By Lily / Last update September 23, 2021

Windows 10 refresh and reset

When your PC goes wrong, you can choose to refresh, reset Windows 10 or restore system from a backup to fix the problem. In these options, Refresh and Reset sound very similar, what are the differences between them?

Refresh, known as "Refresh your PC" in previous Windows 10 builds (15002) and older OS like Windows 8. It means to reinstall and update Windows while keeping personal files and settings, but most of the programs will be removed.

In the newest Windows 10 version, however, Refresh is integrated in "Reset this PC" as the "Keep my files" option. It is alongside another option "Remove everything", which evolves from "Reset your PC" feature in older versions and will remove everything during the reset process.

To sum up, both of them can fix system errors, you can choose to reset Windows 10 keep files or remove everything, including the installed apps and personal files. If you really want to keep everything, please try the methods below to refresh Windows 10 without losing programs.

Refresh Windows 10

How to reset windows 10 without losing data and apps

As mentioned above, Windows 10 Reset this PC allows you to choose whether to keep personal files or not. But whichever you choose, you will lose all your installed programs. 

Reinstalling all the programs may be too cumbersome for you, not to mention those paid software requiring reactivation with license codes. So is it possible to reset Windows 10 without losing data and apps?

Well, the answer is Yes. There are two workaround methods to help you keep apps when resetting PC. You can first read and then choose the suitable one according to your needs. 

Method 1. Refresh Windows 10 without losing programs by repair upgrade

If you want to refresh Windows 10 without losing program and data, 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, please download MediaCreationTool from Microsoft, and use it to create a installation media or ISO file.

For details,  you could refer to this tutorial about Windows 10 recovery tool.

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 the Resources folder.


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 reset Windows 10 without losing files and apps.

In the process, your computer will restart several times. Since it will reset Windows 10 keep files and 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 have been made to installed programs.

Method 2. Create a custom refresh image with all programs for resetting

If you want to reset Windows 10 without losing files and apps, you can also create a custom refresh image with all the data and programs included and then use it for resetting Windows 10. To do that, you can use DISM command from Windows recovery environment (WinRE).

Create Custom Refresh Image

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.

Backup Windows 10/11 in case of disaster recovery  

The free backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard is designed for Windows 11/10/8/7 that can be used to create recovery image backup, so you can easily restore Windows 10/11 to keep files and programs when needed.

  • It offers you system backup, file backup, disk backup, partition backup features and faster recovery.
  • You can highly compress the backup file, and choose¬†incremental or differential backup¬†to save space.
  • It lets you set multiple scheduled backup¬†tasks¬†while the Windows built-in tool only supports one task.
  • If you upgrade to the¬†Professional edition, you can even¬†restore system to dissimilar hardware with secure boot.

Besides, AOMEI Backupper comes with a concise interface. It takes only 3 steps to create a system image, leaving little room for human error.

You can download and install the completely free Standard edition to have a try:

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

To create an image backup with AOMEI Backupper:

1. At the main page of this software, click the Backup tab and choose System Backup.

System Backup

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

Start Backup

3. Click Schedule to configure daily/weekly/monthly scheduled backup so as to be sure all the personal data and installed programs are included. After that, click Start Backup to start the backup.

Start 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, a backup will be created.

Related tips:

  • If you feel something wrong with your computer, you can just click the Restore tab and restore your PC to the state where the backup was taken. All the programs and data will be included if¬†you keep backing up regularly.
  • To make the restore process more convenient, you can integrate AOMEI Backupper into WinRE, so you can restore your PC from WinRE.
  • If the¬†WinRE¬†fail 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

  • If you want to perform system backup and restore on multiple computers, you can create a portable version¬†of AOMEI Backupper on removable device, and use it on any target PC without installing. This feature is available in Tech and Tech Plus edition.

FAQs about resetting Windows without losing apps

1. What happens if I refresh Windows 10?

If you refresh Windows 10, you will lose most of your apps while keeping personal files and some Windows settings. 

2. What will I lose if I reset Windows 10?

If you reset Windows 10, you will lose your apps as well. And you can choose to keep files or not by selecting the "Keep my files" or "Remove everything" option. 

3. Does resetting Windows 10 remove viruses?

Resetting Windows 10 gives you a fresh start without any extra programs or files, reclaiming drive space and improving the performance of your computer, but does not remove viruses. 

4. Does resetting Windows 10 make it faster?

You could say that, because the process of resetting Windows 10 removes apps or everything, thereby making up for more space. 


There are two ways to refresh Windows 10 without losing programs and data, repair upgrade, or reset with custom recovery image. Which method do you prefer? Or is there any other method that you want to share? Just post your idea in the comments below. It may help other users here.

Create a system image with AOMEI Backupper Standard so you can restore Windows 10 image to new hard drive and get your computer back in a very short time. It will include everything on the system partition, so you will no longer need to worry about losing data and apps. In addition, its technician edition is able to protect unlimited computers within your company.