Windows 8.1: Creating a Custom Refresh Image

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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.


Recommended Checks

The recommended pre-checks to making a custom image are:

  • Windows is Activated
  • Office is Activated (if installed)
  • All the system drivers are installed
  • Windows is up to Date

If you are satisfied this has been carried out proceed to Creating a Refresh Image.

Before making a custom Refresh image, it is recommended to check that your Microsoft Product(s) are activated. To check Windows right click the start button and select system:


The Windows activation status is at the bottom and should say Windows is activated. If its not activated you'll be prompted to activate:


For Microsoft Office suites e.g. Professional Plus open up a program e.g. Powerpoint select help and then check the activation status. If its not activated select activate.


For separate Office programs such as Visio check the activation status.


To check any programs you have installed, right click the start button and select Programs and Features.


You will be shown a list of your installed programs. In my case VMWare Tools which are equivalent to the system drivers and Office 2010 and Visio 2010.


I also recommend checking your Device Manager to make sure your drivers are installed.

Right click the start button and select Device Manager:


Check that there are no unknown devices and that your devices have are okay in particular:

  • Display Adapter
  • Network Adapters
  • Sound, Video and Game Controllers
  • Disc Drives
  • Imaging Devices


For more details on checking the device manager see Checking Hardware IDs in the Device manger.

Its also advisable to check that Windows Updates is up to date.

Right click the Start menu and select control panel:


Select system and security:

y Under the Windows Update category, select Check for Updates :


Windows will check for any updates and present them to you if necessary:


Once its found the updates you can click on the important updates:


You may uncheck any updates you don't want to install (optional) and select install:


Once the updates are installed you'll be prompted to Restart:


You should then check for updates again until no important updates are offered and you have installed all the optional updates that you wish to install:


Once your system is ready, with all Microsoft products activated and all the system drivers installed, you may install additional software you wish to be present after the refresh. You should only install software you are certain about as third party software can sometimes cause issues with the Windows 8.1 OS and if such software is installed before creating the Refresh image, it'll be incorporated into the Refresh image. Usually I recommend an image of just Microsoft software and system drivers.

Creating the Refresh Image

Unfortunately there is no what you is what you get interface for creating the Refresh Image, hopefully Microsoft will add this in Windows 10.

The only way of creating the Refresh Image is using the elevated command prompt and using "recimg".

Right click the start button and select Command Prompt Admin.


You will be given the black command prompt Window



recimg -CreateImage C:\RefreshImage

Then press return.

This will create a refresh image in a folder called RefreshImage on the C: drive.

  • The location can be changed to any other hard drive you prefer by substituting "C" with the desired drive letter. This is useful if Windows is installed on a C: SSD and you want the refresh image to be on a larger capacity conventional drive.
  • RefreshImage can be renamed to anything you like. \ can be used to specify additional sub folders.
  • The refresh image shouldn't be added to the Windows system files folders such as the Windows, ProgramData, Program Files (x86), Program Files Folders. It shouldn't be amongst user folders either. For best results put it in a direct folder on the drive.

Once complete you should get the following screen and you can close down the command prompt Window.


You may check the C: drive for the Refresh folder.

My Refresh Image of only Windows 8.1, VMWare Tools and Office 2010.

Multiple Refresh Images?

It seems like this is not supported…

I made a second refresh image after installing Microsoft .Net Framework, Microsoft Mathematics and Windows Updates and I was not given the option to select my Refresh Image while performing the reset; it just used the latest image. When I deleted the latest image, it prompted for me to insert installation media and did not use the first image I made.

There has been a mention on the forums that for systems with Dell Backup and Recovery installed the Windows refresh does not work. In my testing with the latest version it worked fine. The refresh image is of course lost when you restore to the factory setting however.

2 thoughts on “Windows 8.1: Creating a Custom Refresh Image

    1. Yes I know unfortunately Microsoft decided to remove it instead of updating and adding a what you see is what you get interface…. Personally I've been using Acronis although I am likely to clean install at every mainstream Windows 10 build anyway…

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