How to Refresh your PC without affecting your files in Windows 8 (step-by-step)

Win 8 refresh computer

Push-Button Reset: In this Windows 8 tutorial learn how to recover your computer without erasing personal files or removing Windows Store apps and important PC settings with the Refresh your PC feature.

Almost all mobile devices in the market today offer the ability to recover a device to its factory defaults settings in case things aren’t working as expected, with a single press of a button, that way people don’t have to deal scary errors or other issues such as the device unable to boot correctly. Following this approach, Windows 8 now also offers the same ability with two features called “Refresh your PC without affecting your files” and “Remove everything and reinstall Windows” (which we will talk about in a later tutorial).

The two Push-Button Reset concepts to recover a PC will differ from each other in one main deference, the “Refresh” process will keep the user personal files and “Remove everything” will not.

Here is the breakdown:

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

One drawback with both of these features is that neither will keep your traditional desktop programs, you will have to reinstall them all again. But don’t panic just yet, there is a way to keep your desktop programs as well — check this guide to do this

If you are interested on learning more about these features, you should read our earlier article to get a glimpse of how everything works, then comeback and use this step-by-step tutorial to recover your PC.

The great thing about this feature is that in theory a backup isn’t necessary, and you will not be spending time reconfiguring Windows and restoring your information. 

One thing worth noting is that unlike installing 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.

Before diving into the process, you should also know that many errors in Windows are caused by incorrect configuration. This means that to ensure that the “Refresh your PC” feature works, Microsoft is only preserving the following settings from your PC:

  • 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


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

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

PC settings General screenshot

3. Click Next. Here you can also get a glimpse of what will happen when you use this tool.

Win 8 recovery feature

Warning: Have the Windows 8 DVD or USB nearby. It could happen that for some reason your Windows 8 installation does not have all the necessary files to complete the refresh, in this case you’ll be prompted to insert the installation media to continue.

4. Then click Restart. Now Windows will take over and it will complete the process. Depending in your system configuration this could take a while.

Windows 8 recovery screenshot

If everything was completed successfully you will be greeted with Lock screen. Once you sign-in the operating system will finish the remaining tasks and you will be shown the short Microsoft’s tutorial on how to use Windows 8. After a few moments the Start screen will appear and if your are connected to a network, you’ll be prompted to choose whether or not to turn on sharing and connect to devices. — Choose Yes, for home and work network or No for public places.

Win 8 screenshot

Using the Refresh your PC feature in Windows 8 is almost exactly like reinstalling Windows from scratch, but less messy and quicker. Moreover, settings that aren’t likely to cause problems are kept and more importantly data (documents, music and videos) is also preserved making the entire process less painful.

Once again, remember that Windows 8 apps will not be removed, but desktop programs need to be reinstalled manually. This is because the root of the problem can be caused by the program and Microsoft is also trying to reduce the installation of programs that aren’t well designed.

The new system recovery feature built-in with Windows 8 makes it easier than ever before to help users with get back to what is important faster and spend less time figuring out an undecipherable error code or other system features. Keep in mind that you can also get to this Win 8 feature from the Advanced Start functionality by navigating the Troubleshoot menu, which will also get you access to the System Image Recovery, System Restore, and other utilities.

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].