Windows 8 / 8.1 / 10 Total Backup System - What MS forgot to tell you

Technical Level : Basic


Windows 8 has enhanced the file and system backup options available to users.  Unfortunately, IMHO, MS has not done a very good job of publicizing all of these changes.

The new "Refresh" feature is one I am interested in particular.  Refresh is a great feature but what MS and most of the reviewers, who worked from MS propaganda, said that the "Refresh" tool would "lose" installed "Desktop" as opposed to the new "Metro" applications.   They "forgot" to mention that using the "RecImg" tool would update the "image" files used by Refresh.

Another useful new tool is "FileHistory".  It allows you to tell Windows to keep archived 'versions' of your files.

Other authors have covered these subjects well, so rather than rehashing their content, I am simply providing links to their articles.

For example, this article:

provides a similar overview, with a few additional worthwhile points.

Here is the summary provided with the article:


With little user effort, and when applied correctly, Win8’s built-in backup tools provide automatic, frequent, triple-data redundancy.

Inexplicably, however, Microsoft tends to describe each tool more or less in isolation. It doesn’t provide a simple, comprehensive explanation of how the backup components work together — and do so extremely well.

This article rectifies that deficiency; it describes how to use File History, OneDrive, and other options as a complete system for near-bulletproof backups.


As well I have included some "manual" macro based methods and tools you can use to create automated timed backup "versions" of files you create using Word and Excel in MS Office.


Win 8 / 8.1 / 10 Total Backup System: File History + RecImg.EXE + Refresh + SlimImage

Win 8 has refined your backup and restore options. Before Win 8 you could create an Image Copy backup of the full drive (or selected directories), but it was hard to separate backups of the OS, Applications and personal Data unless you created a separate data partition.  I still think it is a good option.

Out of the box, MS has been advertising the “Refresh” and “Reset” options. Personally, I think they missed a valuable selling point by not mentioning RecImg.EXE in conjunction with Refresh. It removes my personal main concern/objection to Refresh.

Reset is equivalent to using the “Recovery Partition” on previous versions of Windows. The factory would create a “Recovery Partition” that you could use to “reset the computer to factory fresh”. It would typically include all of the factory “crapware” and it would wipe out all of your data files and installed applications.  A less than desirable outcome but an appropriate reaction to a bad malware infection.  The “recovery partition” type of restore typically had to be accessed at boot time while Reset can be accessed from within Windows 8.

NOTE: in Win 10 the "Refresh" option has been merged into the "Reset" command.  Win 10 Reset now has 2 options, "Remove everything" which is equivalent to Win 8 "Reset" and "Keep my files" which is equivalent to Win 8 "Refresh".

Refresh is roughly equivalent to an image copy backup.  A Reset will restore a backup of the OS and Metro applications. It will wipe out “legacy” / x86 desktop type applications BUT it will not affect your personal data files, which is much better than a Reset.  But there is still that issue of wiping out your installed desktop applications. I do not have documented confirmation, but I’m guessing that Metro apps are treated like personal data and those directories/folders are simply not reset back to the old condition.

RecImg.EXE is a backup tool that ships with Windows 8. It creates the backup “image” that is

used by the Refresh tool. The original im

age that was created at the factory is why using Refresh will wipe out installed desktop programs in the “C:\Program files” and “C:\Program Files (x86)” folders because they haven’t been backed up. However, by using RecImg.EXE you can create new images that will include recently installed desktop applications.

Win 10 NOTE:

This article mentions that the author could not find RecImg.EXE in the July 2015 RTM version. 

After doing further reading, I've found that apparently the whole "image" part of the old backup process has been removed.

RecImg Manager is a third party tool the provides a GUI to access the RecImg.EXE command line tool and backup files. (There are other similar tools you can investigate).

File History is a new Win 8 feature. It is an extension to the “Previous Versions” and “Volume Shadow Copy” features. File History continuously monitors files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Contacts, and Favorites folders. It runs on a predetermined schedule, and when it detects changes in any file, it makes a backup of that file to an External drive. It isn’t enabled by default.

