back to article Microsoft de-cloaks Windows 8 push-button lifesaver

Microsoft has revealed how the Windows 8 push-button reset feature should save dying PCs when it hits beta in the coming weeks and is delivered this year. Windows 8 will offer two options to recover a crashed machine: reset your PC or refresh your PC, Microsoft said on the Windows 8 blog here. Reset will remove all personal …


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  1. Richard 81

    Good stuff.

    Sounds like a useful feature. Providing a list of desktop apps that were installed and allowing you to choose which ones to reinstall would be better than ditching all of them though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Didn't ChromeOS already have this feature?

      And I think Moka5 Bare Metal gives it to you for existing Windows too (albeit tied to a management backend).

      The real question to me is if this will really be able to eradicate a nasty rootkit.

    2. Ammaross Danan

      List of Apps

      "Providing a list of desktop apps that were installed and allowing you to choose which ones to reinstall would be better than ditching all of them though."

      Not if that list has "Windows Antivirus 2011" or other such malware in it....Users were fooled enough to think it was a good program when ransomed to pay for it, what makes you think they won't think it's a good app upon refresh?

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: a list of installed apps

      Where would that come from? We already have a list of *well-behaved* installed applications that the user can remove if they wish. It's in whatever Control Panel calls itself these days. Presumably then, you want a list of installed malware, and if you could solve *that* problem you'd have a working antivirus system.

      1. Richard 81

        "Where would that come from? We already have a list of *well-behaved* installed applications that the user can remove if they wish. It's in whatever Control Panel calls itself these days."

        That's pretty much the list I'm talking about. My idea would be to present the list in the refresh options, so that you can _put back_ everything you think is OK.

  2. Piskvor

    Well, congratulations.

    In other words, Microsoft has invented the separate /home partition (the WIndows equivalent would be one disk for data, one for system), after everyone else has had that for decades. Congratulations.

    1. Northern Fop

      You chose the right icon...

      ...but I'll bite.

      95%+ of people who buy a computer swtich it on and use it, and run Windows. They save photos, and music, surf, and not much else. This feature will save a lot of pain and expense for that group when it all goes tits-up, which has to be a good thing (and it has the added bonus of desmuggifying people like you, with your fancy-pants partitions and OS's).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ah! dumb, fat and happy, eh?

        1. Northern Fop

          Just fat

          But thanks for asking.

      2. Tom 13

        Piskvor got it right, you are the one sporting the 'tude.

        Other OS systems have had a logical separation of data and programs for ages. Hell, if you were of a mind to, you COULD implement one in DOS, although you could just as easily ignore it. You could do similar things with everything through Windows 3.1.11. BUT, when MS released Win 95 they so thoroughly integrated data and program file structure that there hasn't been a decent data preservation system you could run out of the box since. You had to grab stuff from documents, favorites, desktop, and maybe some local applications data directories. It sounds like for Win 8 they may be trying to do that. Of course, until we see the actual implementation we won't know.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Tom 13


          Just because you don't know how to do something, doesn't mean that it can't be done. Of course Windows allows separation of data and programs - how would roaming profiles work if not?

          1. Eddie Johnson

            Consensus Says They Don't

            >Of course Windows allows separation of data and programs - how would roaming profiles work if not?

            Search the web, the general consensus is that roaming profiles don't work any more.

            I've been running roaming profiles since WinNT and with each version of Windows (2k, XP, Server 2003, etc) it becomes more and more of a struggle. Profiles are now so bloated I've heard of people in other shops talk about logins taking 25 minutes - over 1Gb LAN. I've personally seen an XP+2003 combination take 5 minutes to login and that's with less than 50M payload. Adobe Reader (circa 7,8, haven't used it since) installs its 100M setup file into a roaming profile folder and then attempts to infect any computer you log in to.

            The registry is the number one place MS screwed the pooch with regard to backup/restore, its monolithic (or dualistic?, tri...) nature and its inability to fail gracefully doom most attempts to restore software - settings are spewed all across HKLM, HKCR and HKLU and some .ini and .dat files in 3-4 different profile folders, some roaming some not.

            I've seen some well written apps that, when started, will inform the user that settings have been lost and offer to recreate them. Far too many follow the MS Office example: "Tahoma Font not found, try reinstalling the application!"

            1. KnucklesTheDog

              The real issue

              Because Windows doesn't enforce separation of data and application installs many novice users I've seen quite happily save files from various application in the default directory it brings up - this is usually in "Program Files".

              This is made worse by the fact that even those slightly more advanced users that understand what they've done and where they've saved files can then bring up Explorer and attempt to look for those files, only to have it tell them not to navigate to the "Program Files" directory.

