How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation

Chris Hoffman 24-06-2013

repair windows 8 installationIn addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for “refreshing” and “resetting” your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows — either keeping your personal files or deleting them from your hard drive. In addition to functioning as troubleshooting features, Refresh and Reset are similar to the “restore to factory defaults” option found on many simpler devices.


We’ll explain how to use these features, but we’ll also explain what they do and when you’d want to use them. They’re all useful in different circumstances, from troubleshooting your computer to starting with a fresh system or cleaning your PC before passing it on to someone else.

Restore Your PC

What it Does: System Restore in Windows 8 functions just like System Restore in previous versions of Windows System Restore Not Working? 5 Fixes for Windows 7 and 10 System Restore saves your PC from disaster. But what if it System Restored failed you? We've got the fix. Read More . Windows regularly takes snapshots of important system and program files. If your computer starts crashing or blue-screening — which may happen if you install buggy drivers, system files become damaged, or malware tampers with Windows — you can use System Restore and quickly revert your system files to their earlier state.

When You Should Do It: If your computer is crashing, freezing, or otherwise being unstable, you may want to try using System Restore. Unlike the Refresh and Reset options, System Restore won’t delete your installed programs or personal files. System Restore isn’t a guaranteed way to fix your computer, but it’s much faster than Refreshing or Resetting and can save you time if you need to fix a recent problem.

How to Restore Your System: Press the Windows key to access the Start screen Upgrading to Windows 8? Get Settled In Faster with these Tips If it's about time you purchase a new computer, that computer is probably going to come with Windows 8. Microsoft hasn't included a tutorial with Windows 8 -- aside from the cryptic "move your mouse... Read More , then type Recovery at the Start screen to perform a search. Tap or click the Settings option in the sidebar, and then select the Recovery shortcut. Click the Open System Restore option to open the System Restore wizard, which will walk you through selecting a restore point and restoring your system files from it.

repair windows 8 installation


Refresh Your PC

What it Does: The Refresh Your PC feature will give you a fresh Windows installation without deleting any of your personal files. It’s like re-installing Windows, but you don’t have to back up and restore your files manually. Desktop applications you’ve installed will be uninstalled, but Modern apps What Are The Best Apps To Get Started With Windows 8? Read More will be preserved. Any desktop apps that came with your PC will also be re-installed. A list of removed desktop apps will be saved to your desktop so you can re-install the ones you want back on your system.

When You Should Do It: If you want to re-install Windows and have a completely fresh system, but you don’t want to go through all the hassle of backing up your files and restoring them, the Refresh option is for you. Refresh will wipe out all of your installed desktop applications, which means you’ll have to spend time re-installing them. However, this is part of what makes it so useful — all desktop applications as well as their leftover files and registry entries will be wiped out. Any malware or obnoxious Windows software The Best PC Software for Your Windows Computer Want the best PC software for your Windows computer? Our massive list collects the best and safest programs for all needs. Read More lurking on your system will be removed.

How to Refresh Your PC: Open the Settings charm (press Windows Key + I Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Keyboard shortcuts can save you hours of time. Master the universal Windows keyboard shortcuts, keyboard tricks for specific programs, and a few other tips to speed up your work. Read More or swipe in from the right and tap Settings), and then tap or click the Change PC settings option at the bottom of the sidebar. Select the General category, and then tap or click the Get started button under Refresh your PC without affecting your files.

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Reset Your PC

What it Does: The Reset Your PC feature will give you a fresh Windows installation and will also delete all of your personal files. It’s exactly like re-installing Windows — all your personal files and applications will be deleted and you’ll be left with an entirely fresh state. In other words, it’s like a Refresh that also erases your personal files. You’ll have to back up your files Did You Know Windows 8 Has a Built-In Time Machine Backup? We sometimes forget with all the focus on Windows 8's new "Modern" interface, but Windows 8 has a variety of great desktop improvements. One of them is File History, a built-in backup feature that functions... Read More ahead of time or you’ll lose them when you Reset.

When You Should Do It: If you want a completely fresh Windows system and want to start over from scratch, the Reset option is for you. It’s also useful if you want to sell your computer or pass it on to someone new — it will wipe out all your personal files so the computer’s new owner can’t access them. You may still want to perform a secure wipe of your hard drive’s storage How to Wipe Your Hard Drive While Leaving the OS Intact Formatting a hard drive also erases Windows. But there are methods you can use to wipe a hard drive and keep Windows intact! Read More to ensure any particularly sensitive documents can’t be recovered, however.

How to Reset Your PC: Open the Settings charm (swipe in from the right and tap Settings or press Windows Key + I), and then select Change PC settings. Tap or click the General category, scroll down, and tap or click the Get started button under Remove everything and re-install Windows.

restore windows 8


If Your Computer Can’t Boot

All the above Windows features help when troubleshooting your PC. System Restore can fix a variety of problems, but Refresh and Reset are like reinstalling Windows — always a favorite troubleshooting step among geeks who just want their Windows computers to work and don’t want to spend time hunting down the problem. For this reason, you may find yourself wanting to Restore, Refresh, or Reset your PC if Windows can’t boot.