Comparison Between "Reset PC" and "Refresh PC" Options

<snip >

Refresh PC option reinstalls Windows but keeps your personal documents, files, personalization settings and metro (modern) apps. On the other hand, Reset PC removes everything from your computer and reinstalls Windows. So you'll lose all files, settings and apps if you choose Reset PC option.

3rd party software such as Microsoft Office, etc are not kept by any of these features. In other words, both Refresh and Reset PC options remove 3rd party software programs from your computer.

Following comparison chart will help you in understanding the difference between both these features easily:

Windows reinstallation Yes Yes
Personal documents and files Kept Removed
Metro (modern) apps Kept Removed
Personalization settings Kept Removed
Start Screen settings Kept Removed
3rt party software programs Removed Removed
List of removed software Saved on Desktop No
Installation media (setup disc or USB) required Yes Yes
Total time 15-20 minutes 15-20 minutes

NOTE: Both Reset and Refresh PC options require Windows installation disc or recovery media to restore default files. If you don't have Windows setup disc, you can copy Windows setup files to a USB drive and attach to your computer and these features will accept it as installation media.


Article Link List

Rather than rewriting these articles, I'll just provide you with the links to them.

Win 8 / 10 Advanced Startup Options  (ASO)

Open the Advanced Startup Options Menu & Choose Troubleshoot

6 Ways To Access Advanced Startup Options in Windows 10 or 8

Advanced Startup Options

Use the ASO Menu to Repair & Troubleshoot Problems in Windows 10 & 8

7 Ways To Shut Down Or Restart A Windows 10 PC Or Device

File History – Protect Personal Files -  How To Work With File History In Win 10, From The Settings App

Protecting user files with File History   (Official MS description of File History)

Understanding Windows 8′s File History -

Enable Windows 8 File History to protect your data (revisited)

Introducing Windows 8: How To Backup Data With File History

A New Way to Backup: File History in Windows 8

How to Use the File History Feature in Windows 8 to Restore Files

How to Use the New File History Feature in Windows 8

How to use File History -     (short intro video)

What to Do When Your File History Backup Drive is Out of Space?

What if something goes wrong in File History?


Reset This PC: Use Reset This PC to Fix Major Problems in Windows 10 & Windows 8

How to Perform a PC Refresh in Windows 8 and Create a Custom Refresh Image-

A ‘no-reformat reinstall’ for Windows 8 -  - A refresh returns Windows 8 to like-new condition while leaving users’ accounts, data, passwords, and personal files intact. But there are a few limitations to consider.

Everything You Need to Know About Creating Custom Recovery Images for Windows 8 - General Description

 (basic) Refresh and reset your PC

The power of personalization is something we all love about PCs, but sometimes there is good reason to want to roll back to an earlier state.Most consumer electronics devices today can be reset to some factory state, and so we built this capability into Windows 8 too. Desmond Lee is a program manager on the Fundamentals team and authored this post about “push-button reset.”

How to Refresh a Windows 8 Installation Without Losing Your Data

Refresh your Windows 8 system from a Recovery Drive;siu-container

Recover Files Lost after Refresh

 Use a lost/deleted file recovery tool.

Refreshing, Resetting, and Restoring: A Guide to Recovery Options in Windows 8 -

How to Fix the Windows 8.1 Refresh Function after Upgrade

How to Perform a Windows 8.1 Refresh

How-To Guide: Refresh or Reset Windows 8

Free eBook: Refreshing, Resetting, and Restoring: A Guide to Recovery Options in Windows 8

When do you refresh, reset, or restore your Windows 8 PC -- and what's the difference? In a nutshell, resetting reverts a machine back to a base image of the initial installation, while refreshing is much less drastic and keeps applications and user data safe. So, which one should you choose and under what circumstances? With this eBook, you'll learn about the powerful additions to the arsenal of recovery tools found in Windows 8.

Click below to download this eBook now:

Note: this eBook is free, but registration is required; after that, you can
download more eBooks, videos and guides using the link below without
registering again.