            2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: the registry

              "The registry is the number one place MS screwed the pooch"

              Crap. Certain other OSes store this information under /etc or in dotted directories under ~/ in a host of tiny files all in different formats. Windows uses several instances (hives) of a strongly typed custom file system, allowing uniform access to the same data and fine-grain security. Both design choices have plus and minus points.

              Registry corruption only happens if you let crapware or clueless users run amok on the data. The same would happen under any other design and the problem is letting crapware or clueless users run amok.

              I speak as someone who has made typing errors in small files in the /etc hierarchy. :)

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @Eddie Johnson

              Roaming profiles work just fine when properly configured. Lots of people get problems with the size of roaming profiles because they've not put their data (music, docs, photos, etc) onto data servers, or are using their desktop to store gigs of data. This is not a "roaming profiles doesn't work" issue, it's a "administrators don't know how they work" issue. It's simple to make the basic changes to profiles required to make them work properly, indeed MS supply tools to help you do so.

          2. Tom 13

            I said "decent" and "out of the box"

            Roaming profiles might work (never worked at a company that actually used them in my 20+ years of adult employment), but certainly aren't out of the box and doesn't apply to all users (no roaming profiles for work groups).

        2. The Flying Dutchman

          Separation of system and user data...

          ... could be easily done on any windows system as far back as win2k - I've stored my user profiles on a separate partition for donkey's years using said OS.

          However, there used to be many applications about that insisted on saving user data in their install dir - but it ain't fair to blame the OS for that.

      3. Peter Mc Aulay

        Save a lot of pain...

        Except perhaps for the kind of problems that are caused by a broken user profile, of which unfortunately there are many in previous versions of Windows.

        We live in hope.

  3. Graham Dresch

    Disk Failure recovery ?

    I would like MS to explain how this works in the event of total disk failure on PCs supplied without install disks.

    1. craigj

      Wow you're right!

      It also wont mend my computer if I inadvertently throw it in a river, MS should probably ditch the feature then.

      1. hplasm Silver badge

        Or perhaps MS

        Could try writing an OS that doesn't screw itself up automatically?

        1. Phoenix50


          Can you quantify "automatically" in your posting?

          Because an O/S that doesn't screw up *ever* simply doesn't exist.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hey Bubba, buy a real computer, try a Mac, Linux or Solaris. No registry on those systems and none of this sh!t we deal with corrupt profiles. Hell they even corrupt themselves on LOCAL profiles. Adobe CS v5.5 did this on two workstations at work.

          2. hplasm Silver badge

            Automatically, in this case-

            In that it seems like a feature.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ...or perhaps hplasm can write a better one himself, no? You suprise me...

          1. hplasm Silver badge

            Didn't wait long for an answer eh, Coward?

            Doing a 'find' on Windows must kill you.

            Anyone could write a better OS than MS, probably even you, if you put your mind to it, or could be bothered to learn how- just like MS these days, it would seem.

    2. Alan Bourke

      It won't matter

      as long as you bought it from Comet. Oho!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Read the post?

      It's in there, just look..

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remove all personal data?

    I tried the dev preview briefly, and Reset was described as something you could do before selling/giving the PC to someone else. I'll bet money that this isn't a secure data wipe.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      According to the blog, the reset option formats the hard disk. That's a helluva lot better than what the user would otherwise do: nothing. And with luck, the paedophiles won't realise the fuzz can still recover their stash.

    2. Kanhef

      According to the linked article, there will be an option for a single-pass random overwrite of the entire drive. Not military-grade cleaning, but good enough for most people. Rather cleverly, it skips data encrypted by BitLocker, since that will be unrecoverable anyway.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      title here

      You can't have bothered to read the blog or you wouldn't have made yourself look stupid..

  5. Dave Murray

    8m 22s my arse!

    Windows has always lied about how long an install takes so there's no way that figure is true. My bet would be roughly 30m and then you have a completely useless machine with no applications installed. The last time I installed Windows it took me something like 3 days by the time I had everything I need installed and updated.

    Oh and how long does it take to re-install all the updates since RTM after you use this feature?

    1. Alan Bourke

      It doesn't lie ...

      ... it takes a guess, obviously. Maybe not an accurate one, but still. How the f**k would it know how long an install is going to take?

    2. Arctic fox

      I do not know what your arse can manage in 8m and 22s but the figure is.........

