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How to Use Refresh and Reset in Windows 8 to Easily Reinstall Your PC

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Sick of formatting? Then learn how to breathe new life into your machines without formatting using the new Refresh and Reset features present in Windows 8.

Refreshing Your PC

After a while your PC becomes slow, and you wish you could format. The problem is that you have to much data, spent hours customizing your Windows installation to meet your needs, as well as downloaded and installed application. Now is the perfect time to do a refresh of your PC. When you do a refresh here is what will happen:

  • Your personalization settings as well as all your files will not be removed or changed
  • Your PC’s settings will be restored to there defaults
  • Any application that were not installed through the Windows Store will be removed, however those that were installed through the Store will remain.

Refreshing your PC can be done either through the new Metro Style control panel or through the classic control panel. We will do it from the Metro Style control panel, as that is that is the new way in which configuration is done. So to get started launch the Control Panel application.

Metro Control Panel

Once the control panel has opened scroll through the list on the left hand side, until you can select the “General” category. This will load snap the “General” settings panel in, on the right hand side. Navigate to the bottom of the settings on the right. From here we can refresh our PC. Click the Get Started button to initiate a Refresh.

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Once you click the “Get Started” button, a banner will inform you on what will be changed.

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After clicking the “Next” button, you will be informed that Windows will reboot your system.

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When you ready you can click the “Refresh” button which will restart your PC.

 

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When your PC, boot back up it will start Refreshing your system.

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Resetting Your PC

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When you breathe new life into your machine using the “Reset” method, think of it as restoring it to the state that you received your PC in when you bought it from the shop. Here is what will happen to your current data and configuration:

  • Any personal files will be deleted
  • All configuration changes will be reset to defaults

Resetting your PC can be done either through the new Metro Style control panel or through the classic control panel. We will do it from the Metro Style control panel, as that is that is the new way in which configuration is done. So to get started launch the Control Panel application.

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Once the control panel has opened scroll through the list on the left hand side, until you can select the “General” category.  This will load snap the “General” settings panel in, on the right hand side. Navigate to the bottom of the settings on the right. From here we can reset our PC. Click the Get Started button to initiate a Reset.

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Once you have clicked the Get Started button a banner will be displayed across the screen, explaining what will happen to your data and applications. Since we have already explained this you can just click the next button to move on.

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If you have more than one drive, you will be asked which drives you want to remove files from. You can choose either all drives, or just the drive which Windows resides on.

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You will be prompted for confirmation that you want to reset your PC. Click the Reset button to get started.

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Your PC will then reboot.

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Once it starts up again Windows will commence the Reset process.

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Once it has finished, your PC will reboot once more, this time once it restarts it will appear as you are booting the PC for the first time ever, it will load drivers and appear to be in a generalized state, where you have to create your user account, etc.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 11/4/11

Comments (17)

  1. PC_Tool

    Any way to enable this on the dev preview?

  2. Andrew

    Why on earth would you need to refresh? Oh that’s right when everything goes frustratingly wrong and you can’t fix it without a reinstall.

  3. Rick

    Can you do this with Windows 7?

  4. Dennis

    Although this is my first comment, I’ve been an avid reader of How-To Geek for some time. That includes reading your pieces about Windows 8. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why anyone would choose to run a dumbed-down, tabletized version of Windows n a full blown PC. With Windows 7 Microsoft finally came up with an OS that even my UNIX sysadmin friends grudgingly admit is good. WIndows 8 seems like a giant step backwards towards Microsoft Bob.

  5. garry

    MicroSoft is incapable of creating an OS the doesn’t require flushing.
    Think about it! 11 years of updates and service packs and they couldn’t fix XP.
    But wait……They make it easier to flush with Win8. You should be be pissed!

  6. John Vicent

    In my Windows 8 Refresh did, but did not change anything, I wanted to change the user, but again the same thing, and when I ordered the Metro panel, asked the installation disk.
    My 8 64bit Windows does not enable Hyper-V.

  7. Abhytre

    Your laptop is now locked to windows 8 via bios. Antipiracy precaution. And your laptop is as useless as your phone.

  8. David Pressman

    Your analysis said, “Your PC’s settings will be restored to there defaults.” This should read –Your PC’s settings will be restored to their defaults.–

  9. LePeR

    LOL@Abhytre

    You do know you can disable locking Win8 to the PC via the bios so your qq is moot

  10. Evan

    Wow! Another article about a way to tweak Windows 8, an operating system we won’t see for months. How relevant.

  11. Anders

    This seems like a nice feature for beta testers. However, there shouldn’t be a need for such a feature in a production release.

  12. Hogar the Wise

    One more thing, if we do refresh or reset windows, we are still going to have fragmented files, am I right? Because with refresh, all our apps are being kept, but probably in the same order as they were before on HDD. So that means everything else thats going to be deleted will fragment the HDD even more. By making empty holes between data on the hard drive. So how can it be refreshed to its “original” state, and keep or reclaim its “quickness” when your’e actually going to have a lot more fragments on HDD, thus making it much slower. Can anybody explain this to me?

    P.S. I’m not an native english speaker, sorry for my english, I’m trying my best to keep it right and regular. xD

  13. bleeprz

    I find the reset feature to actually be a very very progressive thing. Imagine, when people used to give away computers, the old owners crap was still on it. And, that probably wouldn’t be to your liking, so this reset will just make it easier for things like that. Also all the people hating on Windows 8 must realize that, A. This is a Pre-Beta so it’s supposed to be glitchy. B. You probably haven’t tried it enough, C. Hyper-V is disabled in the pre-beta.

  14. beergas

    Win 7 x64 Ultimate ain’t broke so ain’t fixing. Nice to read about but as Chinese saying goes – Talking doesn’t make the rice.
    Some people may have more play time than me so have at it. I don’t want to reinstall a ton of apps
    while using a risk beta 8.

  15. Joe

    It doesn’t matter if Win 8 is better or worse. It doesnt matter how many patches or this feature or that feature. It doesnt matter if HyperV is there, BIOS locking or whatever. It doesnt matter what the lifecycle of the OS is, it doesnt matter if its beta and its released or not.

    What matters is when they are done with a product, if they havent got something else to do, they get fired.
    Ive worked the industry*cough* Intel *cough* and the chip designers, validators and SW engineers owned their own ‘employability’. When your project got cancelled because AMD beat you to the punch, you better have some other project to go to or else, you were in big trouble.

    As much as you might want this or that, it doesnt matter, What’s microsoft supposed to do, wait until we’re all tired of W7 and then release something new?

    Alls that matters is keeping the shareholders happy, so everyone is scrambling to produce! produce! produce! Even if they release a beta of an OS thats simply a powerpoint presentation front-end glued to an already developed OS back-end, at least when someone walks their cubacle, it looks like they are working…

    Perception is EVERYTHING, dont forget !!!!!!

    money is all that matters…

  16. matt

    Im assuming it restores a Bunch of registry keys and files. You could just create a image when you setup win8. Far as i know ntfs is the same version as win7.

  17. Max

    So “Refresh and Reset” is just a Metro-cized version of System Restore?

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