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Windows 8’s Refresh feature allows you to quickly revert your Windows system back to a clean, freshly installed state. It’s like reinstalling Windows, but it’s easier, faster, and preserves your personal files. If Refresh fails or doesn’t solve your problems, these troubleshooting tips should help you fix things.
Bear in mind that refreshing your PC will remove all your installed desktop software. This gives you a clean, fresh Windows desktop and eliminates problems caused by third-party software, but means that you’ll have to reinstall your software later. Resetting your PC instead of refreshing it will erase everything, including any personal files you have stored on your hard drive.
Use Windows 8 Installation Media or a Recovery Drive
If your boot loader ever becomes damaged, you may find yourself unable to boot into Windows 8 or access the boot menu and use the Refresh option. In this case, there are still things you can do.
If you have a Windows 8 installation disc or USB drive, insert it and restart the computer. Click the Next option on the Windows Setup screen, click Repair your computer, and you’ll see the Advanced Startup Options menu where you can Refresh your computer and use other troubleshooting tools.
If you don’t have Windows installation media, you can insert a recovery drive instead. If you haven’t created a recovery drive yet, you can create one on another computer running Windows 8. To do so, press the Windows key to access the Start screen, type “recovery drive” at the Start screen to search for the utility, and click the Create a recovery drive option. Go through the wizard and use the options to create a recovery drive, which you can use with any computer.
Switch to Your Computer’s Default Refresh Image
The Refresh feature on Windows 8 normally uses a single recovery image that comes from your computer manufacturer or Microsoft. When you refresh your computer, the computer will reinstall your system files using the files in the recovery image.
However, it’s possible for system administrators and Windows geeks to create their own refresh images with the recimg command. If you’ve used the recimg command to create a custom recovery image, there may be a problem with your image. For example, you may have made a recovery image after installing a program or making a system settings change that caused problems. In this case, refreshing your PC won’t give you a clean system.
You can see if you have multiple recovery images by opening a Command Prompt as administrator — to do so, press Windows Key + X and click Command Prompt (Admin). Run the following command:
If you see a message saying you have no custom recovery image, you can stop here. The below command will only help if you’ve previously created a custom recovery image and set it as the default.
If you have multiple recovery images, run the following command:
After using this command, perform a Refresh again and your computer will use the default recovery image instead.
Fix Refresh, Reset, and Automatic Repair Failing to Run
According to Microsoft, corruption and damage to the registry can also result in the Refresh, Reset, and Automatic Repair features failing. In this case, you may need to modify your registry so they can continue. Note that this operation will make it impossible to refresh your PC, you’ll instead have to reset your PC.
If any of these operations fail, you’ll be sent back to the main screen. If you are, click Troubleshoot tile, click Advanced options, and select Command Prompt.
Warning: This process should only be used if you can’t use the Refresh, Reset, or Automatic Repair operations at all. You won’t be able to use your current Windows installation or refresh your PC after running these commands; you’ll have to perform a full Reset.
Enter a password if prompted, then run the following commands in order:
ren system system.001
ren software software.001
After your PC reboots, click Advanced options, select Troubleshoot, and select Reset your PC to perform a reset.
Reset Your PC Instead
If you’ve successfully refreshed your PC, but you’re still having problems, you may want to try performing a Reset instead. When you Refresh your PC, Windows keeps your personal files and settings. It’s possible that some of these settings may be causing some sort of issue. A Reset wipes everything, restoring your PC back to its factory default state. This is just like reinstalling Windows or using your computer’s recovery partition.
When all else fails, it’s time to reinstall Windows. If you can’t seem to use the Refresh or Reset operations no matter what you do, your Windows installation may be too damaged to save. If so, you can use Windows 8 installation media to reinstall Windows on your computer. If you only have an installation CD, you can create a Windows 8 installer USB drive from it. Just insert the installation media, reboot, and go through the installation process.
This may take a bit longer, but it’s roughly the same thing as performing a Reset. You may have to download drivers for your computer from its manufacturer’s website afterwards.
These tips should help you solve most problems. If all else fails, reinstalling Windows should solve any software problems you face.If problems persist, you may be looking at a hardware problem. For example, if your computer keeps freezing after refreshing or reinstalling Windows, some of its hardware may be failing.
Do you know any other helpful information for dealing with errors when refreshing Windows 8? Leave a comment below!
Image Credit: Intel Free Press on Flickr