Everything You Need to Know About Refreshing and Resetting Your Windows 8 PC (HowToGeek)


Windows users regularly reinstall Windows (or restore from a recovery partition) to fix system problems. Windows 8 includes easier-to-use “Refresh” and “Reset” options that quickly restore Windows to a fresh, factory default configuration.
Just as mobile devices have an integrated “reset to factory defaults” option, so does Windows 8. You can even create your own refresh image or access these options if your computer can’t boot.

The Difference Between Refresh and Reset

Windows 8 has two factory reset options, named Refresh and Reset. Both reset your computer to a fresh, factory default sate. Refresh preserves your files and installed Modern programs, while Reset removes everything on your system.
When you Refresh your PC:
  • Windows will save your personal files, personalization settings, and Modern apps installed from the Windows Store.
  • Windows will reset your PC settings.
  • Windows will remove all installed desktop programs. A list of the removed programs will be saved to your desktop.
By resetting your computer settings and removing all desktop programs, Windows 8 can “refresh” your PC so it’s more like a fresh install without deleting your personal files.


When you Reset your PC, Windows will remove everything. Think of this like doing a complete Windows reinstall and formatting your hard drive.


Should You Refresh or Reset?

If you’re experiencing problems with your computer and want to fix them, you should try refreshing your PC first. Windows will restore system files and desktop programs to their default state, saving all your important personal files (and Modern apps, if you use them.)
If you want to reset your computer to its factory default state – particularly useful if you’re getting rid of the computer and want to remove your personal data, or if you just want a clean start — you should reset your PC instead.


Under the Hood

Microsoft has explained what’s actually going on under the hood here. When you reset your PC:
    1. The PC boots into Windows RE, the Windows Recovery Environment
    2. Windows RE erases and formats the Windows partitions before installing a fresh copy of Windows 8.
    3. The PC restarts into the new copy of Windows.
When you refresh your PC, the same steps occur. However, before erasing your Windows partition, Windows RE scans the hard drive for your files, settings, and Modern apps. It places them aside, installs a fresh copy of Windows, and puts them back where they were found.
Both refresh and reset involve a fresh installation of Windows, which is why your desktop programs aren’t saved.
Note that it’s always a good idea to have backup copies of your files. If something goes wrong, you wouldn’t want to lose the only copy.

How to Refresh or Reset

If your computer is still working properly, you can refresh or reset it from the PC Settings application within Windows.
If your computer is not booting properly, you can refresh or reset it from the boot options menu. We’ve covered several ways to access this menu. Once you’ve accessed it, use the Refresh your PC or Reset your PC option.

Creating Your Own Refresh Image

Refreshing your PC removes all your desktop programs. If you always install some critical desktop programs, you’ll have to reinstall them every time you refresh your computer. To save time, you can create a custom refresh image after installing the programs you use. They’ll be saved and will come back every time you refresh your computer.
Read More: How to Create a Custom Refresh Image in Windows 8

The refresh and reset features help quickly reinstall Windows. Even for experienced users, the refresh and reset processes are faster than reinstalling Windows the old-fashioned way.



How To Boot Into Safe Mode On Windows 8 or 8.1 (The Easy Way)

One of the most common steps when troubleshooting a PC is to boot into safe mode. For a long time this has been achieved by pressing the F8 key, this all changes with Windows 8 and its Automatic Repair mode. But what if we want Safe Mode?
You can still have Safe Mode, however, it is buried deep into the recovery options of Windows 8. While just mashing the F8 key as we all know will boot you into automatic recovery mode, you can still manually access the recovery options by pressing the Shift+F8 key combination. Even more simple, however, is the option to just hold the SHIFT key and click Restart at the login screen, or even within Windows.

Booting Into Safe Mode on Windows 8

There are a number of ways to get into Safe Mode, and these ways depend on whether or not you can boot the computer, or whether you can login to the computer. The first one is the simplest.
If your PC boots to the Login Screen

If you can boot the PC to the login screen, you can hold down the SHIFT key while clicking on Restart to be taken to the troubleshooting option screen where you can enable Safe Mode. Keep reading below for those details.
If Your Computer Doesn’t Boot and You Have (or Can Make) a Recovery Flash Drive
If you have access to another computer running the same version of Windows, you can create a USB recovery drive and boot the computer from that, which will take you into the recovery screens and give you access to Safe Mode (see the advanced troubleshooting tools section below).
If You Can’t Boot to the Login Screen
When your PC can’t actually boot to the login screen, you’ll usually be presented with the Recovery screen. If you don’t see this screen, you can try to hold the SHIFT key and then mash on the F8 key, which will sometimes boot you into the new advanced “recovery mode,”  where you can choose the advanced repair options button.
The only problem is that a lot of PCs don’t allow you to do this, especially newer PCs.
Keep reading the next section.

Using the Advanced Troubleshooting Tools to Actually Enable Safe Mode

Once you get to the troubleshooting screen, either by using the SHIFT + Restart trick on the login screen, or by mashing the F8 key, using a system repair flash drive, or just by clicking the advanced repair options, you’ll be taken to this screen, where you can choose to Troubleshoot your PC.
You will need to click on the Troubleshoot button.
Now select Advanced Options.
Now choose the Windows Startup Settings option, by the looks of things we were never meant to find Safe Mode.
Finally hit the Restart button.
Like magic, when your PC reboots you will be able to boot into Safe Mode from the familiar looking Advanced Boot Options screen.

Getting To Safe Mode From Within Windows 8

You have a second option, however, this requires you to be booted into Windows already. Press the Win+R key combination and type msconfig in the run box and hit enter.
Switch over to the boot tab, and click on the Safe Boot check box.
You can also choose the type of Safe Mode you want to boot into:
  • Minimal is normal safe mode.
  • Alternate Shell is safe mode with command prompt
  • Network is safe mode with networking.
The Active Directory option pertains to restoring a server that is a Domain Controller for your network. Once you have chosen your option click the ok button and restart your machine.
You PC will be booted into Safe Mode automatically.
If you restart you PC you will just keep getting booted into Safe Mode, to stop this open msconfig again and uncheck the Safe Boot option, then hit the ok button.
Finally Restart your Machine.
That’s all there is to it.