Doing a fresh install of Windows 8


Apr 26, 2014
I bought windows 7 and an upgrade key to windows 8 (still have the key for both and currently running WIndows 8.1). If I do a fresh install is there anyway to go directly to windows 8.1 or am I stuck having to install 7 first than upgrading to 8.1? I want to make some usb install sticks just to have and was wondering the best way to proceed.


I'm guessing you're going to have to install Windows 7 first, then upgrade. I don't know for sure, but I doubt your Windows 8 key will work if you install Windows 8 first. You can always try Windows 8 first, it will only cost you half an hour or less to find out.

If it turns out that you do have to install Windows 7 first, then when you do that and upgrade to Windows 8 and finish patching, you should make a system image of your hard drive, so that in the future you won't have to go through the entire process, you can just restore you initial system image. It's a lot easier that way.


You can use a commercial product like Acronis True Image, which is what I use, but only get it on sale at Amazon or Newegg, I think it's over-priced otherwise. Or you can use a free product like EasUS Todo:

Or use Windows built-in backup feature. Here is an excerpt from an article on making a system image in Windows 8:

A custom system image still gives you the benefits of the default Refresh. Win8's core files will be completely rebuilt, and your user accounts, data, passwords, and personal files will be left intact.

Best of all, it's incredibly simple to make a custom system image. The only tool you need — recimg.exe — is already built into your copy of Windows 8!

Recimg.exe (or Recimg for short) gets its name from a contraction of the phrase "record image," a command-line tool. Microsoft offers instructions on using the command in support article 2748351:

But those instructions leave out important details — and that's where this article will help.

Building your first custom system image
Using Recimg to create a custom system image is amazingly simple. Here are the steps:

To start, bring up an administrator-level command prompt by whatever method you prefer. In Windows 8, the easiest way is to simply press the Windows key + X (WinX) and then select Command Prompt (Admin). A standard admin-level command window will open.
At the command prompt, type
recimg /createimage {folder path}

Note: Replace {folder path} with the path/folder name where you want the custom system image stored. For example, you might use C:\RefreshImage as the path and folder name. (If the folder doesn't exist, Recimg will create one.) So the entire command would be:

recimg /createimage C:\RefreshImage

Tip #3: System images can be quite large, typically 15–25GB. Make sure the destination drive has sufficient room.

Tip #4: To speed Recimg's processing, create the system image on your fastest hard drive, even if you don't want to keep it there permanently. (System images can be moved after they've been created; more on this in a moment.)

With the command, path, and folder name entered, press Enter. Recimg will go to work in three stages: initializing, creating a snapshot of the current setup, and then writing the image to the specified location, as shown in Figure 1.

The custom system-image file is always called CustomRefresh.wim. (The extension .wim stands for Windows Imaging Medium — see the MS TechNet explanation.)

When the custom image is fully written (typically after several hours), Recimg will register the new CustomRefresh.wim file as your system's active system image. Windows 8 will automatically use the newly created image whenever you run Refresh on your system.

You can run Recimg as often as you like. If you specify the same folder over and over, only the last CustomRefresh.wim will be retained. But you also can specify a different destination folder each time in order to build a library of custom system-image configurations.

You also can move CustomRefresh.wim files from wherever they were created to any other suitably capacious location — either to save space or for long-term archiving.

If you move a CustomRefresh.wim file, or if you have multiple image files you've created over time, use Recimg to tell Windows 8 which file should be used as the current, active system image.

Open an administrator's command window and type

recimg /setcurrent {folder}

where {folder} is the path to and name of the CustomRefresh.wim file you wish to use as the current source of Refresh files.

Other Recimg options include:

recimg /showcurrent — displays the folder that holds the currently active image. It's useful if you lose track of which CustomRefresh.wim Win8 is using.
recimg /deregister — enter this command if, for some reason, you want or need to return to Win8's default system image. Refresh will use the image originally provided by the PC's manufacturer — or, if no OEM file is available, the files on your original installation medium.
(Using the /setcurrent command described above, you can always return to one of your custom system-image files.)

recimg /help — displays a list of all available Recimg commands, plus some simple help text.

Solving the most common Recimg problem

Win8's custom system image–creation tool can occasionally be confused by virtual volumes (logical hard drives or partitions) and/or by symlinks (symbolic links; MSDN explanation).

For example, popular cryptographic software such as TrueCrypt, Boxcryptor, and others commonly create their own private volumes to hold encrypted data.

If there are any irregularities with the way those volumes are mounted or dismounted, Recimg might stop early in its initialization process and display error messages such as The recovery image cannot be written or The system cannot find the file specified. The most common error code associated with this problem is the cryptic 0x80070003.

The solution: Temporarily uninstall whatever software created the volume or symlink and then run recimg.exe. Reinstall the problematic software after the custom system image has been created. (Obviously, the problem app won't be restored along with your other apps, if you use Win8's Refresh.)

Win8's multi-tiered backup/recovery options

As you've seen from this series, Windows 8 offers a wider range of built-in backup and recovery options than any previous version of the OS does. In summary:

File History provides automatic, nearly constant, always-on backups of your user data and files.
Reset lets you rapidly restore your PC to its original, fresh-from-the-box setup.

Refresh provides a quick-and-easy, nondestructive reinstall of Win8's core files — without disturbing your user files. And when combined with a custom system image, it won't remove apps that were not included with Windows or not purchased from the Windows Store.
Whatever your feelings about Win8's interface, you have to agree: it's good to have all that protection built into the base operating system!