If you are following the news on Microsoft's upcoming operating system Windows 8 you may know that the Redmond company is planning to add a restore to factory defaults option to the next version of the Windows OS.
When you press that button, the system is returned to its initial state; handy for public systems but also for users who encounter errors and problems that they cannot seem to fix.
You had to re-install the operating system from scratch previously if you ran into errors that you could not fix on the live system, or restore backups.
Refresh PC is a free program for Windows that adds a similar restoration option to current Microsoft operating systems. The freeware does not restoring the whole system like Windows 8's feature but only select parts of it.
Refresh PC offers to restore all Registry settings and system services to their default state. Say you have used Windows tweakers or manually edited the Registry; later you found out that the settings caused problems that you cannot seem to fix anymore.
Another example would be a virus attack or other malicious code that changed system settings. And while you managed to clean the malware from your system, you may not know which Registry settings you need to change to restore the system to its previous state.
That's where RefreshPc offers to help as it can reset those settings when you run it.
You need to install the program after you have downloaded it. The program recommends to create a System Restore point when you run it which you should create unless you are using other means of backup. Just make sure you have a backup in reach in case you need to restore your system.
The program detects your operating system and version on startup, and displays the information in the program interface.
The interface itself has only one button; a click on the button restores the settings to their factory defaults when activated.
RefreshPC restores the Registry settings and system services, and cleans the temp folders and prefetch files at the same time. There is no option to select only some of the options. When you press the button all actions are carried out.
Refreshing the system services will restore the services to their initial values. The Registry refresh requires some explanation. The program will only reset Registry settings that ship with Windows. It will not reset keys that have been added by third party installations.
RefreshPC can be a handy tool if other means of restoration like using system restore or backups have not been successful. The program can only be used if it is possible to boot into the Windows installation, which limits its reach somewhat. An option to only select some of the refresh options in the interface would be handy as well.
The Registry refreshing requires some explanation as it is not really explained anywhere. The program does not create a log file that would provide you with a list of executed tasks which makes it quite problematic.
The program resets only some Registry entries and some Windows services. It won't replace the Registry with a pristine copy but will change core keys and values to default settings only.
What those are? Raymond has a full list but core values include several Internet Explorer settings, hardware settings, and other core operating system settings that are important.
The application is compatible with all 32-bit and 64-bit editions of the Windows operating system, from Windows XP to Windows 7. It can be downloaded from the developer website.
RefreshPC does not replace backups as it modifies only select Registry entries and executes some other tasks. While that may be all that is required to get the system back on track, it is not as thorough as restoring the system from a backup or using Windows' reset functionality if available.
Still, if you don't have backups but need to reset you may want to give it a try. Make sure you backup the system before you run the software though.
Update: Refresh PC 2.0 has been released. You can read the review here.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.