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Refresh and Reset Your Windows 8 Computer

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Katherine Murray, author of My Windows 8 Consumer Preview, introduces the new Refresh and Reset features in Windows 8.
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If you’re an experienced user, chances are that you may be the go-to person for your friends or family when they are having trouble with their PCs. “Why is my computer running so slowly?” you mother asks. “How come all these messages pop up when I’m trying to open a program?” asks your Aunt Edna.

When our computers start having problems—whether those problems involve super-slow processing, programs that won’t launch correctly, error messages, or plain old bad behaviors—we have to put on a detective’s hat and begin to sleuth out the answer to the problem. The trouble is that this sleuthing can take a lot of time and energy, and if you have a dozen other things you need to be doing, the troubleshooting task may be low on your priority list.

If you’re the elected technical support person your friends and family members turn to for help when they’re having computer problems, your challenges are compounded because you may be trying to solve the problem over the phone or come up with a solution on a computer you’re not familiar with.

Developers working on Windows 8 want to make this type of sleuthing fast and super-simple for you. What if it were possible to click or tap a button and have your computer return to its trouble-free setting, while keeping all your data and favorite apps in place? This is what Microsoft is reaching for with the Refresh and Reset tools in Windows 8.

Refresh and Reset: What’s the Difference?

Depending on the nature of the problems you’re having, you may be able to get the computer back on the straight and narrow by simply refreshing your PC. A refresh keeps all your personal data intact—such as your favorite settings, your social contacts, your photos, and more—and preserves all the Metro apps you’ve added to your computer. Any other important settings you’ve altered—like your preferences for the way your information is shared or parental control settings—are also preserved. Windows 8 itself is reinstalled, so you get a clean copy of the operating system, which will hopefully overwrite any damaged files or settings that could have been the source of your problem.

If you want to wipe your computer clean—perhaps because you plan to donate it to a nonprofit organization or give it to a different user—you will want to reset your PC. This operation erases all your personal data, removes any apps you installed, and returns the settings on the computer back to their factory state. Windows is also reinstalled so that a clean copy of the operating system is available on the computer.

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