With Windows 8, Microsoft has improved backup and restore functionality. A new utility aptly named “Refresh” is included with the upcoming operating system.
Refresh will allow you to easily reset the operating system to its original state without deleting your Metro applications, personal files, user accounts, or the settings configured during initial setup.
Also saved are network connections, BitLocker (and BitLocker To Go) encryption settings, and drive letter assignments. On the other hand, desktop applications will be removed, and firewall settings, file type associations, and display settings will be reset to defaults. According to Microsoft’s Building Windows 8 blog, the refresh function does not keep the above mentioned data by default because it is the software most likely to cause performance or stability issues.
Fundamentally, Refresh is a differential image backup that keeps track of the data added to a base Windows installation. When run, the tool acts as an overhauled System Restore by re-installing Windows and then restoring the backed up data automatically to bring your PC back to its “default” state.
Refresh with Recimg
Refresh can be further tweaked with a command line tool called Recimg. Using this utility, it is possible to create your own baseline image that Refresh will use to restore your computer.
This would allow you to install Windows, run through the initial setup, create user accounts, install all of your favorite applications (both desktop and Modern/Metro), and configure/personalize the OS. Once you have your computer set up the way you like it, you can create a custom image that will preserve this state should you need to restore the PC. This functionality has been possible with third party tools for some time, but it is now built into Windows — and is much faster than doing a restoration of a full disk image using Acronis or the like.