Windows 8 features a reset button: Re-install Windows without a disc

There’s a time-tested ritual with PC owners. After a few months or years the performance starts to deteriorate and you pull out a Windows install disc and spend a full day re-installing the operating system and re-installing all of your apps.

So-called “PC rot” isn’t as bad on Windows 7 as it was with earlier versions of the operating system. Odds are if your system is getting sluggish over time it has more to do with hardware or some of the apps you’ve installed than the OS itself.

Still, Microsoft’s next version of Windows will make re-installing or “refreshing” the operating system easier and faster than ever.

Windows 8 reset

All you have to do is scroll to the bottom of the “General” area in the Windows 8 settings and choose the appropriate action.

A system refresh basically re-installs Windows 8 without removing your files or data. Some of your apps will even remain intact.

If things have really gone south though, you can choose the “reset your PC and start over” option to remove all data on your computer and basically restore it to factory conditions.

Either way, the process is designed to run much more quickly than an old-fashioned Windows install using a disc.

This is a feature that some PC makers have been offering on notebook and desktop computers by setting aside protected partitions on the hard drive with a system restore image. But now it’s built right into the operating system.

In other words, it should be just about as easy to reset a Windows 8 tablet or laptop to a blank slate condition as it is to wipe your data from a mobile phone.

Microsoft Windows chief Steve Sinofsky wrote a blog post explaining the process in more detail earlier this year.

via MSDN and Laptop Magazine

  • animatio

    microsoft better would explain why its os’ses rot data all the time as fast as possible. there are 2 main processes causing this:
    1. the registry maintentance by the system itself is merely lausy and leads to malfuncting of applications as well as time consuming processes in regard of programm start up.
    2. data fractioning of media like hard disks. even a simple system start on a freshly defragmented disk creates a shamble of newly fragmented data at once. since the introduction of vista as bad as possible.
    3. the fragmentation of the virtual memory file on a hard disk.

    • CyberGusa

      Any medium that constantly reads and writes data is prone to fragmentation over time.  However, it’s hardly like MS hasn’t been trying to reduce the problem… Example…

       http://blogs.msdn.com/b/e7/archive/2009/01/25/disk-defragmentation-background-and-engineering-the-windows-7-improvements.aspx

      While if you practice regular maintenance and don’t constantly install and uninstall programs then fragmentation shouldn’t be a serious problem.  I’ve had systems running for years without any issues for example.

      For a well maintained system, most fragmentation should come from normal degradation of data on hard drives over time…  They were never meant to store data forever after all.  While some mediums last longer than others and there are worse mediums than hard drives for data storage. 

      SSDs are better for performance and don’t have to worry about hard drive type defragmentation but have their own problems of garbage file handling and data can fragment at a faster rate than hard drives when the drives are not used for long periods.

      Windows 8 however should be able to handle fragmentation better with ReFS, short for Resilient File System, as an improvement over the NTFS that’s long been overdue.  While it’s still a question whether Windows 8 will do away with the registry or use a more stable form.

  • Bugger

    Does that mean there’s a large chunk of space on my drive that’s used up by this? If so, not good for my SSD. Is there a way to disable it?

    • animatio

       that is already the case in win7. it is called shadow copy service and the hidden preinstall partitions. if you have a modern bios system it will be even more complicated. see also http://www.shadowexplorer.com/

      • Bugger

         I have that disabled.

        So does anyone know if this reset feature can be disabled?

      • CyberGusa

         This is why there’s a minimum drive capacity for installation…

        However, like Windows 7, it should give you the option to not install the backup system.  Though you may need to learn how to choose that option or it may require you to install it on another drive.

        Pre-installed version can also offer options.  Like the Asus Eee PC X101 asks at first boot to set up the backup on another drive, like USB for example, and then deletes the backup on the main drive to free up space.

        Some manufacturers may even set up their own backup systems.  Especially since most stopped offering recovery disks.  So it’s what’s pre-installed or nothing.

        While other times you may have to create your own backup, preferably before you do anything with the system to get back to original state in case anything goes wrong or you want to sell the system later.

        Mind however, SSD prices are dropping and capacities are growing.  So it’s not as hard as it use to be to get a large enough capacity SSD for a affordable price…

      • Bugger

        Well, hopefully it can be disabled completely. I’d only use the complete reinstall (ie. reset your PC option) anyway. Which doesn’t seem much faster than just using the install DVD. You’d still have to install the newest updates and drivers.

        No matter how much space my drive has, I’d rather not use space by things I won’t use.

      • CyberGusa

         The new benefit of the Windows 8 recovery is it allows for recovery without having to reinstall everything and would be much faster.

        Only assuming a major disaster would it require going to the more traditional recovery process.

        But if you feel you’ll never need that kind of benefit then it’s up to you…

      • Bugger

         Sometimes the software you use and even driver installers leave a lot of remnants behind that take up space. For example, I had some Intel drivers that extracted files in my user directory and never removed them. Some Microsoft updates installs files in the root and other directories that never get removed. Even software from major vendors do the same thing and their uninstallers don’t help. Restoring and keeping existing software won’t help either.

        Windows rot isn’t solely just Microsoft’s fault. 3rd party vendors can, have and will contribute to it.

      • CyberGusa

         Yes but there are also 3rd party utilities for cleaning up those messes as well.

        While Windows 8 is suppose to be getting some SSD enhancements as well.  So may have less issues of left over files.

        Mind though one of the reasons some of those files were left was so the program could be uninstalled…  Deleting those files thus means you’d be stuck with the program unless you could re-install and then uninstall it…

      • Kurt

         Have you used those 3rd party uninstallers? They often just make things worse.

        Frome bugger: “their uninstallers don’t help.”

        So true. Sometimes software installations are buggy and the uninstall doesn’t resolve it. Of course, the software vendor releases a fix in their next release but sometimes doesn’t solve the issue for people who installed the previous release.

      • CyberGusa

         Yes, I’ve used 3rd party uninstallers and as long as you go for the good ones they’re good.

        It’s just like anything else, there may be crapware but there’s also some gems out there too.

      • Bugger

         Exactly and I’m not talking about some freeware programs either. Even companies that sell programs for 100s or 1000s of dollars can make mistakes. They can’t test for everything.

      • Kurt

        Right on with the 3rd party issue. I have a MacBook Pro and the usual deleting of the .app file or running the often not included uninstall option of the installer still leaves many files in various folders. So it’s not just a Microsoft problem.

  • George

    The feature itself seems like an admission of failure.  Kill the registry, now.

  • Diderik

    When I do this, will I only loose the data I have on the C: drive, or on all the drives I have???

  • Imnotgoodwithcomputers

    So I can reset Windows 8 without installation disk?

    • Heidi

      No you cannot. It appears to at first glance but then you get an error saying you need the missing files (from the cd)