Update Refresh using RecImg.EXE – Protect Windows 8 System Files, Metro Apps AND Desktop Apps

Create a custom recovery image for Windows 8’s Refresh your PC tool

Create a Windows 8 image with recimg.exe to preserve your Desktop apps after a refresh

Recimg.exe: Command line tool to configure custom recovery image in Windows 8

How to Backup Windows 8 Apps and Files Using RecImg

Windows 8 Backup and Imaging Tools for Techs – RecImg Manger & SlimImage

New free imaging software – for Windows 8!

RecImg Manager

RecImg Manager From SlimWare


Reset your PC from a Windows 8 Recovery Drive -

4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer -

Win 7 Image Copy tool – Win8’s Hidden Backup Tool

Create a Recovery Drive in Windows 8 -

Be ready to use the Windows 8 Recovery Drive -

Restore Windows 8 with System Image Recovery -

Create a system image backup with Windows 8’s hidden backup tool

Using Windows 8’s “hidden” backup to clone and recover your whole PC

Windows 8 Tip: Use Windows 7 System Image Backup

Windows 8 Tip: Create Recovery Media

Quick Tip: Restore individual files from a System Image in Windows 8

Win7′s no-reformat, nondestructive reinstall Microsoft won’t tell you this, but you can do a fast, nondestructive, in-place, total reinstallof Windows 7 without damaging your user accounts, data, installed programs, or system drivers.

Emergency repair disks for Windows: Part 1 Instructions for Win 8 / 7 / Vista

3rd Party Backup Tools

How do I create a new machine image? (Via Macrium Reflect)

How to use Paragon Software Image Backup for Windows 8

Win 8 RT

Applies to Windows 8, Windows RT. If you’re having problems with your PC, you can try to restore, refresh, or reset it. Restoring your PC is a way to undo recent ...

Applies to Windows 8, Windows RT. If you run into problems with your PC, a USB recovery drive can help you troubleshoot and fix those problems, even if your ...

Surface RT: System Restore isn’t available for Windows RT. To restore your Surface Pro: From the Start screen, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and ...

How to Use "Reset PC" or "Refresh PC" Options When Your Computer Can't Boot?

<snip  >

Now one question arises if your Windows computer can't boot, how will you access "Reset PC" or "Refresh PC" options to reinstall or repair Windows? Here is the answer!

Windows 8 and later allows you to use both these options from troubleshooting screen as well which is shown when Windows can't boot. Its a part of the new advanced boot loader or advances startup screen introduced in Windows 8. You can read more about it in following topic:

How to Access and Use Windows 8 Metro Boot Loader and Advanced Boot Options?


True Autosave Macros for Office - File History

This file you are working on is HIGH VALUE (to you). You MUST take extra steps to protect the time and creativity you have invested in this file. You MUST make frequent backups.

A good general rule for backups is:

Remember 3-2-1 to have good backups --

o at least 3 copies of any file,

o at least 2 different storage mediums (say on your hard drive plus at least one of the following: thumb drive, DVD or the cloud),

o at least 1 copy offsite -- in case of fire etc!  (ie the “cloud” meets this requirement, so does using a thumb drive moved to a different building, or a server in a different building)

    Steve Gibson

PS: yes “correct” the plural of medium is media, but I don’t speak latin! <grin>

You can do your backups manually or make use of automated tools.  A strategy I have used is timed backups during the editing session (5 minute). Then the final end of day save is copied to second medium. I rotate the “second” medium with an Offsite copy.  Once a week I go in and clean up the 5 minute incremental backups to keep just the end of day copy (to free up space!)

I have used the “autohistory” tool at codeplex. It is easy to use, but like any automated process it uses up a lot of space.

