Windows 8 brings new refresh, reset options

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.

Comments closed
    • HisDivineOrder
    • 8 years ago

    Good to see that Microsoft has given up on supporting their traditional software models and are focusing entirely on the only software installation model that benefits them: the app store.

    MS continues to push how irrelevant this OS will be for traditional computers.

    • GasBandit
    • 8 years ago

    I don’t care if I can one-button format and reinstall… or any other neat tricks. Every time I see that interface, I feel my gag reflex triggering. Touchscreens are to a non-tablet, full-fledged PC as gimmicky 3D is to movies. You just can’t manipulate data as precisely or in as versatile a manner with touchscreen controls as you can with keyboard an mouse.

      • bwoodring
      • 8 years ago

      That’s the touch interface for devices. It still has a normal Windows UI similar to 7.

    • WaltC
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]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.[/quote<] Wow--it's been so many years since I last saw a "system riddled with viruses and spyware" that I had to pause to reread your sentence. Um, where do you live, or work (shudder), where you might see such systems on a routine basis?...;) Not disputing your assertion that such things do exist--I mean people do inexplicably run IE6 even today--it's just that I haven't seen such a system myself since around the turn of the century. As far as the efficacy of the operation is concerned, right now plain old System Restore deals effectively with a wide variety of nasties--although, again, it's been so long since I have encountered such nasties I tend to sometimes forget they exist. Thanks for reminding me, I guess...;) If anything, these "system repair and reinstall" routines will do even better jobs, I should think, should something mysteriously go funky. But, I mean even in Win XP we had "System Repair & Reinstall"--which I used often--which allowed you to do a clean reinstall of the OS without losing your data--you did it with a boot from your XP DVD--could not do it otherwise. In XP you could always do an "in place" install, even from a current boot session, without having to boot from DVD, but it wasn't really good for that much--definitely not "clean"...;) Sounds like they are planning to simply bring the DVD clean boot-install option back again in Win8--although you can do it in Win7, it's just not as straightforward anymore since Microsoft removed that boot option from the Win7 install DVD.

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      Win8 will use digital signatures to white list applications, dlls, registry entries, etc. This way you can say “remove every reference of an application that isn’t white listed”.

      It’s like a fresh install without touching anything you want to keep.

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    OK, now this is a feature that would get me interested in upgrading to Windows 8. I’d love a nice easy way to do clean installs without having to worry about reactivating Windows.

    • tootercomputer
    • 8 years ago

    Some months back, I was playing with W8 Developers Edition. I found it basically W7 with the new Metro overlay that would be useful for touchscreens. W7 has been a pretty good OS IMHO, so I like the fact that MS is adding other useful functions in addition to the touch capability. Watching the video, the refresh and reset were pretty impressive. So very easy, and would be especially useful for systems that do no come with an OS disk. The key would be whether both processes would wipe out infections and create a malware-free system.

    Nice thinking, MS. Now fix your help menus.

    • Duck
    • 8 years ago

    To avoid having to “spend hours reinstalling desktop apps” you don’t need a new operating system, just copy me and put all your (portable) apps in D:\Programs\

    • Umbragen
    • 8 years ago

    Hey, everybody! Haven’t you heard? We’re supposed to greet every trickled ‘infobit’ about Windows 8 with cheers and accolades.

    If you don’t, there is always the danger that Linux will take over the Desktop space.

      • sweatshopking
      • 8 years ago

      not going to happen any time soon. you’d need generations of AWFUL MS software before your average joe is going to suffer through linux. I’ve run a ton of distros, but nobody i’ve installed any linux box on has kept it for more than 2 weeks. It simply isn’t as useful.

        • Deanjo
        • 8 years ago

        Lol, seen this before. It’s the same from any user using xyz OS to trying out zyx OS. 99 % it is not an issue that the OS can’t do what they want, it is just that it does not behave the same exact way that they have been used to before.

        PEBCAK

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          no, that’s just not true. In some cases, sure people don’t understand the capabilities of the OS. But in many cases, it simply isn’t there, or is simply too complicated for your average user. if you EVER need a command line then you’re doing it wrong. Consumers do NOT want a terminal. Techs love it, but nobody else. Installing itunes on ubuntu? can it be done? yes, is it seemless? as easy as windows? no, and that’s why it fails. MSoffice? are their alternatives? yeah, are they as good? no.

