"Most consumer electronics devices today can be reset to some factory state, and so we built this capability into Windows 8 too," said Steven Sinofsky, head of Microsoft's Windows unit, in a blog post Wednesday. For those that don't require a total reset, but just want to make their systems perform better, Windows 8 will also offer a one-touch "refresh" button.
"We've built two new features in Windows 8 that can help you get your PCs back to a 'good' state when they're not working their best, or back to the 'factory state' when you're about to give them to someone else or decommission them," said Desmond Lee, a Windows program manager.
Hitting the Reset button will remove all personal data, apps, and settings from a PC, and will reinstall Windows from scratch. Activating the Refresh mode also reinstalls Windows, but preserves the user's personal data, most settings, and Metro-style apps. Third-party apps need to be reinstalled because "we do not want to reinstall 'bad' apps," said Lee.
The decision suggests that Metro apps for Windows 8 must be vetted by Microsoft before they can be made available on Microsoft's applications storefront. Metro apps are designed for touch PCs and are already in use on Windows Phone.
Both the Reset and Refresh modes rely on Windows Recovery Environment to get users back up and running. But unlike with previous versions, Windows 8 makes the recovery process simple and uniform across all types of systems. "Today there are many different approaches and tools to get a PC back to factory condition," said Lee. "While these tools all provide similar functionalities, they don't provide a consistent experience from one PC or technique to another."
Windows 8's new tools also make the recovery process much quicker, according to Microsoft. Refreshing can be done in about eight minutes, a quick reset can be performed in six minutes, and a thorough reset, which makes data on the system unrecoverable to all but the most sophisticated and expensive recovery tools, can be done in about 23 minutes.
"When we started building these features, we knew that ease of use wasn't going to be enough--refresh and reset had to be fast, as well," said Lee. Microsoft has yet to announce a ship date for Windows 8. Industry speculation has pegged its debut sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.
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