Windows 8.1: Windows Refresh and Reset

DellWindowsReinstallationGuide is written and maintained by Philip Yip. 



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Introduction – The Free Upgrade to Windows 10 Version 1709

Windows 8.1 Reached End of Mainstream Support in January 2018. Extended Support lasts until January 2023. For more details see End of Support.

Microsoft are keen for you to Upgrade to Windows 10. The Upgrade is Free and you may directly Clean Install Windows 10 Version 1709 (September 2017) or perform an Upgrade Install of Windows 10 Version 1709 (September 2017).

Windows 10 Version 1709 (September 2017 Build 16299) is a polished and a very stable build and I would recommend installing it in all cases instead of Windows 8.1:


Since Windows 10 Version 1511 (November 2015) was released Microsoft have a proper Digital Distribution and activation mechanism for Windows 10 supporting all Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 OEM licenses including Windows 8.1 with Bing and Windows 8.1 Single Language with Bing.

See Windows OEM FAQs and Downloads for instructions in Downloading a Windows 10 .iso, Creating a Bootable USB and Clean Installing Windows 10 or performing an Upgrade Install to Windows 10.


What are Windows Refresh and Windows Reset?

The Windows Refresh feature is essentially a Reinstallation of Windows for Windows 8 and later which does not affect the user files in:

  • Desktop
  • Documents
  • Downloads
  • Favourites
  • Music
  • OneDrive*
  • Pictures
  • Video

* Not tested in this example but OneDrive is backed up online anyway.

The following folders and all their contents are replaced during the Refresh. Any files added to these directories after the refresh image is made will be removed:

  • AppData
  • Program Data
  • Program Files (x86)
  • Program Files
  • Temporary Internet Files
  • Windows

The following folder in my test was removed using a refresh with Windows installation media but was left intact with a custom refresh image:

  • Recycle Bin

This includes any installed programs (which go in the Program Files (x86) and Program Files folders) and the Windows Registry.

These locations are all system folders and temporary files which can get clogged up and tend to slow down the overall performance of your system.

Windows Store Apps will be uninstalled and automatically reinstalled via the Windows Store when connected online. Desktop applications will all be uninstalled and listed in a html document on the Desktop.

There are two means of refreshing:

  • No Refresh Image → Requires Installation Media → No System Drivers or Desktop Applications
  • Refresh Image/Factory Partition → System Drivers and Desktop Applications present when the Refresh Image or Factory Partition was created.

On the other hand the Windows 8.1 Reset feature is essentially a Reinstallation of Windows 8.1 without retaining any user files and it requires installation media.

The Refresh doesn't perform a secure wipe however  Microsoft have added an option to wipe your drive while performing a reset. I am not sure how this wipe compares to the likes of DBAN.

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