How to ‘Reset your PC’ and ‘Refresh your PC’ in Windows 8 (step-by-step)

Reset your PC and Refresh your PC Windows 8 features

Learn step by step how easy it is to Refresh your PC in case you are having problems with your computer and you want to fix them easily and quickly, or how easy it is to Reset your PC if, for example, you are getting rid of your Windows system.

Like most today’s mobile devices that offer one-click recovery usually with a reset button, Windows 8 now includes the capability to reset the PC to factory state when you are about to get rid of it, or to go back to a good known state when things are acting up and you need a quick way to get back to what is important.

With the concept of “push a button”, here are the main differences between the two new system recovery features:

  • Reset your PC: Essentially Windows gets reinstall, personal data, apps, and settings from your PC will get removed.
  • Refresh your PC: Here all the user’s personal data, Metro style apps, and important settings in the PC are kept intact and Windows gets reinstall.

Read Pureinfotech’s previous article — Microsoft details Windows 8 Refresh and Reset your PC features — to get a glimpse of how every works in the background, then use the following guide to use each feature:

How to Reset your PC in Windows 8

Before you dive into resetting your PC process, there are a few things that you may want to consider: Using the “Reset your PC” feature will remove everything in your computer and you will need to start from scratch, meaning that you’ll need to restore your data, reconfigure all your personal settings, and install and configure every piece of software that was installed in your system manually. This should be your last resort solution. 

Most of the time you will use this feature when giving the PC away, recycling, or when you need to safely delete important data from the hard drive, so it cannot be easily recovered.

Follow these steps to Reset your PC:

1 Use the +C shortcut to bring the Charms Bar, click Settings, and then click More PC settings.

Charms Bar - Settings - More PC Settings

2 From the PC settings, click on General, scroll down and under Reset your PC and start over, click Get started.

PC settings - Windows 8

If you have a system with multiple partitions, you will be asked: “Do you want to remove all files from all drives?”, basically here choose if you want to perform a complete erase in all drives or only where Windows 8 is installed. Choose an option to continue.

You may also get a message that some files are missing. If this is the case, you’ll need to provide the Windows 8 DVD or recovery media to complete the process — Just as a note, I tried a USB drive with the Windows installation files when testing in a virtual machine but it didn’t work, it only accepted the DVD installation media –. Once you have inserted the media, click Cancel and then click Get Started one more time.

Reset your PC - Insert Media

3 The next steps is about security, this time around Microsoft is increasing the security of your data by offering two ways to erase your personal files. The more secure, but it takes more time, is the first option Thoroughly, choosing this option Windows not only will format the hard drive but it will also write random patterns on every sector of the hard drive, overwriting any piece of information that it is visible by Windows. This offers more than enough security for a typical computer and when trying to get rid of it in a secure matter.

The second options is Quickly, but your files might be recoverable by someone else. You should choose this option if you are keeping the PC or giving it to friend or family member that you trust. With this option, Windows will perform a quick format and continue with the reinstallation of the operating system.

Choose the option that is suited for your situation to continue.

Reset your PC - How to remove personal files

Then Windows 8 will restart and boot into the reset process. The amount of time that it takes to complete the process will depend on your system configuration.

4 Once the reset process finishes, you will be asked to enter the Windows 8 Product key — If you don’t remember you can grab it from here –, then click Next, of course, you can just click Skip and enter the Windows 8 license later. 

5 In the Windows license terms, click Accept to continue.

6 Once Windows is finished installing all the necessary components and restarted several times, you’ll be presented with the Personalize page. Personalize allows you to pick a theme color for the Metro style user interface and a name for your PC. Choose your settings and click Next.

Personalize - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

7 In Settings, you’re given the choice to Use express settings, which basically will automatically take care of various aspects of maintenance, it will help you better to find solutions to problems, send information to Microsoft, and more. I am going to deep using the Customize option.

Note: Using the express settings will automatically configure many of the PC settings, reducing most of the following steps.

Settings: Windows Setup - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

8 If you are at your home, you can choose the Settings’s option Yes, turn on sharing and connect to devices.

Settings: Networking - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

9 Now select how to update your PC using Windows Update and how to protect from unsafe data and websites. For the most part leave the defaults settings here and click Next.

Settings: Windows Update - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

10 Control if you want Microsoft to collect information from your computer, then click Next.

Send Microsoft Info - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

11 Turn ON or OFF how Windows checks online for solutions to problems and if you want apps to share information among themselves, and click Next

Solutions  - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

12 Because we took the step-by-step route resting Windows 8, we are going to configure the PC with an email address from Microsoft. The reason is because adding an email address will allow you to access the new Windows Store to download any Metro style app, you can have full access to your pictures and files remotely, and you can also sync various settings with other PCs. Once you’ve entered your email address, click Next.

Sign In your PC  - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

13 Enter your Microsoft account password and click Next. You already have an account if: you use Messenger, Hotmail, Xbox Live or any Windows Live services. If you don’t have either of these, you can click the Sign up for a Microsoft account link to create one.

Microsoft account  - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

14 Windows 8 offers a method to recover your password and to keep your account secure. You’ll need to supply a least 2 options in order to continue. When you are done, click Next.

Account verification - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

If you get the error “This service isn’t available right now–…”, choose a username and password with hint for your Windows account, and click Finish.

