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How to Perform a Windows 8.1 Refresh

What is PC Reset and PC Refresh

Windows 8 introduced two very useful features named PC Reset and PC Refresh. While PC Reset will return your system to a “just out of the box” state PC Refresh is much more versatile, and with the right preparation renders PC Reset completely unnecessary.

  • PC Reset – Also known as Push Button Reset, returns the system to a factory fresh state. Think of this as dropping a nuclear bomb on the OS and everything returns to square one. No installed apps, personal files, settings, or programs.
  • PC Refresh – Returns your system to the state of the last refresh image made. If you rely on Microsoft’s default configuration this will mean that Metro apps, personal files and settings will be restored. However, if you create a custom refresh image everything will be restored including; desktop programs, personal files, Metro apps, Windows, and settings. It is therefore highly recommended that you create a custom refresh image when your system is in good working order so you get the full benefit of the PC Refresh function.

Performing a Refresh

Note: I highly recommend you create a custom refresh image before you find yourself in a situation where you actually need to use it. This is especially true for Windows 8 users who have upgraded to Windows 8.1 using the Windows Store. You can find instructions to do so here.

  1. Open up the Charms Bar by moving your mouse to the upper right or lower right corner. Touch users should swipe in from the right edge of the screen. Click Settings on the Charms Bar.

windows-8.1-charms

  1. Click Change PC Settings from the options to open the PC Setting app.

windows-8.1-change-pc-settings

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  1. Click Update and Recovery from the available options.

windows-8.1-update-and-recovery

  1. On the screen that follows click Recovery to select the recovery options screen.

windows-8.1-recovery

  1.  The recovery options in the right hand pane from top to bottom are Refresh, Reset, and Advanced startup. Click on Get Started under Refresh your PC without affecting your files.

Windows-8.1-refresh-choice

  1.  You will immediately see the following screen.

windows-8.1-preparing-refresh

  1. After a short period of time you’ll see the following screen if you are using Windows 8, or if you have created a custom refresh image in Windows 8 or Windows 8.1.

windows-8.1-refresh-list

  1.  Windows will explain what is about to happen. Notice they claim your settings and install desktop programs will be lost, which is true if you are a Windows 8 user and have not created a custom refresh image. Once a custom refresh image has been created this becomes a non-issue as everything (desktop programs, personal files, Metro apps, and settings) will be restored. Click Next to proceed.
  • If you are using Windows 8.1 and upgraded from the Windows Store and have not created a custom refresh image you will be asked to insert media (you won’t have the 8.1 media), which is why it is imperative that Windows 8.1 users who have upgraded create a new image. Do not pass Go! Do not collect $200!

windows-8.1-insert-media

  1.  One last warning. Click Refresh to start the process.

windows-8.1-refresh-warning

  1.  Windows will restart and begin the Refresh operation, which is surprisingly quick considering all that is happening. There will be several reboots during the process, which you can follow along in the below screenshots.

windows-8.1-refresh-restart

windows-8.1-refresh-percentage

windows-8.1-refresh-welcome

windows-8.1-refresh-more

windows-8.1-refresh-welcome-2

windows-8.1-setting-up

windows-8.1-installing-apps

windows-8.1-refresh-start

After a few short moments you’ll be back at the Start Screen and your system will have returned to the state it was in when you created the image – including all desktop programs, Metro apps, documents, and settings. All in all it’s a reasonably quick and painless operation that all Windows 8 (and 8.1) users should be aware of! Of course you can never have enough backups and I strongly suggest you do not rely on any one method, so be please explore other backup options in addition to PC Refresh to safeguard your data.

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About the author - David Hartsock
Executive Editor/Owner/Admin of Daves Computer Tips and all-around good guy - Dave's interest in computers began in the early 1980's during the Apple II era. In the early 1990's the PC began to replace proprietary and mainframe devices in Dave's industry so he began to learn and experiment with the PC. Through DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, and now Windows 7 Dave became the "go to" guy for friends, family, and coworkers with computer problems. Daves Computer Tips was born in 2006 in an effort to share these experiences with others in an easy to understand, plain English, form.
 
Comments

In section 8, I only have an 8.0 image to install. I installed 8.1 from the store. I was under the impression that this procedure and would return me to 8.0 with the Metro apps and settings and ignore the desktop settings added afterwards, What am I not understanding? Your text in red for the image in section 8 says “What? Where do I get a recovery media for a downloaded upgrade” with no answer. I’m not able to read the two red circled objects in the image for section 7.

Richard, If you click on an image it will open full size which should help you view it more clearly.

As for PC Refresh… If you installed 8.1 from the Windows Store you won’t be able to complete the process – it will ask you for the original install media, which you may be able to provide if you installed Windows 8 yourself. Otherwise you’re stuck unless you’ve created a new Refresh image or have Windows 8.1 on DVD. Your only other option would be to attempt a restore using method’s provided by the computer manufacturer or using your original install media – both of which would return the computer to Windows 8 with no apps, programs, or personal files.

My windows 8 pro does not have Update and Recovery shown under PC Settings. Only shown Windows Update

Must you have turned on and had File History backups run before you can use Refresh successfully? Otherwise, where does Refresh get the image from?

I had no option but to use Refresh once, thinking it would simply correct any corrupted Windows files and leave everything else alone, which to me is what the name Refresh implies. But clearly, that was not the case:-( It took an interminably long time to run and ‘Get my PC ready and back up and running’ and all my third party apps were relegated to a huge file called windows.old!!!!

I hated the results so much that in the end, I decided to run a full recovery from my recovery disks and start all over again. I am hoping I will not need to do that again very often, having just created a Custom Refresh Image, as per your article :-) but only time will tell…….

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