Some Windows 8.1 users don't have any reset or refresh options, but there's a solution

The launch of Windows 8.1 on Thursday has not been completely trouble free. We have already reported that Microsoft has pulled the Windows RT 8.1 update for unknown reasons. Now there's word that some people who updated from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 no longer have any refresh or reset options.

The issue was first reported on McAkins Online, and it affects people who bought and installed a retail copy of Windows 8 on their PC, either electronically from Windows.com or from a retail DVD disc or ISO image. In very simple terms, installing Windows 8 creates a ESD file that allows users to refresh or reset their PC. Installing the digital download version of Windows 8.1 does not provide a new ESD file, and as such, the ability to refresh or reset the OS after it is installed is eliminated.

Neowin asked Microsoft about this issue and the company sent over word that there are two situations where users will need some kind of media (an ISO burned to a disc or USB Flash drive) to enable refresh or refresh: "OEM devices without W8 PBR (very few)" and "Users that installed via DVD." Microsoft added, "For Windows 8.1, users that upgraded to Windows 8 via online download (ESD), will need media when updating to Windows 8.1. Also, users that upgraded to Windows 8 via DVD then updated to 8.1, they will need to use their Windows 8 DVD to go back to Windows 8 if needed."

However, according to McAkins Online, adding a Windows 8 disc or ISO image in a PC drive after updating to Windows 8.1 will not work, as users will see the error message above. Since there was no install media provided by the Windows 8.1 upgrade, users cannot refresh or reset their PC.

While Microsoft has not provided an ISO image for the Windows 8.1 update from the Windows Store, McAkins Online points out that there is a 90 day free trial version of Windows 8.1 Enterprise with an ISO that anyone can download. The site offers a fairly complicated workaround to using those ISO files so that Windows 8.1 users can enable the refresh and reset options.

Source: McAkins Online

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19 Comments

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I needed to mention also, that some of the other fixes listed may not be the best choice because viruses can corrupt other partitions.

as I am a linux enthusiast I have a frequent need to either clean install, reset or refresh windows as microsoft doesnt want to play fair with other OS's.
I have a workaround for this problem, but it will not allow you to save your files easily.
THIS ONLY WORKS WITH WINDOWS 8.0 UPGRADE.
(1)you will need to be able to boot your computer with another OS, either another connected Windows installation or from a linux installation or live CD.
(2) copy any files/folders that you need over to the other partition, hard drive, USB drive, or burn them to a cd/dvd.
(3) you need a full version copy of windows, either vista or 7 and install it fully. you do not need to enter a key just click next when it asks you for a windows key. This is a good opportunity to clean up your hard drive as you can delete old partitions, and create new ones- including the mini partition windows uses to store information for your windows installation. (you need this partition or you will not be able to refresh/reset at all)
(4) once windows installation is finished, run the windows 8 upgrade copy (oh yeah, you need a copy of your upgrade disk/USB upgrade). this time you will need your windows 8 upgrade key. when you log on, provided that you are using the same computer you installed it on before (dont try to install on a different computer, it wont work), Windows 8 will be reinstalled and activated. If you sign on to windows 8 with a microsoft account like I do, it will also restore your last used theme, color scheme, settings, everything. The sync feature is really nice and one of the few things I like about windows 8.

I tried the McAkins method and got the answer that my product key isn't correct. I have checked the key with Microsoft and it is OK.

for the refresh my pc just make your own recovery option.
run cmd as admin
type recimg /createimage c:\refreshimage
there done.

I found a very easy fix just now here`s how to create a recovery partition !

The contents of the ISO and/or the USB install stick you can create contains the files Windows needs to do a refresh/reset.
If you mount the ISO or plug in the USB stick you`ll see that you can now use the refresh/reset feature without any missing files.

Next I tried something very silly, but it worked !
I freed up some space on my C drive by shrinking a partition, exactly 3200MB works for me.
With this unpartitioned space you now create a new NTFS partition using all of the free space.

Next in this partition create a 3200MB normal volume, NTFS, I labled it 8.1 recovery but the name doesn`t matter, give it any drive letter you like, and quick format.

Then you take all the files from inside the ISO or USB stick and copy those into the 3200MB volume, it should fit with about 87 MB free space.

Unplug the USB stick or Unmount the ISO, then try refresh/reset, IT WORKS ! you have now created a working recovery partition

You can remove the drive letter from this partition to avoid accidental access, it will still work.

This does not fix the actual problem, which is that the recovery partition is broken
If anyone knows of a way to get a working 8.1 recovery partition ON YOUR HARDDRIVE please let me know.

How bad is to install 8.1 on top of 8? I now that a clean install is always better, specially on windows, but 8.1 it's more like service pack, so it should preserve at least the current speed the OS has on you PC. Refreshing it's not even a real clean install.

I do agree that MS should offer the option to do the refresh on all the versions, but it's not like Microsoft "has made things even worse" or "they couldn't screw up the update process more". Please, calm down.

Hopefully we'll see an official fix for this, and I don't see why they won't.

Edited by rahvii, Oct 20 2013, 8:37am :

rahvii said,
How bad is to install 8.1 on top of 8? I now that a clean install is always better, specially on windows, but 8.1 it's more like service pack, so it should preserve at least the current speed the OS has on you PC. Refreshing it's not even a real clean install.

I do agree that MS should offer the option to do the refresh on all the versions, but it's not like Microsoft "has made things even worse" or "they couldn't screw up the update process more". Please, calm down.

Hopefully we'll see an official fix for this, and I don't see why they won't.

I upgraded from Windows 7 to 8 to 8.1 without any problems. I have used the TechNet iso's though.

Another example of how Microsoft has lost its mojo. In its haste to get out patches and fixes to a flawed Operating System, it is ignoring basic functionality. While the casual consumer market may be able to tolerate this kind of corporate behavior, serious users find this unacceptable. Suggestion: Microsoft, step back, look at the mess you have created with Windows-8.x, come up with solutions that fix the mess, announce these fixes as Windows-9. Hint, the new Operating System had best have UIs that work equally well for both touch-centric devices and keyboard/mouse-centric devices.

That's quite a boner on MS's part. But at the same time everyone I knew removed the recovery partition to recover more space LOL.

FunkyMike said,
So where is the solution?

Only the pure in heart can read that part of the article and at the same time scream in horror at how profane it is!