Windows 8.1/8 comes with two new options to restore your PC to its original state, the Basic Refresh, and the Complete Reset feature. The Refresh your PC gives you an easy option to restart afresh while retaining all of your documents, accounts, personal settings, and even the Metro apps you’ve downloaded from the Windows Store.
When you refresh a Windows 8 computer, by default, the Metro apps will be restored – but the desktop apps or software are not. If you wish, you can create a custom system image that will include your desktop apps or software too. Reinstalling all of your Desktop software all over again can be a boring and time-consuming chore. When you use this custom system image, in Refresh Your PC, all your desktop software too will be included.
NOTE: Recimg.exe does not exist in Windows 11/10. You can create System Image in Windows 11/10 with Windows 7 Backup or use one of its own built-in Recovery Options.
Use Recimg.exe to create a Custom System Refresh Image
To create a custom system image in Windows 8, first, create a destination folder for saving the custom system image. I have my Windows 8 installed on C Drive, so I may want to create the custom system image on D Drive in a new folder named MySystemImage. So the folder I have created has the path: D:\MySystemImage.
Now move your cursor to the bottom left corner to open the Win+X menu and click on Command Prompt (Admin) to open an elevated CMD.
Now to create a custom system image, we will use the Recimg.exe command-line tool that is included in Windows 8. Recimg.exe creates an image that can be used by the Refresh facility when restoring Windows 8.
The recimg.exe command-line tool lets you configure a custom recovery image for Windows to use when you Refresh your PC. When you create a custom recovery image, it will contain the desktop apps you’ve installed and the Windows system files in their current state. Recovery images do not contain your documents, personal settings, user profiles, or apps from Windows Store, because that information is preserved at the time you refresh your PC.
When you create a custom recovery image, recimg will store it in the specified directory, and set it as the active recovery image. If a custom recovery image is set as the active recovery image, Windows will use it when you refresh your PC. You can use the /setcurrent and /deregister options to select which recovery image Windows will use. All recovery images have the
filename CustomRefresh.wim. If no CustomRefresh.wim file is found in the active recovery image directory, Windows will fall back to the default image (or to installation media) when you refresh your PC.
Note that you cannot reset your PC using a custom recovery image. Custom recovery images can only be used to refresh your PC.
The following commands can be specified:
- /createimage <directory> : Captures a new custom recovery image in the location specified by <directory>, and sets it as the active recovery image.
- /setcurrent <directory> : Sets the active recovery image to the CustomRefresh.wim file in the location specified by <directory>. Windows will use this image when you Refresh your PC, even if a recovery image provided by your PC’s manufacturer is present.
- /deregister : Deregisters the current custom recovery image. If a recovery image provided by your PC’s manufacturer is present, Windows will use that image when you refresh your PC. Otherwise, Windows will use your installation media when you refresh your PC.
- /showcurrent : Displays the path to the directory in which the current active recovery image is stored.
- /? : Displays this help text.
In the CMD windows type the following and hit Enter:
recimg -CreateImage D:\MySystemImage
Recimg will begin the process of creating a snapshot and writing the image as a wim archive into the specified folder. This is expected to take a while, so you may continue to work on your computer, or leave it on and go away and let it finish its task.
In this way, you can create a custom system image for your Windows 8. I strongly recommend you create one as soon as you have completed installing all your Metro apps and Desktop software on your new Windows 8.1 installation.
Recimg.exe command for creating a recovery WIM image is no longer available on Windows 11/10.