A Windows 8 How-To: File History, Refresh and Reset - Page 2

By Joseph Moran | Posted January 07, 2013

Windows 8 System Restore

When a Windows PC starts exhibiting strange behavior and it’s not immediately obvious what (or where) the problem lies, restoring the system configuration to a time before the symptoms began is typically the first step in troubleshooting.

Windows 8 PC refresh

Figure 3: Refreshing your PC removes non-Windows 8 apps and returns Windows 8 to its default configuration, but it leaves your personal data and settings intact.

In Windows 8, you can return to earlier system configurations using the same System Restore feature that’s found in earlier versions of Windows. To find System Restore in Windows 8, search for restore, run Create a restore point, then click the System Restore button and run the wizard to choose a specific restore point. Unlike File History, System Restore is on by default and creates restore points daily, as well as each time you install a new program or an operating system update.

Windows 8 PC refresh app list

Figure 4: After your system’s been refreshed, you’ll find a list of removed apps on your desktop.

Just as in Windows 7, using a restore point removes any software that’s been installed since that point in time (you can do a scan before applying the restore point so you’ll know beforehand which programs will be affected), but it leaves your personal data intact. It’s a relatively low-effort, low-risk way to cure a system problem.  As often as not, using a restore point to roll your system back solves the problem, but when it doesn’t, things get a lot trickier -- at least they used to prior to Windows 8.   

Windows 8 PC Refresh and Reset

When System Restore doesn’t do the trick in Windows 7, the next step is to return the computer to its out-of-the-box factory condition using whatever tools the system vendor provides. Not only is this process almost always cumbersome (every vendor’s process is a little different; some use one or more DVDs --which you have to make yourself -- and others use a special hard disk partition), it blows away all your data, so you have to back it up first, then put your data back on the system after you restore the factory configuration.

Windows 8’s Refresh feature, on the other hand, restores your PC’s factory configuration while leaving both your data files and your OS personalization settings intact. And although Refresh does eliminate any programs you’ve installed from discs or websites, any programs that you downloaded from the Windows Store will survive the transition.

Windows8 PC reset

Figure 5: When resetting your PC, your data is erased, but you also have the option to "clean" the drive by erasing your data securely.

Refreshing a PC is easy -- search for refresh under Settings, run Refresh your PC, and after two more clicks, your computer will restart and refresh itself. (This can take a while, so be patient.)  When you get back into Windows, you’ll find a file on your Desktop listing all the removed software, so you’ll know what may need to be reinstalled.   

But let’s say you want to start with a clean slate and return your computer to factory condition without keeping any of your existing data, settings, or software. Windows 8 lets you do that too -- it’s called PC Reset. Search for remove, and run Remove everything and reinstall Windows.

Here you do have a choice to make before kicking off the reset process -- namely, do you want to simply remove (erase) the files, or do you want to fully clean the drive? Cleaning the drive essentially wipes your data, so it’s the right choice if you intend to dispose of a PC by selling, donating, or recycling it.

Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.

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