Yesterday, Microsoft released details of new, 'Refresh' and 'Reset' features for Windows 8 on its blog site. The new features enable a complete reinstall of the operating system, back to factory settings, with 'Refresh' your personal data, Metro apps and settings are left intact and reinstalled after factory settings have been restored, 'Reset' performs a full wipe.
Many power users believe that over time Windows performance degrades or that the kernel can corrupt, often leaving a full format and reinstall as the only open. The new 'Refresh' and 'Reset' capabilities are Microsoft's answer to these users, streamlining the process of restoring a PC to a good, working condition, though, this is an answer likely brought about by the wish for Windows 8 to run on the tablet platform, with Microsoft feeling the need to have what are essentially 'Factory Reset' capabilities, similar to those observed on iOS or Android, a simplified and consistent approach to restoring the factory state.
Richard Edwards, principal analyst at Ovum thinks not.
"I don't think the enterprise is the ideal place to be experimenting with a new OS. The traditional, more hesitant IT manager will wait to see how it pans out on the consumer market. "
He added that he expects Microsoft to roll out to one or two early adopters, most likely recognisable firms, but that the majority will wait until well into 2013 before deciding whether to deploy it.
Edwards believes that this is partly because Windows 7 is doing a good job running corporate laptops and desktops. However, he argues that the new OS could see some traction running enterprise tablets.
"Large organisations have a wide range of business and user requirements, a significant portion of which can be catered for by the tablet market. IT managers will be looking at Windows 8 with this in mind. "
One problem that Microsoft will find is that the tablet market has become a battle of two giants; Apple's iOS and the Android OS. Edwards argues that breaking this duopoly could be a challenge for the software giant.
"It's going to be very tricky for Microsoft to compete. The user experience will be fundamental to the success or failure of the OS. If the experience doesn't surpass that which we're already used to, Windows 8 will be regarded as a lame duck. "
A less nuclear option is the so-called "Refresh your PC" option which will retain personal data, OS/PC settings and Metro-style apps while also reinstalling Windows 8. It would seem that Microsoft will also remove traditional native Windows apps and not reinstall them.
"We do this for two reasons. First, in many cases there is a single desktop app that is causing the problems that lead to a need to perform this sort of maintenance, but identifying this root cause is not usually possible, " wrote Windows team program manager Desmond Lee.
"And second, we do not want to inadvertently reinstall 'bad' apps that were installed unintentionally or that hitched a ride on something good but left no trace of how they were installed, " Lee added.
The functionality can be accessed either from within Windows 8 or via Windows RE, the new recovery tool which is accessible prior to Windows loading. If even this fails to start, there's also a tool to create a bootable USB flash drive which can be used to run the Windows RE tool.
Microsoft also talked up the speed that Windows 8 manages to accomplish the refresh and reset options with a refresh taking a little over eight minutes and a 'quick' reset taking just six minutes on the Samsung developer preview laptop.
One benefit of refresh is, according to Lee, that you don't have to back up your machine first.
In the Windows 8 beta some of those "important" settings that will be preserved in the refresh will include: wireless network connections, mobile broadband connections, Microsoft BitLocker and BitLocker To Go settings, drive letter assignments and personalised settings such as desktop wallpaper. Other settings will be dumped, as, according to Lee, misconfigured settings can be a cause of system problems.
Unlike manually reinstalling Windows, you don’t have to go through the Windows Welcome screens again and reconfigure all the initial settings, as your user accounts and those settings are all preserved, " explained Microsoft.
"You can sign in with the same account and password and all your documents and data are preserved in the same locations they were before. "
Both recovery options will be available to users through the Windows 8 Recovery Environment (RE) maintenance tool.
Additionally, Windows 8 will look to simplify the process of creating disk images for backup purposes. The company said users will be able to use a command line tool called 'recimg' to create a snapshot of their system.
The clean images can then be stored and used as a backup, which can then be deployed complete with desktop applications and account settings when needed.