If Windows can’t boot, it will hopefully boot you into the Advanced Startup Options screen How To Resolve Windows 8 Boot Issues Windows 8 uses a new "hybrid boot" feature to improve boot times. When you shut down, your computer doesn't actually shut down normally - it performs a sort of limited "hibernate" that stores a state... Read More . From here, you can Restore, Refresh, and Reset your PC — in addition to using other advanced startup options.

restore windows 8

If your computer can’t boot — not even into the Advanced Startup Options screen — you can try booting from a Windows 8 installation disc or USB drive and selecting the Repair your computer option at the start of the Windows installation process. You can also boot from a Windows 8 Recovery USB drive and access the Advanced Startup Options screen.


If you don’t have Windows installation media or a Windows 8 Recovery Drive lying around, you can create Windows 8 recovery media from any Windows 8 computer.

repair windows 8 installation

Do you have any other tips for using the Restore, Refresh, or Reset options on Windows 8? Leave a comment below and share them!

Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Windows 8.

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  1. Tyler mason
    January 25, 2017 at 4:59 am

    Lost a file? Don't be upset.
    Just use "KrojamSoft FilesSearch"

  2. nicole alondra
    January 23, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    Lost file ?
    Try File Search Tool

  3. fullmanido
    April 25, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    I have Win8 on a Toshiba labtop, out of the box, it is the slowest OS I have running. This is sad, the newest laptop, is the worse. After being a 20 year dedicated Win OS user, I am switching to App** and Lin**. I went through this mess with Me, Vista, an now 8.1, enough MS, enough.

    • Brenda Boling
      May 15, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Glad I saw this site! I was getting ready to refresh mine cause I thought it would be all my info I needed.
      Don't even know where to look for serial number. Does anyone?,I'm sure You do. I have Toshiba and it's been driving me up a wall. It's Windows 8.1
      Thanks everyone.

    • Brenda Boling
      May 15, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      be , should be keep - Sorry about that.

    • Brenda Boling
      May 15, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Mine is only a few months old. But haven't used it much.

    • peter
      December 20, 2015 at 8:54 am

      I feel your pain

  4. annie
    March 11, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    I did the same thing ,lost all my installed programs ,is there a way to get it back .pls any suggestions ! i really need to get everything back

  5. Tony
    February 7, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    I reinstalled (Refresh) windows 8 and wiped out all my data in partition D. I can't seem to recover the data. Any suggestions?

  6. Emily
    February 2, 2015 at 3:41 am

    So a friend of mine dropped my computer and it wouldn't turn on. After 6 hours of trial and error, I finally got it to the reset stage. Now it is retrieving files and has been for close to 8 hours now. Is this normal? Is my laptop completely trashed? What should I do?

  7. Lynn Harwood
    January 19, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I need a link for a Lenovo windows 8 for full repair and recovery and install network system so I can download from my iPhone to my pc desktop thank you yours lynn

  8. Tracy Scanlon
    December 13, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    This makes my 3rd refresh,because of windows update problems.I didn't even know i had update problems until i tried to update to freebe 8.1,wouldn't update. then i found out the reason why was because the Microsoft.NET update KB2861702 would not install.I STILL have NOT resolved this crap,and I'm over it.If they want people to update this is NOT the way one would go about it.Anybody else experiencing this crap?

  9. Hisham S
    October 12, 2013 at 2:36 am

    i don't understand what "Desktop apps" and "Modern apps" are!!
    If i have CODE::BLOCKS and MATLAB installed and i refresh my laptop do i need to reinstall them????????????????????????????????????????????

  10. Janny
    October 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    How do I boot from an installation disk if I cannot get into the BIOS? My windows 8 laptop won't boot, it kind of gets stuck somewhere within booting and there seems to be some kind of loop going on. No advanded startup screen unfortunately! I do have an intstallation disk but my laptop won't boot from the disk. Please help me if you can!

    • Rob
      October 22, 2013 at 11:07 pm

      To get into your BIOS you normally have to hold down a key right after you turn the computer on, usually F2, or Delete. Just google your manufacturer and BIOS and you should be able to find the answer.

  11. Karen
    September 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Could I still retrieve files after I reset my windows 8? Is there any possible way or a program to do that? Please help me. Thanks

  12. Cameron
    September 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    My Windows 8 came pre installed, will I need to enter a serial?

    • Christine
      March 12, 2015 at 9:09 am

      My windows was preinstalled. Do I need a serial key?

  13. guy
    June 25, 2013 at 8:13 am

    here is my advice.

    dont use their secure wipe. It takes 2 days on a bigish drive

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      Yikes, it shouldn't take that long! You only need to do one pass -- some programs may want to do 30 passes or something ridiculous, but that's not necessary.

  14. bard
    June 25, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Keep in mind if you reset your pc you will need to input the serial you received. Tried this and had to dig up all my notation from the original upgrade option.

    • Chris Hoffman
      June 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      That's a good point, thanks! I imagine on a new Windows 8 PC it will have the key "baked in," but if you've upgraded yourself you'll have to enter the key again.