Microsoft simplifies Windows 8 restoration

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Microsoft simplifies Windows 8 restoration

New tools to reinstall OS without losing data, settings.

Microsoft has created a command-line tool in previews of Windows 8 that allows users to capture and set a custom hard drive image of their system in case the operating system needs to be reinstalled.

A "very early version" of the recimg.exe tool has been incorporated into the developer preview of the operating system, Microsoft program manager Desmond Lee said in a blog post.

"We know it's not perfect yet," he said. "Rest assured that we're working hard to get it ready for primetime."

The tool is one of several available to users should they ever need to reset or roll back their machines to a factory-style setting.

Another tool in Windows 8 enables users to reinstall the operating system without impacting the data and settings of the machine.

Called 'Refresh', it scans the hard drive for data, settings and Metro apps and "puts them aside on the same drive", according to Lee, for use later in system restoration.

"The coolest part about Refresh is there's no need to first back up your data to an external hard drive and restore them afterwards," he said.

Settings to be preserved include wireless network and mobile broadband connections, BitLocker, drive letter assignments and desktop personalisation.

However, Lee said that file type associations, display and Windows Firewall settings would not be preserved "as they can occasionally cause problems if misconfigured".

In cases where the PC won't boot - thus disabling access to the Refresh tools on the hard drive - Microsoft said it would enable users to create a bootable USB flash drive to start (and forcibly refresh) the machine.

"If your PC comes with a hidden recovery partition, you'll even have the option to remove it and reclaim disk space once you've created the USB drive," Lee said.

Microsoft also plans to allow users to reset their PCs to a factory state in cases where the machine is end-of-lifed or no longer required.

The reset option includes a "thorough" hard drive cleansing option to make it harder for the new owner to recover personal data stored on the machine by the previous owner.

"Choosing the "Thorough" option will write random patterns to every sector of the drive, overwriting any existing data visible to the operating system," Lee said.

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