A quick and easy-to-use option to return your computer to a previous "good" state. Microsoft has revealed that such a feature will be in the Windows 8 beta due out next month.
Microsoft program manager Desmond Lee, in a posting earlier this week on the company's Building Windows 8 blog, said that the new OS will allow a user to return the machine to a "good state" when it's not working optimally, or to return it to the "factory state" when the machine is being given to someone else or decommissioned.
'A Consistent Experience'
Lee compared this coming feature with the different approaches available today, such as conducting a data backup and then a clean reinstall of the entire system, sometimes with non-Microsoft tools.
Microsoft said it is trying to provide "a consistent experience" across all Windows 8 machines, to streamline the process, ensure that data is not lost, and offer customization options.
Resetting the PC removes all personal data, apps, and settings, and reinstalls Windows. Refresh keeps all personal data, Metro-style apps and important settings, and reinstalls Windows. The company said that a quick reset can be conducted in about six minutes, a thorough reset in a bit under half an hour, and a refresh in about eight minutes.
When resetting, the PC boots into the Windows Recovery Environment, where the hard drive partitions with Windows and personal data are erased and reformatted. Windows is then newly reinstalled.
There will also be an option to erase the data more thoroughly, which, the company said, "significantly" limits the effectiveness of sophisticated data recovery efforts by writing random patterns to every sector. The data cannot then be retrieved without equipment that Microsoft said was "prohibitively expensive" for most people.
The "coolest part" about the refresh option, Lee wrote, is that "there's no need to back up your data to an external hard drive" and restore it afterward. In refresh, the PC also boots into Windows Recovery Environment. Data, settings, and apps are then found and "put aside" on the same drive. A new copy of Windows is installed, and the data, settings, and apps are restored.
Only Metro-style apps are restored, while apps that were not pre-installed, which could have been a source of the problem, will need to be reinstalled manually. A list of apps that were not restored will be available in a HTML file on the desktop.
The settings that are preserved in refresh include wireless network connections, broadband connections, BitLocker and BitLocker To Go settings, drive letter assignments, and personalization settings, such as wallpaper. But some settings will not be preserved, as Microsoft said they could cause problems if they're misconfigured. These include Windows Firewall settings, display settings, and file type associations.
It will also be possible to install your own apps, or remove pre-installed ones, and then create a baseline image of the hard drive and restore the image, so the user installed apps won't have to be reinstalled.