Recovering Windows 8 PCs should be a little bit easier thanks to a couple of new features Microsoft has integrated into the OS. The Building Windows 8 blog has the skinny on refresh and reset, which provide different avenues for reinstalling the operating system. Reset should probably be named something else given the popularity of a certain button with the same name. This feature essentially performs a full OS reinstall without retaining user data. In fact, users will have the option of wiping their hard drive during the process. This thorough-erase option writes random data across the entire disk. The single pass performed probably won’t be sufficient for the Pentagon, but it should give mainstream users some peace of mind.
For those who would like to keep their data, a refresh option promises to restore only the operating system. One’s personal data, OS settings, and some applications will all be preserved by a Windows refresh. While users will have to reinstall desktop applications manually, Metro apps that use Microsoft’s new .appx package format will be moved automatically to the fresh OS. Also, only some Windows settings will be retained. Wi-Fi and broadband connections, drive assignments, BitLocker configs, and personalization settings are in, but file associations, firewall preferences, and display setting will be reset to their factory defaults.
If you favor a more custom approach, Windows 8 will still allow users to create a system image that can be restored at any time, complete with all data and applications present when the image was created. That seems like the best recovery option to me, but only if users have an up-to-date backup of their personal data. Win8’s refresh option should provide a decent avenue for less savvy users, and I’m curious to see if it’s capable of curing systems riddled with viruses and malware.