Windows 8: 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

Windows 8: 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

Summary: Windows 8 simplified refreshing and resetting your PC.

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While digging around in Windows 8 I came across two feature in Control Panel that I just had to click on to see what they did - an option to 'refresh' my system and another one that allowed me to 'reset' it.

The differences are pretty self-explanatory, but here's a quick run-down just in case you're confused:

  • Refresh Gives the OS a refresh but leaves all your files and settings untouched. Apps downloaded from the Windows Store will be kept but other applications will be lost.
  • Reset Everything - apps, applications, files, settings - are junked and the system is back to a fresh install.

Each involved just a few clicks, and NO Windows installation disk is required. Both processes seem to take a few minutes (between 5 and 10 minutes ... I wasn't timing it, there's no point with such an early build) and a few reboots.

Refresh:

Reset:

Questions? Pop them in the TalkBack and I'll do my best to answer them!

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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44 comments
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  • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

    Its disappointing that this is needed, but "refreshing" that it is there. If it works well, this could save me from reinstalls I do about 2 times a year
    mike2k
    • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

      @mike2k

      It's great for noobs. For tech savvy users we can update drivers or uninstall problem software or use a tool to uninstall some devious malware; for a regular user it's easier to just click a button and get everything working again.

      I'm sure Microsoft intends for average users to get all of their software via the marketplace, and therefore this refresh method is going to be perfect.

      Personally, I don't see a need for this feature since I moved from XP to Vista and 7. Both Vista and 7 retain their performance, and I've never needed to reinstall either except for when I've replaced the boot hard drive.
      captainbobby
    • No need to reinstall twice a year

      @mike2k You reinstall Windows twice a year?

      Been running Windows 7 since launch, haven't had to reinstall it yet.
      CobraA1
      • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

        @CobraA1 Agreed. I never found XP, Vista or 7 slowed down over time (apart from XP SP3), but I had a stable set of tools and didn't install a load of cruft that tried to kill it.

        But a lot of people stick every bit of shareware, OSS and pirated copies of whatever comes into their grubby hands and the machines become instable and/or slow. Here a Refresh option is a good thing.
        wright_is
      • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

        @CobraA1 Agree, my win7 still going well with minimum system lag compare to win xp and vista, just need to know how to clear registry and do some disk defrag will done.
        Lghost
      • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

        @CobraA1 Same here. I had to reinstall XP once a year or so, but had Vista running more nearly three years and now 7 for nearly two without any problems - which is nice. XP does tend to "degrade". I don't think I had that problem with Windows 2000 either, but it's been too long to remember for sure.
        MikeR666
      • Lucky to not have issues, then.

        @CobraA1

        Although the only reason I've ever had to reinstall XP was when hard drives failed (have had some bad luck with the drives themselves). Other than that, XP has always been smooth sailing.
        spdragoo@...
  • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

    Very good finding.
    Ram U
  • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

    > Gives the OS a refresh but leaves all your files and
    >settings untouched. Apps downloaded from the Windows
    >Store will be kept but other applications will be lost.

    Could we please, please, please admit that Windows 8 is more appropriately named "Microsoft Linuxalike For Windows"? They have apparently compiled a list of almost every feature available in Linux but not in Windows and decided to implement it in Windows 8.

    >Each involved just a few clicks, and NO Windows
    >installation disk is required.

    So the elephant in the room is... how are they doing that? Are they leaving copies of the install files on the HD, taking up gigs of space? Or are they using a logical volume management scheme and taking snapshots of the appropriate directories/folders and then rolling back to accomplish the refresh/reset?
    jgm@...
    • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

      @jgm@...

