How to Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows 8 (step-by-step)

Win 8 Reset feature

Push-Button Reset: Sometimes when you stumble upon a problem or error messages that you cannot understand, it is just best start from scratch, wipe out the hard drive and reinstall Windows to its default factory state, than trying to find a solution. This was in the past somewhat not an easy task and time-consuming, but now with Windows 8, the process of recovery is easier, quicker, and you don’t even need the installation DVD or USB media. That is thank to Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows feature that comes built-in the operating system.

It is worth noting that Windows 8 also has another similar feature called “Refresh your PC without affecting your files” that I previously walked you through.

The difference

  • Remove everything: Basically all the user’s files get securely erased, also PC settings and apps are removed, a fresh copy of Windows gets reinstalled, and Windows starts the Out of Box Experience (OOBE). — For this operation data backup is critical.
  • Refresh your PC: Here all user’s personal files, Windows 8 apps and important settings are kept and a fresh copy of Windows is reinstall.

The most noticeable benefits about Remove Everything (a.k.a Reset Your PC) is that the hard drive gets wiped out securely, deleting apps, personal files and all PC settings, and reinstalling a fresh copy of Windows of course, bringing the PC to its factory defaults configuration. Which is perfect if you are donating, recycling, or just simply getting rid off the PC without giving away personal information such as bank accounts, passwords, taxes, etc.

Note: If you try to recover your system via the PC settings the tool name is: “Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows”. However, when you go through the Windows Recovery Environment, this is call “Reset your PC”, which is the same thing.
Warning: You may want to back up all your important data before continuing. Also make sure you list and have the installation files for any programs you want to reinstall back. One way you can go backing up your files is by using File History.


1. Use the Windows 8 Key +I keyboard shortcut to bring the Settings menu and click Change PC settings.

2. From the PC settings menu, navigate through General and click Get Started under Remove everything […]

Win 8 Control Panel - PC settings

3. Click Next in the Reset your PC notification.

Win8 Reset notifacation

4. Important: Choose Just remove my files if you to simply want Windows to delete your personal files or use Fully clean the drive which securely deletes all data.

Win 8 notifcation securely erase

Note: If you have more than one hard drive, you’ll be prompted to decide whether you like to remove all the files in those drives, or just from the HD where Windows is currently installed.

5. In the next notification simply click Reset to begin the process.

Reset button

It is worth noting that both Push-Button Reset features are really fast. If your computer is brand new with good hardware designed for Windows 8, Microsoft’s performance analysis shows that most PC Reset operations should take less than 10 minutes, and a PC Refresh should take under 20 minutes. Pretty amazing, compare to Windows 7, which performed a clean install in less than 30 minutes and that was a major improvement. But that did not include making a backup first, install updates, restoring your data, installing other drives, if any, or reconfiguring Windows settings — With Windows 8, you will not have to spend a whole weekend to restore your PC.

You’re almost done!

6. Click Accept in the license agreement to continue.

7. In Personalize, pick an ambient color, enter a PC name and click Next.

Win 8 Personalize options

8. Next is Settings, for this guide we will use the defaults Microsoft settings — If need help using the custom settings refer to this previous article –. Click Use express settings to continue.

Express settings

9. In Sign in to your PC, Microsoft is pushing for users to sign-in using a Microsoft account, but you can still use the old local account, to do this click the link Sign in without a Microsoft account.

MS account Win 8 signin

10. Click Local account to continue.

Local account Win 8

11. Enter your user name and password credentials, and click Finish.

Password and username

Win 8 will complete your settings and finally you will go through the Microsoft’s short Windows 8 tutorial, before you are presented with the Start screen.

Quick Tip: Both tools are available from the Windows 8 Modern UI PC settings, and from the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE). If you prefer this route, go back to the PC settings, in General, you can click Restart Now from the Advanced Startup. Then click Troubleshoot and Reset your PC or Refresh your PC.

Noticeably this Push-Button Reset concept is a leap forward from the old days where we needed to really prepare and have a deep understanding of what was involved in the process. Now you can do this at any point on time. Of course, you can always try to Refresh your PC first, if something goes wrong.

Many people will say that these new features are not a complete recovery solution. And that is understandable opinion, because today, we cannot save traditional desktop programs such as Photoshop, VMware, Office, etc., while rescuing our PCs. But as we move forward, many software developers will port their programs to the new Windows 8 app model (or should I say: Windows Blue model), and if this version of Microsoft’s operating system takes-off, soon many business related programs will only be used by tech savvy and business users, which rely heavily on IT support. This means that the Refresh and Reset features, mix with other kind of data backup will form a very solid recovery solution. For example: File History and custom system recovery image.

Even after the fact that many users will have to manually reinstall and update various Windows desktop programs, using one of the new amazing recovery tools in Windows 8, everyone will appreciate getting back to what’s important faster than ever before.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].