Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums

What exactly does refreshing my PC keep?

  1. #1

    Posts : 9
    Windows 8 64bit

    What exactly gets kept when "refreshing" my PC?

    I need to do a reinstall, but I don't want to lose absolutely everything. I've got about 500gb of media I want to keep, and I've got a load of Steam games installed I don't really want to have to redownload. Will it keep all that?

    And other than that, is it just like doing a reinstall?
    Last edited by curtains; 08 Jun 2013 at 13:34. Reason: clarity

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  2. #2

    When you reinstall the OS you would normally lose everything stored on the partition in question. Data on other partitions or drives should be untouched but for safety you should assume this will be lost as well. All applications, even if on a different partition or drive, will need to be reinstalled. All files of any importance need at least one backup copy while those of particular importance need 2 or more backup copies. Data can be lost dues to hardware failure and a variety of other causes as well. You need to be prepared when (not if) something happens.
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  3. #3

    Posts : 9
    Windows 8 64bit

    Sorry, how does it know which files/folder to keep?
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  4. #4

    [QUOTE]Sorry, how does it know which files/folder to keep?[/QUOTE
    It doesn't keep anything.

    When you install the OS from the DVD one of the early steps is to format the drive. In this process ALL data is lost. Doing a system recovery also looses ALL data that may have previously been on the drive. It may be possible to recover some data from the drive after such an operation but you should never rely on this. Backup your data before proceeding. This is not optional.
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  5. #5

    Posts : 9
    Windows 8 64bit

    There's an option to "refresh your PC without affecting your files". I want to know if I can choose what gets saved.
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  6. #6

    Posts : 92
    Windows 10 Pro (x64)

    Well according to this Link:
    How to restore, refresh, or reset your PC - Microsoft Windows Help

    This will not effect your personal files meaning your media (Pictures, video, documents) but you will need to reinstall programs.

    I would make a system Image using Windows 7 File Recovery but also you should be running File History after you get your system built.

    2. Check to see that your Browser settings are synced like IE, Firefox (Firefox Sync), Chrome (Sync in settings) and also do a manual export of bookmarks.

    3. Check to see if you have backup of your media on external or Cloud (I prefer External since its cheaper).

    4. Check to see your Outlook files are backed up if you use it. If not you check to see your mail and PIM data is secured somewhere if you have it on the server (google, outlook, yahoo) or phone.

    5. You mentioned Steam, I did not know at the time but under the steam menu Click Backup and Restore Programs that will allow you to backup the games and also be able to restore them after system is built

    6. Lastly, Make sure you have your Drivers and Program installers (with Keys or licenses).

    Hope that helps
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  7. #7

    Posts : 9
    Windows 8 64bit

    Thanks for your answer, I can't seem to get onto any sites though. I can get on Hotmail,, but when I try to go on Microsoft it says there was a problem signing in. Bit annoying.

    I do have an external hard drive, I'm just trying to avoid moving the 500gb back to that, then moving back onto my laptop again once I'm done. That'll take ages! I think it's the only reliable option at the moment though.
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  8. #8

    Posts : 480
    Windows 8 Pro x64

    Recently, another forum member mentioned that he'd lost some settings after refresh. I haven't tested the feature since RP, so I decided to look at it more closely.

    Technically, Refresh is very similar to upgrade install (here's the upgrade process description, and you can do that 7 to 7, 8 to 8, etc), but the major difference is what gets transferred after the installation.

    What you get to keep
    Turns out, Refresh basically keeps only user files in your profile (Libraries, Desktop, Downloads, etc) and custom folders in the root of the system drive. If you made a custom image with recimg, it'll also keep the Windows folder and your programs in Program Files. That's it.

    What you lose

    In particular, Refresh:
    • wipes out everything from AppData folders (and there go all your program settings, such as browser profiles)
    • resets pretty much all user settings, like the taskbar (including pinned shortcuts along with pinned lists), custom folder and library views
    • per user control panel settings
    • etc, etc

    Sad, but true. Here is the list of settings I tested (it wasn't meant for public use, so it's a little messy, including comments in Russian :). It gets a bit better if you use Microsoft account, because some of your settings are automatically synced (e.g. File Explorer).

    It's by design

    Refresh does keep your old system in the windows.old folder, but when it transfers the files and settings back after refresh, the migration mechanism doesn't restore the items listed above.

    I also verified that this behavior is not a flaw in the migration mechanism, but rather is by design. If you perform upgrade install, you get to keep program settings and most of user settings.

    The bottom line
    If want to reinstall the OS and you can boot into Windows, perform repair install. If you can't boot and can't resolve the problem otherwise, then Refresh is the way to go.
    Last edited by Vadikan; 12 Jul 2013 at 07:42. Reason: typo fixed
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  9. #9

    Posts : 2,627
    win8.1.1 enterprise

    Why do you need to do the reinstall of the OS
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  10. #10

    Posts : 9
    Windows 8 64bit

    So it should, in theory, keep everything within my documents folder? I think I'll back up my stuff, then do a refresh, and if it doesn't work properly then I'll do a proper reinstall.

    As for why I need to, well I was having problems with my thumbnails disappearing every time I logged on. I could only find two mentions of it online, none of which worked, but I did fix it by doing a more extensive version of one of the fixes (denying system and administrator the ability to delete the cache), unfortunately this has led to regular crashes of Explorer. I've got some weird stuff going on too, I've got UAC turned off, but I can use Metro apps somehow.

    So I figure it's best to just start again really.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

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What exactly does refreshing my PC keep?

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