A clean-slate reinstall for Windows 8

Fred Langa

Windows 8’s built-in, automated ‘Remove everything and reinstall’ option provides a fast way to give systems a totally fresh start.

Used properly, it can clear up even the worst types of software trouble and malware infections — it can even help improve your privacy and data security.

Win8’s repairing, restoring, and rebuilding tools go beyond those found in previous versions of Windows. For example, Win 8’s built-in Refresh option lets you run a fast, no-reformat, nondestructive reinstall of the operating system.

The Refresh option restores Win8’s core system files to their original condition but doesn’t alter user accounts, passwords, or data. However, it might remove or alter some of your installed programs. (For more on Refresh, see the Aug. 15 Top Story, “A ‘no-reformat reinstall’ for Windows 8.”)

When system problems are too much for the Refresh option, Win8 also offers a second option: Remove everything and reinstall Windows — a highly automated, built-in tool that completely removes your existing setup and reinstalls Win8 from scratch. It even includes a data-overwriting option that’s useful when you’re recycling a PC.

(Although Windows 8 initially refers to this function as Remove everything and reinstall Windows, it’s more succinctly called Reset — which I’ll use from here on out — throughout the remove/reinstall process.)

Reset is primarily useful for two circumstances:

  • Securing personal data when the system is out of your hands: Reset can substantially improve privacy when you sell a PC, give it away, send it in for repair, or otherwise place the system in the hands of others. Not only will it wipe out all your user accounts, data, passwords, and installed programs, selecting the optional disk-wiping function helps ensure that no easily recoverable data is left on the hard drive.
  • Recovering a severely compromised or malfunctioning PC: When other recovery methods prove futile, Win8’s Reset will eliminate all traces of the bad setup and give you a simplified and properly functioning Win8 system. You can then reinstall any additional software you need (being careful to not re-create the previous problem) and then restore your user data from File History or whatever other backup medium you used.


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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.