Started in Windows 8, Microsoft has introduced a new way to “fix” your computer. Out of the box, Microsoft provides you two options to recover and restore your PC. You can either refresh or reset your computer if it runs into any trouble that can’t be fixed easily. It’s called Refresh My PC in Windows 8, but in Windows 8.1, it has moved as a part of Recovery options.
The first option, called “Refresh your PC without affecting your files“, will restore your Windows to the original states with all your person files untouched, meaning that you get to keep all your files and settings while Windows gets refreshed. (note: assuming they are stored under user profiles, if you are one of those who tweaked user profile location, you might run into a risk of losing them even when you have selected this option).
The second option, “Remove everything and reinstall Windows“, as it suggests, will restore your Windows to factory default settings, meaning that everything will be removed and starts over right from the beginning.
However, none of the options will preserve your existing Applications. So this is what we are going to accomplish today, create a custom refresh (restore) image that contains all your installed applications.
How To Create a Custom Refresh .wim Image
First, if you are on Windows 8.1. You can launch CMD as administrator by right-clicking on the Start Menu > Command Prompt (Admin).
recimg which will tell you what this command does exactly.
recimg /createimage C:\CustomImage
Enter the above command will create a new custom refresh image under the directory C:\CustomImage. If the folder doesn’t exists, it will create one for you.
It could take at least 20 minutes or more to finish creating the image, depending on how many applications you have installed. Once it’s done, you will see a new .wim file created under C:\CustomImage. And this .wim file will be set as the active recovery image and will be used next time when you use Refresh your PC operation.
Note that all recovery images have the filename with CustomRefresh.wim. If no such file is found in the active recovery image directory, Windows will fall back to the default image when you fresh your PC.
After you have successfully created the custom refresh image. You can now go to the Recovery option under Windows 8.1, choose the first option “Refresh your PC without affecting your files” (given you have a Windows 8.1 disk or USB bootable image)
After Refresh your PC, you will notice all your previous installed Application are right back to where they were. But you might lose some personal settings from those applications. It is important to keep in mind to use this command create a custom refresh image as early as possible.