Windows 8's best feature - PC refresh and reset

These aren't features that you'll need that often, but when you do, having them built right into the OS will be a real timesaver.

Over on the Building Windows 8 blog Microsoft documents what I think is the best feature of Windows 8 - PC refresh and reset.

I found this shortly after Microsoft released the developer preview of Windows 8, but it seems like it's come along a lot since that preview.

The process for resetting a PC does the following:

  • The PC boots into the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE).
  • Windows RE erases and formats the hard drive partitions on which Windows and personal data reside (there's a 'quick' and a 'thorough' option here where the 'thorough' option overwrites user data with random data to prevent recovery).
  • Windows RE installs a fresh copy of Windows.
  • The PC restarts into the newly installed copy of Windows.

Refreshing a PC works as follows:

  • The PC boots into Windows RE.
  • Windows RE scans the hard drive for your data, settings, and apps (only Metro apps ... not other applications), and puts them aside (on the same drive).
  • Windows RE installs a fresh copy of Windows.
  • Windows RE restores the data, settings, and apps it has set aside into the newly installed copy of Windows.
  • The PC restarts into the newly installed copy of Windows.

In the Windows 8 beta, the following settings are preserved:

  • Wireless network connections
  • Mobile broadband connections
  • BitLocker and BitLocker To Go settings
  • Drive letter assignments
  • Personalization settings such as lock screen background and desktop wallpaper

The following are lost:

  • File type associations
  • Display settings
  • Windows Firewall settings

I've tested these features as present in the developer preview on a number of systems and found them to be very effective and it works well.

The refresh and reset mechanism is also built into boot-up troubleshooting mechanism.

I think that this is Windows 8's killer feature. Users might not need to refresh and reset their PCs that often, but when they do, having these features built right into the OS will be a real timesaver.

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