Windows account local - Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Windows will finalize the setup and your Windows 8 Consumer Preview is finally installed. Believe it or not, the whole process took me less than 20 minutes!

How to Refresh your PC in Windows 8

With Refresh your PC you can get the benefit of the “Reset your PC” feature of starting with a fresh copy of Windows installation, however all your important personal data, settings, and Metro style apps are kept intact. If you are interested on using refresh and also keeping all your desktop applications check the following article — How to create a custom Refresh Point with Recimg.exe in Windows 8 [Step by Step].

One of the most important and exciting part about “Refresh your PC” feature is that you won’t have the need to back up anything (e.g., documents, music, video, photos, etc.) to a network shared or external hard drive, and then spend even more time restoring your information.

Also something worthy noting is that a difference of when you install Windows from a DVD or USB drive, you are not going to see any welcome screen or reconfigure anything else such as your user profile, and other important settings are kept.

Because of many Windows issues are caused by incorrect configuration, to make sure that Refresh fixes the problem, Microsoft is preserving only the following settings — more settings to preserve may be added in future releases –:

  • Wireless network connections
  • Mobile broadband connections
  • Drive letters assignments
  • BitLocker and BitLocker To Go settings
  • Personalization settings like wallpapers and lock screen background

Settings that aren’t preserve, because they can cause problems are:

  • File type associations
  • Windows Firewall settings
  • Display settings

To Refresh your PC in Windows 8 do the following:

1 Use the +C shortcut to bring the Charms Bar, click Settings, and then click More PC settings.

Charms Bar - Settings - More PC Settings

2 From the PC settings, click on General, scroll down and under Refresh your PC without affecting your files, click Get started.

PC settings - Windows 8

4 Click Next, then Restart and just let Windows complete the refresh process. This may take some time depending on your system configuration.

When you use Refresh utility, Windows will only preserve the Metro style apps, and desktop apps need to be reinstalled manually. There are two reasons for this: First, an application can be the cause of the problem, and second Microsoft doesn’t want to reinstall a bad application in your system.

The new system recovery utilities that are now part of Microsoft next operating system not only makes it a lot easier than before for users to reinstall Windows 8, but also will aid the end-user to fix problems that may occur besides other system failures. Even though, today I showed you Refresh and Reset features within Windows 8, you can also get to these features at boot in the Advanced Startup functionality, under the Troubleshoot menu, that will also allow you to access the System Image Recovery, System Restore, and other advanced options. 

Mauro is a technology writer at and He’s been recognized as a Microsoft MVP, he’s also a technology enthusiast and enjoys writing content about Microsoft, Google, Apple, and other interesting technologies. Got a hat tip? Send him an email with your rants, rumors, tips and tattles.

Email @Pureinfotech
  • elyoga

    I can´t access Guest account, so I decided reset or refresh my computer to Factory setting again and it keeps getting the message “There was a problem resetting your PC” and when I click “Check for solutions to this problem” nothing happens . What can I do?

    Updating is very slow too, it takes about 20-30 minutes sometimes, and most of the time it shows the message “There was a problema updating your PC”. Is it normal? I bought this PC on black friday and I haven´t practically use it.

    What can I do?


    • Pit

      Do you get the message “There was a problem resetting your PC” while resetting or before where you can still cancel and go back to Windows with no problems? If you can the first thing I will do would be to backup all important data, then go to Control Panel and “Create a recovery drive” — type that in the search to find it. Finally try to use this new recovery drive to reset your system.

      Getting the obvious out of the way, can I assume that when to control panel and properly turned on the Guest account?

      About the updates, how long it take to update will depend in many things: System configuration, Internet connection, etc. and you can expect to take longer than usual to update in new systems, because they have been in box for a while and new updates may be required.


      • Faraz Feroz

        i dont have recovery and getting this same error
        tried resetting, automatic recovery, refreshing your pc.. but nothing worked.. :(
        what should i do ???

        • Pit

          Hello Faraz,

          Try the method #1 from this article and let me know, if you still having the problem.


  • maKzig

    Windows To Go does not support refresh and reset. Is there a way to do refresh and reset? Please advise. How can I do it in my Windows To Go. Please help. Thanks

  • Pit

    I would recommend you to back up your data and re-do the Windows To Go, is about the same time it would take you to do a refresh or reset.


  • Hassan Ahmed

    hi i have sony duo 11 where no DVD so how i can pass the message You may also get a message that some files are missing.

  • Jai In Kim

    Hello. I have Alienware M14 with windows 8. I am trying to reset my laptop removing everything. I used USB to reset, so I passed Insert media problem after I get started reset. But almost right after that. It says “There was a problem resetting your pc.” when i clicked solutions to this problem, nothing happens. I also created recovery drive usb and installed windows 8 boot setup inside, but did same thing gone. what should i do.?

    • Mauro

      Hello Jai,
      Sorry to hear you are having problems resetting your Windows 8 PC, while there is no much details to work with here, it appears that may be you have a corrupted Windows 8 installation media or something cause a conflict. Can you still boot to your PC? If so try disconnecting all the peripherals, only leave the keyboard, mouse, and monitor, also disable any antivirus and try again.

      If you can’t boot to your system, now this is another problem, which you probably have to recover from previous backup or start fresh with a new installation of Windows.