          Android is doing ok because it tries to remedy a lot of those issues. It’s still not as nice as the alternatives. Most critics agree iOS and WP7 are nicer os’s to use. but android has made many improvements, and because there is enough software, it’s able to do much more.

          Linux is never going to touch desktops, not unless we’re using some streaming service, and it’s just running a generic desktop.

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            Well I guess kids that have been using linux from day one are just smarter nowdays considering they have no issues using linux at all. The “need” to drop to command line in linux is all but gone on modern revisions of distros. Especially for the “average joe” crowd. Pretty much everything has a gui for anything that “average joe” needs. The ones that “have to” drop to cli are a much higher level user then “mom and pop” (even then, most distros have excellent gui apps that do most of the power users requirements such as YAST in openSUSE).

            As far as MS Office goes, 99% of people out there do not need MS Office, especially dealing with the home crowd. Alternatives would fit their uses perfectly fine as they never use the more advance features of MS Office to begin with.

            There are also alternatives to iTunes. Many of which have a friendlier UI then iTunes. Hell any article you read about iTunes it is about how much they loath it (in fact IIRC whenever there is an iTunes article you like to pipe in how horrible it is). Even the online purchasing of media is present now with support of Amazons music store.

            So far your arguements are very dated.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        I have my mom using Ubuntu for about 2 years now.

        She didn’t know how to configure anything in Windows anyways, so the fact that it might be harder in Ubuntu is irrelevant to her. They’re both really beyond her capabilities.

      • Grigory
      • 8 years ago

      “If you don’t, there is always the danger that Linux will take over the Desktop space.”

      Yep, there is a good chance Linux will take over the Desktop. Just give it a few decades.

    • Malphas
    • 8 years ago

    Might as well give up, lads, I don’t think OneArmedScissor is going to comprehend what you’re saying or what the video said anytime soon.

    • Deanjo
    • 8 years ago

    It amazes me how after so many years Microsoft still hasn’t found as elegant of a solution to a good “fail safe” solution for handing “re-installs” and “resets”. The windows registry is a joke compared to .config and plists files which makes making a *nix system a breeze to reset to a fresh state and isolate system wide and user specific issues. Most of the time all you have to do to get a functional system or app back in *nix land is as simple as renaming a preference file so that it regenerates a new fresh one.

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      No one has found an elegant solution to that problem. Config files are horrible for most end users. Once you place that restriction on your design, any solution becomes messy.

        • PenGun
        • 8 years ago

        Not at all. I can reinstall/install pretty well any Linux system and bang in my config files and I’m pretty well done.

        A huge difference to the windose reinstall and configure all programs approach.

          • nagashi
          • 8 years ago

          Semi-true. While I’d say that’s true inside the same distro family, it’s not very true if you try to change distros, and it’s often NOT true when you just copy over from one version to a newer version of the same distro. I’ve gotten bitten by this a number of times with evolution’s folder, particularly between Ubuntu 8.04 and 9.04 I think.

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            I’ve had zero issues migrating from one version of a distro to another. I’ve even have systems that have survived in place upgrades with suse since 2003 without ever having to wipe a system clean.

            • RhysAndrews
            • 8 years ago

            Yes but you enjoy I.T.
            Go tell a baby boomer who wants to run their own home blog on a *nix computer to do the same thing.

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            I’ve been supporting OS X / Linux / windows systems for over two decades, supporting kindergarteners to grannies and gramps and I can assure you not only is it easier to get a unix based system back up and running with the average joe, it will be done quicker and with more reliable results then any windows based system.

            • bcronce
            • 8 years ago

            First off, I didn’t vote you down

            “Most of the time all you have to do to get a functional system or app back in *nix land is as simple as renaming a preference file so that it regenerates a new fresh one.”

            At this point, it’s already beyond what the “Average user” can do. If it can’t be done through the UI in 3-5 clicks, it’s “too hard”.

            While I do not use Linux, I have a few diehard linux friends who use it for both home and work. The rule of thumb they’ve all told me is, if the distro is user friendly, then the config files are a nightmare. Most of them just run Arch now.

    • mcnabney
    • 8 years ago

    I have done precise restores from my WHS 1.0 box twice. It was even fast over gigE. This new system doesn’t seem to add anything new outside of the auto-installed Metro apps. True disk image restores are still far better and also have the benefit of protecting against a dead drive.

