Reset/Refresh Windows 10 without Losing Programs | 3 Ways!

This article tells you how to refresh Windows 10 without losing programs and data. It seems a good idea to reinstall Windows 10 when serious system problem occurs. Read on to learn more.


By Lily Updated on December 26, 2023

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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 while keeping files or removing everything. If you really want to keep personal files as well as installed apps, 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 three 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. Reset Windows 10 without losing programs by repair upgrade
👉 Method 2. Create a custom refresh image with all programs for resetting
👉 Refresh Windows 10 and keep programs - easier way

Method 1. Reset 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 an installation media or ISO file.

✾ Tip: 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 Sources folder.


3. Click Accept if you are asked to agree with its license terms.

4. Wait a moment, and then you will see the Windows 10 Setup window. From there, you can choose Upgrade this PC now.

Upgrade This PC

5. Click the Accept button again.

6. When you get to the Ready to install page, you can see Keep personal files and apps is selected by default. Click Install to reset Windows 10 without losing files and apps.

Ready to Install

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 the 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).

1. Click Restart from the Power button while pressing and holding the Shift key to boot into WinRE system. You can also boot your computer from recovery media or installation disk.

2. When your computer reboot after Shift + Restart or from recovery media, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Command Prompt. You may need to enter your account password to use command prompt.

3. Type the following command in the Command Prompt window and press Enter to execute it. This command means to backup current system to D:\windows10 folder and create an image file "install.wim". You need to change the location path based on your needs.

▶ dism /Capture-Image /CaptureDir:C:\ /ImageFile:D:\windows10\install.wim /Name:windows10

Create Custom Refresh Image

● /Capture-Image
- Capture a drive image to a new .wim file.
● /CaptureDir- Specify the source directory, the location to be captured.
● /ImageFile- Specify target location to store the image file.
● /Name- Specify a name.

4. As you install more programs and save more personal files on your computer, you can add an additional image based on the first recovery image you created using /Append-Image option. This option works like incremental image backup ​​​​.

▶ Dism /Append-Image /ImageFile:D:\windows10\install.wim /CaptureDir:C:\ /Name:windows10

5. When the recovery image is created, run the following command to Reset this PC without losing programs.

▶ reagentc /setosimage /path D:\windows10 /index 1  (you need to change the /path to where your Windows custom refresh image is stored)

Refresh Windows 10 and keep programs - easier way🔥

The free backup softwareAOMEI 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, cloud backup features and faster recovery.
  • You can highly compress the backup file, and choose incremental 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. Download AOMEI Backupper now and follow the instructions below to have a try:

AOMEI Backupper

Best free Windows backup and restore software for personal use.

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 Backup 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.

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.

System refresh Windows 10 with the backup image

1. Run AOMEI Backupper. Click Restore and Select Task.

Select Task

2. Choose the system backup task you created before.

Select Backup Image

3.  Tick Restore this system backup and click Next.

Restore Entire Backup Or Partition

4. The program will select the original system drive(s) as the destination place automatically. Click Start Restore after your confirmation.

Related tips:

  • To make the restore process more convenient, you can create recovery environment with AOMEI Backupper, so you can run the program from WinRE to restore your PC. (paid feature)

Enter Into Aomei Backupper

  • If the WinRE fails to load, you can also create a bootable media on another PC (regardless of its Windows version) and boot from it to restore your PC to a working state.
  • 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.


There are three ways to refresh Windows 10 without losing programs and data, repair upgrade, reset with a custom recovery image or reset with a third-party tool. You can choose one according to your situation.

It is recommended to create a system image with AOMEI Backupper so you can restore computer to an earlier date 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.

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 releasing plenty of space.
Lily · Editor
Lily Green joined AOMEI in 2018 and has since become a professional in the areas of data protection and data transfer. She is committed to helping users protect their precious computer data and troubleshoot Windows system errors. She consistently stays vigilant about the latest trends in technology, guaranteeing that the given information aligned with the ongoing advancements in the field.