Windows 8 to Include Panic Buttons, Assist Reinstall

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has announced it will include two single-button options in Windows 8 to help users cope with a serious computer crash. Both will reinstall Windows, including one option that allows users to retain some data.

The buttons will be accessible within normal Windows operations. But if problems with Windows 8 become serious enough that a user can't get into the operating system, the two new system recovery buttons will also be available in Windows RE (recovery environment).

The recovery environment is a standalone menu that PCs can load even when they aren't able to boot the full Windows operating system (OS). (Source:

Secondary Option Allows Boot from USB

Users of Windows 8 will also be able to load a USB memory stick with the Windows recovery environment, so that if the computer crashes and is not bootable from the hard drive, they will be able to start their machines from the USB stick and quickly access the two new recovery buttons.

Both of the new recovery buttons will reinstall Windows.

Windows 8 Refresh Button Could Save Documents

The first recovery button is labeled "Reset" and effectively wipes the hard drive and reinstalls Windows 8 from scratch. This will destroy all user data previously stored on the hard drive, and is therefore considered a last-resort solution.

Microsoft has also suggested this option could be used by people planning to pass their computer on to a new user, who are therefore seeking an easy way to make it "like new," and completely from scratch.

The second recovery button, labeled "Refresh," is designed to minimize the loss of user data. It carries out a more complex operation: copying some data to a spare section of the hard drive before reinstalling Windows, then making the saved data available within the restored system.

The saved user data will include Windows passwords and user accounts, as well as most Windows settings, personal data, and documents. The "Refresh" process will also let users keep all applications installed via Metro, the Windows 8 equivalent to a smartphone app store.

Old-Style Applications Must Be Reloaded

Users who "Refresh" their systems will need to manually reinstall any traditional desktop applications, however, because of the possibility they caused the system crash. (Source:

According to Microsoft, a test on one PC took 8 minutes 22 seconds to "Refresh" and 6 minutes 12 seconds to "Reset." Those times compared favorably to the more than 24 minutes required to perform the same actions manually.

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