More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

Summary: Microsoft is readying some under-the-hood changes for reset/restoring Windows 8 PCs, some of which will be part of the February 2012 beta.


It feels like eons ago, but back in June 2010, when the first massive batch of information about Windows 8 leaked, one of the most anticipated new features was the promised "push-button reset" capability.

On January 4, on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft officials shared more details about what to expect on the PC-reset front -- including information on a few of the under-the-hood changes coming in the one-and-only Windows 8 beta, due out by late February 2012.

Microsoft will be providing two related features, as post author Desmond Lee, Program Manager on the Fundamentals team, outlined:

  • Reset your PC: Meaning, "remove all personal data, apps, and settings from the PC, and reinstall Windows"
  • Refresh your PC: i.e., "keep all personal data, Metro style apps, and important settings from the PC, and reinstall Windows"

(Why Metro apps and not Desktop apps? Lee listed several reasons, including possibly inadvertently reinstalling bad apps, too many installer techs about which Windows has little direct knowledge and more. See the whole post if you want the list.)

The post includes the Reset PC screen below, which Lee noted "reflect changes that we’re making for (Windows 8) Beta, some of which are not yet available in Developer Preview):

The Windows 8 beta will include a new “Thorough” option to help insure that personal data that a user removes is difficult to recover. The new option "will write random patterns to every sector of the drive, overwriting any existing data visible to the operating system," Lee said, so that it will be tougher for those without "special equipment that is prohibitively expensive for most people" to recover it.

The Refresh option is less severe. When using it, there will be "no need to first back up your data to an external hard drive and restore them afterwards," Lee blogged. With the Refresh option that will be part of the coming Beta, Microsoft plans to preserve settings including wireless network connections, mobile broadband connections, BitLocker and BitLocker To Go, drive letter assignments and personalization settings (like lock screen background and wallpaper). Settings that won't be preserved include file type associations, display and Windows Firewall settings, Lee said.

Also coming in the Windows 8 beta, according to Lee, is a new tool that can be used to create a bootable USB flash drive, which can be used in cases when the copy of Windows RE on the hard drive won't start.

The post includes a chart from Microsoft listing times for the recovery and reset of the Windows 8 Developer Preview machines that the company distributed to paying attendees of the Build conference:

Lee said it would take 24 minutes 29 seconds for restoring the same contents from a system image backup.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything much, Microsoft shares at next week's Consumer Electronics Show about Windows 8. Contestants in the "First Apps" contest who make it into the second round will get to see Windows 8 beta or near-beta code in mid-January.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Curious also about normal unsolicited mobile device backup to the cloud

    I would like to hear their plans for normal mobile hw restore, ie unsolicited state backup to the cloud. We need the "left my tablet on the roof of the rental car and drove off, had to buy another one, and need all my crap restored pronto for the meeting I'm in town for" scenario covered on tablets just as is on iphones, etc. I would also love to have the "regulatory compliance" multi pass option too for when I dont care how long reset takes. There are lots of freeware versions so it shouldnt be hard for them to come up with one of their own to include.
    Johnny Vegas
  • When I get a new PC I always create a recovery image

    The thing is, why bother with the command line tool when you could just use System Image from the get go? Also, why was it so hard to create a quick UI wizard for this command line recovery image option? Its 2012, the command line should be last resort or only for power users.
    • Which CLI tool?


      ImageX does things that other image tools don't, like deduplication.
      • That may be so

        @LiquidLearner .. to a point, but no thanks; i'll always stick with Norton Ghost: i like the autonomy of setting cmd line switches and fully automating a recovery by simply inserting a cd/dvd. Now, not having to perform a darn thing after that is the home run with Norton Ghost.
  • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

    Nice. I can see the corporate environment already drooling over this feature.
    Loverock Davidson-
  • Ugh, Windows 8 is as ugly as XBox 360

    Seriously, there is nothing magical about this UI. Where's the sense of artistry? This whole Metro front end is a mess. Its a bunch of monochrome boxes cira 1955. When I look at this screen, all I see can think is "boring." If Microsoft is trying to sell more Macintosh computers, this is how you do that.
    A Gray
    • You obviously don't understand what a UI is...

      @A Gray <br><br>A UI IS NOT ART. It is design, and a form of communicating information and function. That is where Metro succeeds tremendously.<br><br>The UI of an OS should not be the main feature. The content and information within that UI is what the user is really interested in. Therefore, Metro's flat and minimalism nature is very effective at bringing the content to the front and letting the OS just be the foundation. Metro uses Typography, Visual Hierarchy, and a Grid to effectively organize and present the users content/information.<br><br>Ever watch Star Trek, Iron Man, or any futuristic movie? Notice the UI's on devices in them? Very similar. As a designer, I think Metro is absolutely beautiful and I'm still shocked that of all companies, Microsoft was the one to advance this direction.<br><br>They actually have a really good article that online the reasoning and history behind Metro...<br><br> <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a><br><br>Smashing Magazine has even brought up the aspect of how Web Design is really about Typography, yet we so often ignore the principles of Typography design when creating Web apps, etc.
    • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

      @A Gray - Interesting you think that an array of dynamically updating tiles are "boring". How are such dynamically updating tiles more boring than grids of static, identically sized icons? Also, what about apps that provide tiles with rich artwork/design/images?
      • Updating is good. 4bit UI is BAAAAAAD

        The UI looks cheap and is basically unappealing compared to what may be just a little bit of colour scupturing to make it much less flat and gaudy.

        I am not talking about the over-the-top rendering that makes things obsolete in a year, but that which adds some smoothness and dimension.
    • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

      @A Gray remember that this isn't the Windows 8 UI; we may not see that fully until RC - certainly the Windows blog has said repeatedly this isn't the final look and we never see it this early.
    • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

      @A Gray I agree, Metro is boring. Sure the tiles are alive, but the flat ugly color scheme reminds of a wating room in a doctors office in 1966, plastic orange chairs.
    • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

      @A Gray - aren't you a Barista?
      • That's a Samsung ad line!

  • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

    Creepy. Wait 'til some hacker finds out how to reset your machine via the latest wizbang app, or via yet another trapdoor. If Windows weren't the shit that it is, and therefore require that it be updated on a weekly basis becuause it's so easy to corrupt and compromise, its kernel could be burned hard into a ROM, hand-installed via a little door beneath the machine, and none of this would be an issue. This is just another layer of incompetence piled onto the incompetence that we've been enduring for the past 25 or so years.
    • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options


      Nice lies and FUD old man. Quit making crap up.
    • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

      @Gezeer, yes, but no..
    • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

      Every connected OS in the world requires on-going updates. Microsoft is just the best at providing them in a timely manner.
      • RE: More on Windows 8's new refresh and reset options

        @kris_stapley@... bingo. If they weren't providing timely updates, the public would be mad that they were stagnant. When they do provide timely updates, the public ridicules them for needing them. You can't win in this fanboy run world.
    • Umm, but someone that gets access to your machine can make any mess...


      They want at this point, right?

      The rest of your comment is drivel, you should stick with Linux and OSX. They are perfect for you.
  • Refresh Re-Do Return

    What a waste of money to buy into all this Touted NEW and improved Windows systems. Reminds me of the well done hamburger with the "dark" plastic pick stuck into the burger. While it was obviously "rare inside" the waiter proceeded to assure me it was well done by pointing to the dark Plastic pick. Well, he said, "it must be well done, because it has the black pick stuck into it".
    REFRESH? Can you really refresh a Virus?