      Nobody on the Apple and Microsoft side complain when Linux Distro GUI started importing Mac OS and Windows feature. Or is this the standard 1 way bashing that is prevalent here?
      madfry
      • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

        @madfry
        +1
        Ram U
      • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

        @madfry Who's complaining? I think it's great! :-)
        I "tested" an XP-like Linux distribution last year and ended up sticking with it. When people I knew asked me why (they assume - which used to be true - that moving to Linux meant giving lots of things up), I made a list of all of the things I gained. Now I'm seeing feature after feature on my list - ability to mount ISOs and virtual hard disks, single dialog for copy operations, live USB feature, app store, integrated PDF viewer, switchable touch/tablet and desktop interfaces, ability to use HTML5+Javascript to create desktop apps (the same as the "plasma" platform on the Linux KDE desktop), etc. all appearing as confirmed or rumored features on Windows 8!
        I do think (especially with the HTML5 & Javascript) that SOMEONE other than me ought to be pointing this out, but so far not an article on ZDNet about it. My little outburst was just because I keep bringing this up but there's no comment on it.
        It's not a knock at all - if Microsoft keeps this up, I might be back by Windows 9! My first impression of the Metro UI wasn't very positive, and the file explorer frightens me, but everything else seems great. I'm glad Microsoft's looking at other products and particularly listening to people and adopting ideas and suggestions. For some reason they keep refusing to go with multiple desktops, though, even though there seems to be a lot of clamor for that feature. Like I said, maybe Windows 9.
        jgm@...
      • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

        @madfry "Nobody on the Apple and Microsoft side complain when Linux Distro GUI started importing Mac OS and Windows feature."
        Nobody complained? You don't spend much time around here, do you? Everybody on every side accuses the others of anything they can, true or not. There is no "1-way bashing" on ZDNet. It's more like a really bad political race.
        daengbo
    • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

      @jgm@...
      @jgm@...

      I imagine that Windows 8 simply silos off the OS files and settings and does a better job of protecting those than earlier versions (maybe all OS files can be replaced with fresh copies from Windows Update if their size/date/content has been altered by malware). Then everything except for these files just gets wiped, and certain settings are reverted to defaults.

      My phone doesn't require an install disk to do a hard reset.

      Of course I'm not a software engineer, so what I'm saying could be utterly uninformed nonsense...but it seems logical to do it that way.
      captainbobby
      • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

        @captainbobby You could be right; XP did introduce the idea of keeping backup copies of critical system files and replacing system files that changed with those copies so I was wondering if that might be the case here.

        I imagine your phone has a nonvolatile RAM chip with its OS files on it and can't be updated other than in a special flash mode so it's reasonably safe.

        What I was also thinking is that with snapshot technology the directory/drive/partition gets "frozen" at a specific point and then any changes to the files in them get written to a separate area. This allows the system to "roll back" to the original version by discarding the changes as the originals haven't been touched. I believe Windows does this when it creates a "restore point" before installing a service pack. This might be another way to protect the original copies without needing to keep a copy of the install disk on the hard drive.
        jgm@...
    • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

      @jgm@... "They have apparently compiled a list of almost every feature available in Linux but not in Windows and decided to implement it in Windows 8."

      You mean like KDE does? Linux has been borrowing plenty from Windows and the Mac in an attempt to make it more user friendly.

      "Are they leaving copies of the install files on the HD, taking up gigs of space?"

      It's not as if we're lacking gigs of space. There's people running around with multi-TB drives. Why [b]NOT[/b] put those gigs of space to good use?

      "Or are they using a logical volume management scheme and taking snapshots of the appropriate directories/folders and then rolling back to accomplish the refresh/reset? "

      Being that NTFS has the ability to take snapshots, they could do stuff like that as well.

      Does it really matter all that much how they're doing it, as long as they're doing it?
      CobraA1
    • It takes a volume snapshot.

      @jgm@...
      After that Windows 8 records the <i>changes</i> to the file system separately. This makes it easy to just waste the diff file.

      Actually, you can choose <i>when</i> you want to take that "refresh" snapshot. If you take the snapshot after you have done some custom installs then the refresh will bring you back to that point.
      honeymonster
      • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

        @honeymonster

        Kind of like a VM where you make a snapshot of the VM and it keeps it so you can revert back.
        bobiroc
  • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

    Great features.

    On another note, the registry is still alive? MS must be kidding me!
    argenis_a_z@...
    • RE: Windows 8 - 'Refresh' and 'Reset' your PC

      @argenis_a_z@...

      So what's the alternative then? Settings, such as how you like your windows to look must be kept somewhere.
      madfry