Upcoming Windows 8 refresh and reset options detailed

By Lee Kaelin on January 5, 2012, 8:39 AM

Microsoft has been steadily releasing information about its upcoming operating system on its MSDN Building Windows 8 blog, providing those interested with snippets of new functionality as we draw ever closer to its release. The latest news from the company's blog involve the refresh and reset PC functions on Windows 8.

"We’ve built two new features in Windows 8 that can help you get your PCs back to a "good state" when they’re not working their best, or back to the "factory state" when you’re about to give them to someone else or decommission them," Desmond Lee said in his post on the MSDN blog.

It will enable users of the OS to reset their computer in much the same way other devices like smartphones can be reset without the need for any discs or third party utilities. The new option will be available from the control panel, the pre-boot recovery environment and via a bootable USB drive, which should cover any state of repair that your computer might be experiencing.

Microsoft has thought of users storing sensitive data as well, with Windows 8 introducing the option to securely erase the hard disk. It strikes a balance between security and the time it takes to wipe the disk. It usually takes hours/days to scrub a disk with multiple passes, which is often overkill for those using a computer for social purposes.

"Instead of just formatting the drive, choosing the "thorough" option will write random patterns to every sector of the drive, overwriting any existing data visible to the operating system. Even if someone removes the drive from your PC, your data will still not be easily recoverable without the use of special equipment that is prohibitively expensive for most people," Lee wrote.

The refresh feature is another step in the right direction. It will enable users of the OS to restore the computer back to its original installed state. Essentially, it will keep all personal files and personalization settings intact, but remove all applications installed via CDs or the internet as well as changing most settings back to the original, newly installed state.

Wireless settings, mobile broadband connections, BitLocker and personalization settings as well as each user's files will all remain intact during a refresh. As will account login settings and metro applications. Other settings like firewall permissions and file type associations will be removed, as these are commonly the cause of computer issues. The exact list will be tweaked over time according to Lee.

It would usually be a last resort, but the capability to restore the OS back to good working state with settings and data intact without the use of any discs or having to enter product keys will certainly make life easier for users. They would no longer need to perform a backup before refreshing Windows.

Microsoft has also considered those of you that prefer to install your applications or add and remove Windows features and then make a system image to use at a later time. It will be possible to create your own custom refresh image using a new command-line tool.

The detailed recovery times are impressive as well. In most cases, it will take less than nine minutes to refresh a computer back to its "good working" state whilst maintaining personalization settings and data. That is without question a saving of several hours for those of you (like me) with a lot of software to load on a fresh install of Windows, if you take advantage of the custom image tool.

The reset times are equally impressive, with a thorough reset of the computer taking just under 24 minutes to achieve. A quick reset will have you back up and running in under seven minutes, a feature that users and system administrators will all certainly be relieved to see.

With CES fast approaching it will be interesting to see if any more information is revealed. 

User Comments: 11

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TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I think this sounds like a really wonderful idea, especially the custom image option.

I don't know how many times I have had to wipe my parents computer and reload all their data. If I could that over a quick cup of coffee at their house it would be incredible!

Guest said:

Probably the only new feature of Windows 8 that intrigues me. Still not a reason to switch from Windows 7, but intriguing.

Guest said:

I hope that the same folks who fixed the "offshore created" Vista mess and gave us Windows 7 are

the same folks who are in charge of Windows 8.

Cota Cota said:

Awesome, now technicians like me wont be needed... its not like im trying to raise a family, but hopefully the standard used manages to screw it up

Chazz said:

Windows 8 is becoming more and more attractive to me. I think I'll be one of the users upgrading my Windows 7 PC to it. I'm loving the features and optimizations. At first, I didn't like the idea of releasing a new OS so soon(it seems) after Windows 7.

I also think I'll be getting a windows 8 tablet for my mother, as that form factor fits her perfectly. Tablets are useless for me though, at the moment.

Guest said:

I use Win8 Developer as my everyday system. There are no real problems (at least none I couldn't resolve on my own) and it has an overall better "feel" to it, compared to Win7. Faster, smoother, better looking... hard to quantify, but definitely there.

Vicenarian said:

I don't think it'll really put a damper on the average computer technician's work supply, for the following reasons:

1) Most end users are afraid to do semi-technical, or that could possible hurt their files/installed applications.

2) Hard drive failures will still require a fresh OS install

3) Current viruses (e.g. virut) can infect Recovery Partitions, so I'm sure hackers will eventually find a way to get past the security of Windows 8 and render the "refresh" feature refreshingly useless.

4) The refresh feature will remove all applications not purchased from the Windows Store. Honestly, how many people buy anything from the 'Windows Store'? So, as of now anyway, with most software being downloaded/purchased from third-party websites, and/or purchased on CD/DVD discs, most end-users will be hesitant to lose their installed programs and their customized settings.

ikesmasher said:

Cota said:

Awesome, now technicians like me wont be needed... its not like im trying to raise a family, but hopefully the standard used manages to screw it up

Do't worry, you'll still get the non techy people coming in and flipping out.

djforeman djforeman said:

It's really a shame that, after 7 versions of WIndows, users still have no way to:

a) re-install ONLY the OS without having to re-install their 3rd party apps

2) move their data AND apps to a new machine (ala easy-transfer)

3) move (or specify a non C-drive location for) their "my documents"

Moving (vs. copying) apps guarantees that the old machine does not retain duplicates, thus preserving license/copyright protection. What is Redmond afraid of?? Is the hive THAT hard to replicate? Then it's time for the hive to go bye-bye.

What makes MS think we only have a few apps? I have over 100, MANY of which I use regularly. Some I use only weekly/monthly. ALL of which I need ready to run. Re-building the OS takes minimal time. A REAL productivity increase would come from not having to find and re-type all those license keys and answer all those non-MS installer prompts after a re-install or move to a new system.

Guest said:

i loved the article very much.....thanks for sharing

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