      ............not necessarily so ridiculous as it sounds to you. In addition to the specs of the tablet that Sammy handed out at the Build Conference mentioned in the article there was also the little matter of the 64 Gb SSD. Two of our Win 7 machines at home have identical specs as far as mobo, CPU and RAM are are concerned. The former needs about 60 min or so to run a drive image backup and the latter takes 18 min even though the amount and variety of data/programmes is roughly the same. The difference is simple. The former machine is equipped with a standard hard drive whilst the latter has a SSD as the system disk. The very large difference in sequential read speeds makes a big difference to how long a full system backup takes even though their sequential writes are about the same. The presence of an SSD on the system would have a considerable effect on how quickly these "refresh/reset" actions can be performed. It is perfectly possible that the genuine figure is significantly under your assumption of about 30 min. At any rate with an SSD on board that tablet their figures are not *necessarily* bogus.

    3. Kanhef

      Not unreasonable

      Most of that time is spent copying OS data from one place on the drive to another, which is much faster than reading it from a CD or DVD. There's also a tool to create an image of the drive with apps etc. installed. The refresh/reset will take longer, but that's still faster than re-installing everything by hand.

      If they're really clever, OS/security updates will be applied to the clean backup copy as well, so they won't need to be downloaded again after a reset.

      1. John G Imrie Silver badge

        RE: Not unreasonable

        If they're really clever, OS/security updates will be applied to the clean backup copy as well, so they won't need to be downloaded again after a reset.

        Which opens up a wonderful attack vector for virus writers

    4. DJ Smiley

      While everyone else restored their backups...

      Of course, the sensible users had up to date backups.

      I have weekly backups done via clonezilla - time to restore with ALL apps, working bookmarks, other funky stuff (this is wifes laptop, i personally use linux) - about 10 min. Fun :)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I built a new machine last month. Fresh install of Windows 7 Pro took a little over 10 mins to install on a clean SSD. So perhaps you need to look at your arse a little closer...

  6. djswivel


    So Windows 8 is not being pushed for corporate use then. I can just see my end users clicking on the reset when a problem happens...

    1. LegalAlien
      Thumb Down


      Presumably as a competent admin you would not allow end users (in a corporate environment) to install applications or - heaven forbid - refresh/reset by, for example, changing their permissions?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      At a very large UK financial company I used to work for, we had an automated build system, which would install and configure the corporate build in about 20mins from PXE boot and a library server in the datacentre. This included all required locally installed apps, bug fixes and site specific configurations, leaving the computer ready to logon by the user. We actually encouraged users to rebuild their own machines if they had a problem as the first port in trouble-shooting (if they couldn't do it, the helpdesk could do it remotely). There's no point investing time in a standardised build and then getting someone to go desk-side to hack around to find problems.

      1. Robert E A Harvey

        @AC 12:09

        $MEGACORP are doing this to all of us, more or less. We will get given a recovery partition, all the IT support will be sacked and the first/only answer to all hell desk calls will be to recover. I suspect we will loose application data every time too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          So you're suggesting that companies shouldn't invest in IT infrastructure that can be quickly fixed and easily maintained because that means that they don't have to employ as many support people and their users get a quicker better service and are therefore more productive?

          Remind me not to invest in any company you're in charge of.

          1. Robert E A Harvey

            @AC 19:28

            No, I am just anticipating the chaos for the 2 out of 10 cases where it doesn't work.

            No, I am annoyed that the work previously done by IT support staff paid around £15 per hour will now be being done by sales force or design engineers paid £20 per hour or more and someone thinks they are saving money.

            No, I anticipate real problems because of lost production while I re-install engineering apps that are not part of the core build.

            No, I am worried that after every restore we will loose the machines while patches and updates are downloaded when we could have just fixed the real problem instead.

            No, I am anticipating that any problems that persist through a restore will never be addressed.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward


              The 2/10 cases will be dealt with by more highly skilled admins and, probably faster.

              20mins to rebuild a workstation, and in the worst case, 5 to do a scripted rebuild of the profile plus another ten or so to reconfigure as desired, would not be as much time as sending someone desk-site to fix a problem, probably not even as much as getting a desk based admin to fix it, if possible.

              By their very nature, persistent problems are dealt with by the 2nd line support guys not 1st line.

              It's win-win, the company gets higher productivity and the IT staff are more highly skilled. Sure, in an individual company there will be a smaller amount of jobs in 1st line support, but some of these will be taken higher up the food chain and the others will picked up elsewhere in the economy - there is always need for IT support staff.

              1. Robert E A Harvey

                @AC 00:45

                You are rather assuming there will be 2nd level staff around. At the moment there aren't.

                I notice you rather gloss over the problem of non-core applications, too. Last time I had a rebuild it took two days to re-install the non-core applications and their updates (backup/restore is not permitted because of fear of viruses) including getting new licence instances.

  7. Havin_it


    I hope it works as well as System Restore!

    1. Richard 81

      Uh yeah

      I hope it works at least as well as system restore.

  8. yossarianuk

    'useful' feature for Windows users

    As they are going to be using it a lot.


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