How to Reset or Refresh Windows 10 without Losing Programs

Posted by @Cody

May 15, 2019

Refreshing Windows 10 can fix all your system issues easily, but you need to reinstall all the programs that did not come with your PC. Here is a workaround to refresh Windows 10 without losing programs.

Windows 10 refresh and reset

When your system has problems, you can choose to refresh, reset or restore from a backup to fix the problem. In some previous Windows 10 builds (15002), you can see the feature Refresh Windows in Windows Defender.

Refresh Windows 10

In the newest Windows 10 version, that features seems to be removed. It is probably because there is another almost identical feature Reset this PC in Settings. Refresh Windows will reinstall Windows and keeps your personal data and settings, but the installed apps that do not come with your PC will get removed.

Windows 10 Reset this PC allows you to choose whether to keep personal files or not. No matter which option you use, you will lose all your installed programs. Reinstalling all the programs may be too cumbersome for you, not to mention some paid software need to reactivate with a license code.

Is there a way to solve system problem by reinstalling Windows 10 and yet keep all files and apps?

Workaround to refresh Windows 10 and keep programs

If you do want to reinstall third party software after refresh, you can do a repair upgrade by running the Windows Setup.exe within Windows 10. You can refer to the steps below to get started:

1. If you have Windows 10 installation disc, just connect it to your computer. Otherwise, download the latest Windows 10 ISO file (previous version will also do).

2. Open the installation disc or ISO file. At the root directory, find and run the Setup.exe. you can also run the Setup.exe from Resources folder.

Setup.exe

3. Wait a moment, and then you will see the Windows 10 Setup window. From there, you can choose whether to download updates or not and click Next.

Windows 10 Setup


4. In the What needs your attention screen, click Change what to keep.

What Needs Your Attention

5. Then you will have three options. Select the first one, Keep personal files, apps, and Windows settings.

Choose What to Keep

6. Click Next and Install to system refresh Windows 10.

In the process, your computer will restart several times. Since it will keep all your data and installed programs, it may take longer than a usual reset.

In this way, all the installed programs will remain the same. If it is one of the programs you installed causing system issues, then the issue remains after the refresh because no changes has been made to installed programs.

If you want to also reset installed programs to previous state, you can create a custom refresh image with all programs included and use it for resetting Windows 10. To do that, you can use DISM command from Windows recovery environment (WinRE).

As you install more programs and save more personal files on your computer, you can also create an incremental backup image based on the first recovery image you created. As mentioned, you need to enter WinRE to be able to create Windows 10 refresh image. If you cannot take the downtime on Windows 10 computer, then you can consider a more flexible way to create recovery image for Widows 10.

A more convenient method to create custom recovery image

AOMEI Backupper Standard is free backup software for Windows 10/8/7 that can be used to create recovery image backup, so you can easly restore your system without losing programs when needed. You can create a backup task

AOMEI Backupper comes with a concise interface, and you only need 4 steps to create a system backup image, leaving little room for human error. Unlike Windows 10 built-in backup utility, you can have multiple scheduled backups with AOMEI Backupper.

It does not require much disk space for keeping many backup versions thanks to its medium to high compression level and incremental/differential backup feature.

To create an image backup with AOMEI Backupper:

1. Download and install this free backup software.

2. At Home screen, click the Backup tab and choose System Backup.

System Backup

3. Select a destination location to receive the backup image by clicking Step 2. You can backup to local disk, external hard drive, NAS, network drive, etc.

Backup Location

4. In the next screen, click Schedule to configure scheduled backup settings if need be. After that, click Start Backup to start the backup.

Due to the VSS technology, AOMEI Backupper will also include files that are currently in use, so you do not need to worry about backup integration. In a short time, the backup will be created.

If you feel something wrong with your computer, you can just click the Restore tab and select a backup image to restore your PC. To make the restore process more convenient, you can integrate AOMEI Backupper into WinRE, so you can restore your PC from WinRE.

If even WinRE is failed to load, you can also create a bootable media on another PC (regardless of its Windows versions) and boot from it to restore your PC to working state.

AOMEI Backup in WinRE

As mentioned, AOMEI Backupper can restore your PC to the state where the backup was taken, so no programs will be lost if you keeps backing up regularly.

In conclusion, there are three ways to refresh Windows 10 without losing programs, repair upgrade, reset with custom recovery image, and using AOMEI Backupper. Which method do you like most? Is there any other method that you want to share?

If you want to protect unlimited computers within your company, you can pick AOMEI Backupper Technician. With the inbuilt AOMEI Image Deploy tool, you are also allowed to deploy/restore system image file on server-side computer to multiple client-side computers over network.