Unfortunately, although Office apps have been around since the the mid 1980’s, MS has not figured out that we need a good “Autosave” backup feature. In the past there was a “versions” feature in some office apps, but it only kept incremental copies of files, not full files. Win7 has a file “versions” feature, but it is tied into “System Recovery Points”. Not very useful.  The following links tell how to setup macros that run automatically and use SAVEAS to save full copies of the file with the date/time included in the file name. You have to manually delete the “extra” backup files, but you control the process rather than Windows or Office. It is a bit more work, but I find it worth it for very important files that are changing frequently.

Autohistory for Word 2007 / 2010, Excel 2010 (Version Control)

Creates a Date&Timestamped copy of file every time you perform a normal Save. You can access any of the older versions. It creates a folder for each document affected. You have to the option of creating a single “universal” backup location.  The History is located in a NEW GROUP on the View Tab.

Timed Automatic backup Word documents

Graham has created an addin that does something MS should have done 20+ years ago.


Contrary to popular opinion, Word has no integral means of automatically saving the current document, nor of backing-up the current document. What it does have is an option to save AutoRecover information after a specific and configurable interval and an option to save a backup copy of the previously saved version of the document with the default file extension of WBK (and although there is no reason to do so, Word also allows the option to change this extension to the user’s choice). This is not a true backup in as much as it is not a copy of the current version of the document.

A function to create a true automatic backup is provided by the Save In Two Places add-in which is detailed in a separate page, There is also available from this web site a complementary add-in which provides numbered versions of a document. Again that has its own web page.


Save Dated & numbered Backup versions of a document - Word

Save Numbered Versions Add-In for Word 2007 & 2010

Save Numbered Backup Versions of Document

Saving Everything Macros

Summary: Need to force users to save their work? It may be as simple as implementing an AutoNew() to force every new file to have a filename, and an AutoClose() to save the current document BEFORE closing. It could, however, also have something to do with training users.

Controlling Names of Backup Files

Save the current document in two locations add-in for Word 2007 & 2010

Performs a normal save in one location, then does a DOS copy to the second location (ie USB)

Making Backups as You Work

Win8 Tip: Enable File History

zApps-apps Collection for 2007/2010/2013 - 7 day free trial Word, Excel, PowerPoint

The zAPPs-apps Collection adds functionality to Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint and Excel to automate common work tasks and automatically save local copies of your files. Your ability to reuse content is optimized, your ability to work with images is enhanced, and copies of your files are saved locally every time you save so that you can instantly go back to a usable copy if you have a crash or overwrite content you need. The zAPPs-apps Collection streamlines and accelerates your work process.

The Collection contains 16 tools that run in Excel, PowerPoint and Word to help you:

  •    easily go back to prior versions of your files so that you can recover and reuse overwritten content
  •    extract anything from a PPT file for use in a Word file
  •    save embedded images for reuse as stand-alone image files
  •    import multiple images at the same time
  •    resize multiple images at the same time
  •    extract multiple content items all at once
  •    view all of the data about an open file in 1 dialog box, from 1 click

Helping You Recover Your Work in Office 2010– Autorecover

Have you ever closed Word after making a bunch of changes, and then accidently clicked ‘No’ when asked if you want to save your changes?  Then you suddenly realized what you have done, only to find that there was no way to recover your work?  You are not alone.  In fact, so many people were in similar situations that we improved Office 2010 so you can get that document back!  We call this feature Versions and I would like to spend a little time introducing it to you.

Recovering More of Your Work with a Shorter AutoRecover Interval

Automatically Saving Your Work Frequently – Word and Excel

Making Backups as You Work in Word 2007

Note: this site has been taken off line

Even if you’re using the macros earlier in the chapter to save your work frequently, you can still lose data if your hard drive crashes. So we’ve all learned from hard experience not only to save our work regularly, but also to make periodic backup copies. The macro I use most often in Word is one that does both in a single procedure! That is, the macro not only saves your work, but it also makes a backup copy on another drive, such as a removable disk, a second hard drive, or a network folder. Listing 1 shows the code.

