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How to create a custom refresh image in Windows 8

Using a custom refresh image in Windows 8 allows you to recover your PC back with your preferred programs and apps.

Windows 8

Updated, October 22, 2012: Replaced Windows 8 Consumer Preview screenshots with those from the final version of Windows 8.

We recently showed you how to use the new Windows 8 refresh feature to reinstall Windows, while keeping your settings and data files intact. One drawback to refreshing your system is that you have to reinstall any programs you installed on your own (non-Microsoft Store apps).

Using a custom refresh image will allow you recover Windows 8 with the programs you want, so you won't have to reinstall them after a refresh. You can create as many custom images as you want, but they'll need to be stored in separate folders because custom images are always named install.wim. When you have your PC set up just the way you like it, here's how to create your custom refresh image:

Step 1: From the Windows 8 desktop, hit Win+X to open the system utility settings menu and select Command Prompt (Admin). When the UAC warning appears, click the Yes button.

Elevated command prompt
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Step 2: From the command prompt, create a new directory to store the custom refresh image file. In our example, we'll create a folder called CustomRefresh in the C: drive. Type:
mkdir c:\CustomRefresh.

Make custom refresh image directory
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Step 3: From the command prompt, run the recimg tool to create a custom image file (install.wim) in the folder we just created. Type:
recimg /createimage c:\CustomRefresh

Create custom refresh image
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

That's it. Creating the image automatically registers the image, so that Windows knows to use it for a refresh. If you create multiple images and want to change to a different one, you can deregister the current image by using the /deregister option. You can then register the new image by using /setcurrent <directory>.