microsoft Windows 8 state. It’s a much simpler option than doing all that yourself manually. You will not even need your Windows installation disc. It’s the PC equivalent of the “Restore to Factory Default” feature you will notice on many smartphones. Think of Reset as the nuclear option.

Windows 8 removes and formats your hard drives, installs a fresh copy of Microsoft Windows, and then starts into that new copy of Windows. There’s even an option when you do a Reset for not just reformatting your hard disk before reinstalling Windows, but writing random patterns to every sector on the hard drive so that data, such as personal data, can’t be recovered. You might use this alternative if you are giving away, selling, or recycling your computer.

Windows 8’s Refresh

This feature reinstalls Windows, but does not wipe out your data, settings, or any Windows 8 native apps you have installed. (It does wipe out your Desktop apps, but there is a way to tell Refresh not to wipe them out, as you’ll see later in this guide.) Your hard disks are not wiped out or formatted. When you sign into the reinstalled Windows, your data will be there waiting for you, as will your settings and Windows 8 native apps.

To Reset or Refresh your computer,

  1. Press Windows key+C
  2. Select Settings→Change PC Settings→General
  3. Scroll toward the bottom of the screen (See Image Below)
  4. On the right side, you’ll see separate sections for Refresh and Reset
Reset-or-Refresh-your-PC-from-this-screen Reset and Refresh Windows Instead of Doing a Complete Reinstall

Reset or Refresh your PC from this screen

The Refresh section reads “Refresh your PC without affecting your files,” and the Reset section reads “Remove everything and reinstall Windows.” Click “Get started” in the appropriate section. Then just follow the simple prompts.

Note: whenever you perform a Refresh, you will not have to go through the normal initial Microsoft Windows 8 Welcome and setup screens that walk you through to configure your settings and user account. That information is included already as part of the Refresh. With a Reset, however, you will go thru all those screens.

Create a Custom Refresh Point

Mostly, you’ll use the Refresh option, because you want to continue to use your files and applications. But there’s a problem with Refresh: although it keeps all your data and your Microsoft Windows 8 native applications, it wipes out your Desktop apps. If, like most people, you mainly use Desktop apps, this is not a good thing.

You can, however, create a custom refresh point that takes a snapshot of your system, and then uses that snapshot to refresh your PC. Part of that snapshot includes your Desktop apps, so when you refresh your system after creating one of these custom refresh points, your Desktop apps will be back waiting for you.

How does it do that? First, a little bit of background. When Microsoft Windows 8 is first installed, the system creates and stores a refresh point. When you refresh your system, it uses that refresh point as the baseline for the refresh. But because that refresh point was created before you installed Desktop apps, it doesn’t include information about them. When you create a custom refresh point, information about those software applications is included, so they’ll be on your system.

To make a custom refresh point, first create a new directory where you want to keep it. The refresh point will be named CustomRefresh.wim. Afterwards, run an elevated (Run as Administrator) command prompt—that is, a command prompt with Administrator rights. To do it, right-click the lower-left edge of the screen and select Command Prompt (Admin). Then enter the following in the command prompt:

Refresh will use the image in that directory instead of the one created during Windows 8’s initial installation to perform a Refresh. The recimg command provides you quite a bit of flexibility in creating and using Refresh points. What if you decide you want to create a new custom Refresh point because you’ve installed new apps, and want them as part of the Refresh? Simply create a new directory, and run the recimg command using it as the place to store the Refresh point. But recimg can do more as well. If you have multiple directories with Refresh points, you can tell Windows 8 which is the current one that it should use for doing a Refresh. To do all that, and more, you’ll need to know all of recimg command line options.

recimg Command

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