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      They’re targeting a different problem than an image restore. An image restore can blast away apps, doesn’t keep your current data, and will lose any settings changes. I don’t mean this in a negative way as image restores are very useful as a “back-up”, but less useful as a “snap-shot”

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    Gives the term “reset your PC” a whole different meaning…. try explaining that one when you’re telling someone over the phone what to do.

      • Voldenuit
      • 8 years ago

      “Have you tried turning it off and on?” /IT Crowd

    • Farting Bob
    • 8 years ago

    Umm, i can do both of those things on my current win7. And my old Vista. And my old XP. How is this new, other than renaming them and giving them a more glossy finish?

      • bcronce
      • 8 years ago

      Please explain. I’m sure IT would love to hear how to do this.

        • Farting Bob
        • 8 years ago

        A complete reinstall (with formatting drive): Use the disc as per usual.
        Or you can use the install disc to “repair” an installation, which after a few steps gives you the option of effectively reinstalling system files etc while leaving user data on that partition alone. Ive done both of these options many times on windows computers. Maybe its because i havent watched the youtube (horray for dialup speeds! Unless its required viewing, it aint worth the time!) video, am i missing something?

          • indeego
          • 8 years ago

          On the one machine I had to do a repair install on W7 it continually failed. The error messages it was throwing up pointed to Disk or I/O issues but every diagnostic I ran showed it all was fine. A backup out of WIndows/wipe/reinstall/restore data worked and the machine worked fine ever since.

          Let’s not get into the nightmare than was Windows Vista (server 2008) Backup, which IMO is the worst designed element of software Microsoft has ever made.

            • Farting Bob
            • 8 years ago

            Worse than ME? That is impressively bad.

          • bcronce
          • 8 years ago

          “A complete reinstall (with formatting drive): Use the disc as per usual.”

          You lose all of your settings

          “Or you can use the install disc to “repair” an installation”

          This doesn’t remove malware

        • Convert
        • 8 years ago

        Actually, FB is right. There are several ways to go about this, some directly from microsoft, even ones that can do this with a few clicks (with a bunch of behind the scenes leg work of course).

        But the nice thing here is that MS is bundling it all together and making it simple for the end user to accomplish it. I think this is great. MS has so many good tools and a great many capabilities but most are fragmented and not publicized. The only time they seem to tout anything is when they bundle a set of tools and streamline the process, then we hear about it but under a new name.

        I’ve sat through so many technology preview presentations about upcoming OS’s from MS and they always tout these cool new features and why you should upgrade all of your clients. If you know your stuff, 90% of it already exists, it’s just that with this “new” OS they decided to combine those tools and make them useable.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 8 years ago

    *Golf clap*

    Useful, but I will cheer only when they have invented a “delete all crap without leaving other crap behind” option.

      • colinstu
      • 8 years ago

      Isn’t that what the “reset” option is for?

        • Meadows
        • 8 years ago

        Shh, don’t ruin his moment.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 8 years ago

        No. I can already format my hard drive. That’s “delete [b<]everything[/b<] without leaving anything at all behind." I mean how people get so much background junk running on their computer, but going through the add/remove programs list always leaves tons of crap behind, eventually making a mess of the registry and forcing you to just format, anyways. In other words, this sounds like a god send for average people, but it's really just something else for us, and does nothing to address their crapware problem.

          • bcronce
          • 8 years ago

          “In other words, this sounds like a god send for average people, but it’s really just something else for us, and does nothing to address their crapware problem.”

          It directly addresses this problem. It not only cleans your registry, but it removes any programs that have “integrated” into Windows ie Crapware.

            • lilbuddhaman
            • 8 years ago

            …Until a special flag or extension is discovered that causes an app to be retained during the “refresh” process that you thought would be cleaned out, negating the process.

          • Meadows
          • 8 years ago

          The Reset option only formats your drive if you specifically tell it to. Otherwise it simply cleans out everything, just the way you want it.

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          it will reset back to a clean install of windows. it will keep records of metro apps installed, but not non-metro. that you’ll have to track down on your own.

        • yogibbear
        • 8 years ago

        No. It is basically a reset to factory settings but retention of your metro apps. I.e. you would have to reinstall steam and re-download all your games etc. etc. just like normal.

        i.e. this does not replace any sort of backup requirements that you need to do.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This