Listing 1 A Procedure That Creates a Backup Copy of the Active Document on Another Drive

Sub MakeBackup()

   Dim currFi1e As String

   Dim backupFiIe As String

   const BACKUP_FOLDER = 'G:\Backups\'

   With ActiveDocument

   ‘ Don 't bother if the document is unchanged or new

        If .Saved Or .Path = ** Then Exit Sub

   ‘ Mark current position in document

        .Bookmarks.Add Name = “LastPosition"

   ‘ Turn off screen updating

        Application. ScreenUpdating = False

   ‘ Save the file


   ‘ Store the current file path, construct the path for the

   ‘ backup file, and then save it to the backup drive

        currFi1e = .FullName

        backupFi1e = BACKUP FOLDER + .Name

        .SaveAs FileName:=backupfile

   End With

   ‘ Close the backup copy (which is now active)


   ‘ Reopen the current file

   Documents.Open FileName:=currFi1e

   ‘ Return to the pre-backup position

   Selection.GoTo What:=wdGoToBookmark, Name:=”LastPosition"

End sub

The backupFile and currFile variables are strings that store the full pathnames for the active document and the backup version of the document. Use the BACKUP_FOLDER constant to specify the folder in which you want the backup stored.

The procedures first check to see if the backup operation is necessary. In other words, if the document has no unsaved changes (the Saved property returns True) or if it’s a new, unsaved document (the Path property returns “”), bail out of the procedure (by running Exit Sub).

Otherwise, a new Bookmark object is created to save the current position in the document, screen updating is turned off, and the file is saved.

We’re now ready to perform the backup. First, the currFile variable is used to store the full pathname of the document, and the pathname of the backup file is built with the fol­lowing statement:

backupFile = BACKUP_FOLDER + .Name

This is used to save the file to the specified folder. The actual backup takes place via the SaveAs method, which saves the document to the path given by backupFile. From there, the procedure closes the backup file, reopens the original file, and uses the GoTo method to return to the original position within the document.


Using a Bookmarkobject to reset the insertion point is useful because it takes you back to the exact point in the document where you were before the backup started. However, you may be interested only in returning to the last position within the document where an edit occurred. If that’s the case, use the following statement in place of the Selection.GoTo statement:
Note, however, that there’s a bug in the GoBackmethod, whereby Word doesn’t save the last edit position (technically, it’s a hidden bookmark named \PrevSel1) in some cases. Specifically, when you exit Word, if you elect to save changes in the last document that gets closed, Word doesn’t save the last edit position in that document.

Saving in Document Format from a Macro

Use the Cloud

Although using the cloud does not inherently include timed backup, it does provide a useful backup function. Saving copies to the cloud eliminates the danger of losing your physical local copies, ie losing a HD or USB Thumb drive.

A Real AutoSave

Saving Excel in Multiple Locations

Excel- Saving in Two Locations

Saving in Multiple Locations

If the drive letter assigned to your USB drive is always the same, you can use code like the following in the ThisWorkbook module.

Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)

    On Error Resume Next

    Application.EnableEvents = False


    ThisWorkbook.SaveCopyAs “J:\” & ThisWorkbook.Name

    Application.EnableEvents = True

End Sub

Change the “J” to the appropriate drive letter.

If the drive letter may change but the volume label is always the same, use code like the following in the ThisWorkbook code module:

Private Sub Workbook_BeforeClose(Cancel As Boolean)

    Dim DriveLetter As String

    Dim VolumeName As String

    On Error Resume Next

    Application.EnableEvents = False


    VolumeName = “YourVolumeName”

    DriveLetter = GetDriveLetter(VolumeName)

    If Len(DriveLetter) > 0 Then

        ThisWorkbook.SaveCopyAs DriveLetter & “:\” & ThisWorkbook.Name

    End If

    Application.EnableEvents = True

End Sub

Private Function GetDriveLetter(VolumeName As String) As String

    Dim FSO As Object

    Dim DD As Object

    Set FSO = CreateObject(“Scripting.FileSystemObject”)

    For Each DD In FSO.Drives

        If DD.IsReady = True Then

            If StrComp(DD.VolumeName, VolumeName, vbTextCompare) = 0 Then

                GetDriveLetter = DD.DriveLetter

                Exit Function

            End If

        End If

    Next DD

End Function

Change VolumeName to the appropriate volume name.

