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Remove Everything from Your Windows 8 Computer

The Windows 8 Refresh tool freshens up your PC by reinstalling Windows but saving much of your information. The new Remove Everything feature, by contrast, doesn’t save it.

Choosing the Remove Everything tool completely erases your copy of Windows, your programs, your apps, and all your files. In other words, the program wipes your computer completely clean. Then, Windows 8 magically reinstalls itself, leaving you with a working computer, but without your programs, your files, or even your user account.

In fact, nobody will even recognize it as being your computer. Why bother? Well, the feature comes in very handy in two scenarios:

  • Starting from scratch: Removing everything can be a magic fix when nothing else cures your computer. Although it leaves you with many things to reinstall, removing everything is a sure-fire, last-resort cure for an ailing version of Windows. In fact, many repair shops charge about $150 for this very task.

  • Wiping away your personal data: After you’ve removed everything from your computer, you can safely give it away or donate it to charity without worrying that somebody will grab your personal information.

To remove everything from your computer, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Charms bar and click the Settings icon (shown in the margin).

    You can fetch the Charms bar by pointing your mouse cursor at the screen’s top- or bottom-right corner, sliding a finger inward from a touchscreen’s right edge, or pressing Windows+C with a keyboard.

    When you click the Settings icon, the Settings pane appears.

  2. At the bottom of the Settings pane, click the words Change PC Settings to open the PC Settings screen. Then click the word General from the PC Settings screen’s left edge.

  3. Scroll down the right side of the PC Settings screen’s General section. When you reach the section called Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows, click the Get Started button.

    The program warns you that it will remove all your personal files, programs, and apps and that it will change your settings back to default — the way they were when Windows was first installed.

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  4. If asked, insert your Windows 8 disc, flash drive, or whatever else you used to first install Windows.

    When you insert the disc or drive, Windows 8 automatically grabs the files it needs.

    Don’t have a Windows 8 installation disc or drive? Then click Cancel. You can’t use the Remove Everything option, unfortunately.

  5. Click Next and choose how you want to remove your personal files.

    The Remove Everything command offers two options:

    • Just Remove My Files: Select this option only when your computer will stay within your family. Although this option is relatively secure, somebody with the right tools may be able to extract some previously erased information.

    • Fully Clean the Drive: Select this option when you’ll be giving away or donating your computer to strangers. This option removes your data and then scrubs the hard drive extra clean. That keeps out everybody but the most dedicated specialists who own expensive data recovery equipment.

  6. Choose your desired option and wait for the process to finish. Or click Cancel to return to the PC Settings screen.

    Removing the files should finish in less than an hour. Fully cleaning the drive will take several hours.

When your computer wakes up, it’s as if Windows 8 was freshly installed on a new computer.

In fact, the Remove Everything feature leaves you looking at a freshly installed copy of Windows 8. At that point, you need to enter your product key, the long string of numbers and letters that links your copy of Windows 8 to your computer. (You can find your product key on a sticker attached to your computer’s case or inside your Windows 8 software box.)

  • The Remove Everything feature leaves you with a newly installed version of Windows. That means you need to create new user accounts, reinstall all your programs, and restore all your files from a backup.

  • If you’ve kept a backup of your files with File History, you can easily restore the files that once lived in your Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos libraries.

  • The Reset feature’s Fully Clean the Drive option in Step 5 overwrites every bit of your computer’s hard drive with random characters. That’s enough to keep all but the most dedicated thugs away from your data.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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