As I’ve documented in the Windows 10 Field Guide, Microsoft offers far too many recovery options in Windows 10. But with Windows 10 version 2004, finally, the firm is taking a step in the right direction.
The tools I write about in the book include Reset this PC, Refresh Windows, Fresh start, the Windows Recovery Environment, Backup and Restore, and the Windows 10 Setup media. But those first three in particular—Reset this PC, Refresh Windows, Fresh start—offer overlapping functionality in confusing ways.
Here’s how they’ve worked to date:
Reset this PC lets you wipe out your PC and very quickly return it to its original factory condition, while optionally saving your documents and other data files as well as your installed Microsoft Store apps. Reset this PC can be customized by your PC maker so that it will include their bundled apps and utilities too. And the image it uses to reset Windows is updated to the late OS version each time you install a feature update.
Refresh Windows is a web-based tool that works much like Reset This PC, but it downloads the latest version of Windows 10. Also, because this tool comes directly from Microsoft, it will not include any PC maker-supplied bundled apps or customizations.
Fresh start (was) a streamlined version of Reset this PC that retains your documents and other personal files, some settings, and your installed Microsoft Store apps. (As with Reset this PC, you will still need to reinstall any desktop applications you use.) The difference is that Fresh start was located in the Windows Security application and not in Settings, like Reset this PC. For some reason.
With Windows 10 version 2004, users started noticing that the Windows Security app no longer included a link to Fresh start. (Odd that this didn’t come up during its 15-month beta period in the Windows Insider Program, but you know how that goes.) This led some to believe that Microsoft had killed the option.
As it turns out, Microsoft has instead done what it should have always done and consolidated this functionality into Reset this PC, which is the core Windows system recovery tool. Microsoft explains this change, if subtly, in a new support document.
“For Windows 10 version 2004 and after, Fresh start functionality has been moved to Reset this PC,” the document explains. “To reset your PC, [navigate] to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC > Get Started. Then select Keep my files, choose cloud or local, change your settings, and set Restore preinstalled apps? to No. If you don’t see the option to Restore preinstalled apps, it means your PC doesn’t have preinstalled apps configured and won’t restore apps from your PC manufacturer.”
That last bit is interesting because Fresh start would previously bypass any of your PC maker’s applications. I assume you’ll still get this nicety if you choose a cloud restore. But if not, Refresh Windows will provide the same functionality.
Confused? Buy the book! I’ll be updating it this week to accommodate this change.