In the last issue of WordTips there were a number of readers that got the idea that I was suggesting that people should use the FastSave feature. In fact, I got quite a bit of feedback on that tip, some of it quite pointed. (According to one reader, I was even “irresponsible.” Another stated that I was doing a disservice to readers.)

I am sorry if I gave the impression that I thought FastSave is a great idea. That is far from the truth; I do not. There are several other “features” of Word that I think are ill conceived or totally unnecessary, as well. It doesn’t change the fact that they are features and people can use them, if they desire. WordTips are not designed to promote one method of doing something over another, but to provide alternative ideas that people can incorporate into their Word use, if they so desire.

With that being said, let me point out specifically why you should not use the FastSave feature.

  • Other word processors may not be able to open Word documents saved with the FastSave feature enabled. For instance, WordPerfect says it can open Word documents, yet some versions of WordPerfect cannot open FastSaved Word documents.
  • Third-party software designed to work with Word documents (such as some grammar checkers, document management programs, and desktop publishing software) will not work correctly with FastSaved Word documents.
  • Find File (either in Word or in Windows) may not work correctly with FastSaved Word documents.
  • FastSave results in more complex files being saved on disk. Any time you increase complexity, you run the risk of corrupting the files easier.
  • FastSaved files take up more disk space.
  • There have been reports of macro viruses “living on” in FastSaved documents, even though you thought you had them removed.
  • The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. In short, unless you have a specific need to use FastSave (such as if you are only creating simple documents using Word 6 on a slow 286 machine), it is probably a good idea to turn it off. The FastSave feature is turned on by default in all versions of Word, even in the original Word 97. Only if you are using Word 97 SR-1 is it turned off by default.

As a side note, according to the Microsoft Knowledge Base there are several circumstances under which a FastSave is not done by Word, even if you have enabled the feature. These circumstances include the following:

  • When you save a document for the first time. (This makes sense, right?) This includes when you choose Save As to save under a new name or in a new location.
  • When your document is saved on a network server or remote volume. (Word only performs a FastSave to a local volume.)
  • When Word reaches the limit of how much information it can save using the FastSave option. In this case Word does a normal save, and then again starts using FastSave for future saves.

Nuff said? (I hate it when I’m irresponsible.)

Saving All Open Workbooks

  (this tip is old, I didn’t test it)

Version 3.5 of Autosafe enables use in environments with long paths/filenames. The standard Autosave (note the spelling) utility that ships with Excel just saves workbooks at a set interval, overwriting the file on disk. This is not very convenient if you planned to leave the master file intact and save the changed workbook using a different filename. It also does nothing to simplify recovery of unsaved/changed documents after a system crash. This Autosafe utility creates copies of open workbooks at regular intervals in a separate (user-selectable) directory. It does not overwrite the master file(s), that is up to the user to do, using normal methods. As soon as a workbook is closed the backup copy is deleted from the backup directory. If an abnormal termination of Excel occurs, the backup copies remain on disk, and Autosafe finds them the next time Excel is started and presents recovery options to the user.
Autosafe comes with an autoupdate function which checks for updates every week. Includes the following languages: English, Dansk, Deutsch, Español, Français, Indonesia, Italiano, Nederlands, Norsk, Hrvatski, Slovenščina, Korean, Русский (Russian), Lithuanian and Hungarian.

PowerPoint Sequential Save Add-in - date/time suffix

PowerPoint 97 or later. The idea is to create a backup of your file every time you click on the Sequential Save button by adding a date/time to the end of the file name. This add-in will add a button to the Standard toolbar, every time you click on that button, it will create a backup of the last saved version on the disk and then will save the existing file. You can either create a single backup file or multiple sequential backups. The add-in does not delete any presentation nor does it change the original presentation in any manner.

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Last updated November 2, 2020 Views 6,433 Applies to: