I’d like to be able to reset my computer to its default settings, and have it work just like it did when I first got it. Is there an easy way to do this without reinstalling Windows from scratch?
Both of us reinstall Windows regularly (Ken does it more often—he seems to like that “new computer” smell), mostly to clean up the “gunk” that piles up as you use Windows for a while. Successfully wiping a drive, reinstalling Windows, and restoring all your settings and information isn’t easy, however—you should leave that task to a professional. With versions of Windows before Windows 8, however, that was your only option, and it can take some time to back things up, confirm that the backup works, reformat your drive, reinstall Windows, reinstall all your applications, reinstall all your settings, and copy over all your documents. And that assumes that you’re fastidious about how you store your documents, keeping them all in one central location.
Windows 8, however, provides a very nice mechanism for restoring your system to its original state. It gives you the option of restoring to the computer to its original state, as if you have never used it; or the option to keep all your Windows store applications, documents, and settings, and simply restore Windows to its default state. (There’s no magic to retain the Windows desktop applications that you have installed—you will need to reinstall those manually from their downloads or DVDs/CDs.) Recently, Ken needed to sell a Windows 8 computer, and the option to completely wipe the drive and reset everything to its default state was incredibly useful. But that doesn’t sound like what you need—instead, you want to preserve all your content, and just reset Windows back to its default state.
To take this action, first back up your computer. Confirm that the backup works by comparing the contents to your computer’s contents (all backup software should have an option to do this). Then, press Windows+I (that’s the Windows key, in the lower-left corner of the keyboard), and click Change PC Settings. Click Update and Recovery, and finally, click the option to refresh without affecting your files. Sit back for a while, and let Windows 8 do its work. When you’re done, you should have a clean Windows installation with your content intact—all your documents and settings will still be there, along with any Windows Store apps you had installed. You’ll need to reinstall any Windows desktop applications that you had installed before resetting. (Please, we beg of you: Do not attempt this action without first ensuring that you have a working backup. You will regret it, if you do not. Sure, the reset procedure should work: But what if it doesn’t?) For more information, check out this clear write up: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/restore-refresh-reset-pc.