How to Fix the Windows 8.1 Refresh Function after Upgrade

What is PC Refresh and PC Restore?

windows-8.1-insert-mediaWe often nag about backups based on the number of incidents we’ve encountered over the years where users have lost valuable business and personal files. As a result the unofficial Daves Computer Tips Motto has become “You can never have enough backups!” As a result of past experiences (and our cool motto) I was very excited about two new recovery features built into Windows 8 named PC Refresh and PC Reset. Their functions are well described by their names, but here is a brief explanation:

  • PC Reset – Also knows as Push Button Reset, returns the system to a factory fresh state. Think of this as dropping a nuclear bomb on the OS and everything returns to square one. No installed apps, personal files, or programs. This is similar to a little known option that several PC manufacturers include on new PCs where they include a (often hidden) partition and boot menu option to return the system to a factory fresh state, but is contained within the OS. Before PC Reset users would have to hunt down their OS media and license key information before manually initiating the process. Caution: This is a clean slate approach and you will in essence have a fresh Windows install with no programs, apps, or settings!
  • PC Refresh – Performs the same function as PC Reset except it leaves your personal files, settings, and Metro apps in place. Everything except Desktop Programs should be retained on a default Windows 8 installation. However, if you follow the instructions below desktop programs, Metro apps, personal files, and Windows settings will all be included!

Windows 8.1 PC Refresh and PC Reset Broken after Upgrade

While PC Reset isn’t a backup option, per se, PC Refresh did grab my attention as a solution suitable for those who are less technically savvy. More importantly, as time passes more and more programs will be developed for WinRT and the Metro interface making the PC Refresh option an exponentially more valuable feature. However, it appears my hopes have been dashed – at least many users are reporting so. If you are running Windows 8.1 and you upgraded from Windows 8 using the Windows Store you may be in for a very unpleasant surprise if you need to use either PC Reset or PC Refresh. Many users are reporting that when they attempt to perform a PC Reset or PC Refresh that the process stalls almost immediately and asks the user to insert the Installation media. Unfortunately for those affected they have no Windows 8.1 media as it was downloaded through the Windows Store and their original Windows 8 media or recovery partitions are not accepted as valid. I haven’t been able to find a definitive reason why this occurs, but an educated guess is that Windows does not recreate the images used for these two features during the upgrade process.

Windows 8.1 PC Refresh Workaround

While I haven’t yet discovered a workaround for PC Reset I do have a workaround for PC Refresh and it is something that everyone running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 should find useful! What would that workaround be? Simple. Create a custom PC Refresh image. Think of a custom refresh image as an updated version of the default image which contains all the information regarding programs, apps, personal files, settings, and Windows itself at the time the image is created, which should be useful to Windows 8 users as well.

1. Move your mouse to the lower left corner of the screen and right click to open the Power Menu.


2. Move your mouse up to Command Prompt (Admin) and left click it to open a command prompt with Administrator privileges.


3. Click Yes on the User Account Control warning dialog box to approve the use of the Command Prompt with Administrator privileges.


4. When the Command Prompt window opens you will see a flashing cursor after C:\\WINDOWS\\system32>. At the flashing cursor you want to type mkdir C:\\RefreshImage (M K D I R {space} C {colon} {backslash} R E F R E S H I M A G E) followed by pressing the Enter key. This will make a new directory named RefreshImage at the root of your C: drive. (Note: The above location C:\\RefreshImage is an example – you can create the folder and image on any storage device by changing the location of the command, but remember the device must be available for the PC Refresh to be successful.)


5. Type recimg -CreateImage C:\\RefreshImage (R E C I M G {space} {dash} C R E A T E I M A G E {space} C {colon} {backslash} R E F R E S H I M A G E) at the flashing cursor followed by the Enter key. This will begin the process of creating a new Refresh Image in the new directory we created above.


6. Windows will create a snapshot, which won’t take very long at all, before writing the file to the C:\\RefreshImage directory. The actual writing of the file to the hard drive will take a while, so be patient.


7. After the image is written to the hard drive you will receive confirmation and the new image will become the default image for the PC Refresh function. If you open a File Explorer window you’ll find your new image in the RefreshImage folder on your C:\\ drive.


Final Thoughts

You now have a valid Refresh image which will work if you need to actually use it. Of course you also need to know how to perform a PC Refresh, don’t you? Don’t worry, here is a link to a comprehensive guide with screenshots which shows you how to do just that: How to Perform a Windows 8.1 Refresh.

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About the Author

David Hartsock

Executive Editor/Owner/Admin of Daves Computer Tips and all-around good guy - Dave's interest in computers began in the early 1980's during the Apple II era. In the early 1990's the PC began to replace proprietary and mainframe devices in Dave's industry so he began to learn and experiment with the PC. Through DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and now Windows 10. Dave became the "go to" guy for friends, family, and coworkers with computer problems. Daves Computer Tips was born in 2006 in an effort to share these experiences with others in an easy to understand, plain English, form.

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