Before Windows 8, a lot of people would reinstall windows using a disk just to fix an annoying problem or to speed up the system. This was a complicated process that involved a lot of time and put your data at risk. Not to mention you might have rendered your system unbootable if you installed it wrong.
Well now with Windows 8, all you have to do is refresh your system. It allows you to start over while still keeping all your apps, data, and settings. I would compare it to clearing the cache and browsing data from a web browser, which speeds up the loading time of webpages.
Before I go further, here’s an important note: You shouldn’t confuse Windows 8 Refresh with Windows 8 Reset. Refresh is a toned down kind of cleaning up of Windows, while reset actually starts you out with a fresh install of Windows 8.
This option would be good if refresh just wasn’t doing it for you (which most likely won’t happen) or if you were about to sell your machine. (Wouldn’t want any of your personal data to get in the hands of a complete stranger, now would you?)
So how does Refresh actually work? Well it actually is a fresh install of Windows 8. The main difference between reset though, is that it automatically sets aside all your data and settings. This is much like how when you install a new version of Windows, a new folder is set aside called “Windows.old.”
The difference is that this is much more streamlined and user friendly. Once the new operating system is installed, Windows automatically puts all the data right down to the Metro tiles right back to where it belongs.
Microsoft made the refresh feature so that if a device was performing poorly, all the user’s data would be preserved while eliminating the source of the problem.
An example of what would be preserved besides your data would be WiFi settings, encryption settings, and drive letter assignments, but file type associations, firewall settings, and display settings would be reset to see if they were the root of the problem.
Another important thing to note would be that while Microsoft does restore your Metro apps, it does not restore your Win32 apps just in case some of these were the root of your problem. It does give you a list of what software you need so that you can reinstall them manually.
If you really want to keep some software, though, and not have to reinstall all your Win32 apps, you can refresh to a custom slate which allows you to list the pieces of software that you want to keep, and list the Metro apps that you don’t want.
I am actually thinking of refreshing my system because it’s feeling a little sluggish right now, but first I would have to make sure that I had all the Win32 programs that I want, saved. Once I do this, I might post a step by step guide on how to do it if enough people want one. If you do, please comment below.