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How to create a custom refresh image in Windows 8

By on December 13, 2012 | Read 45,746 times.
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Windows 8 has the ability to reset your installation to factory defaults or to refresh your installation while retaining your data and settings. By default, when you perform a refresh in Windows 8, the operating system will restore Windows back to a fresh state where you retain your personal data and settings, but will have to install all of your applications again. If you have installed a lot of applications, or do not have all the necessary installation disks, it can be an annoying and lengthy task to get your computer back up and running. This is where a new and useful feature saves the day. A program called recimg.exe allows you to create a custom refresh image that you can set to be used when you perform a refresh in Windows 8. This image will be a snapshot of the current state of Windows 8 and will include all applications that are currently installed on your computer. This allows you to create snapshots of Windows 8 over time and store them so that you can easily restore Windows 8 to various states if you run into an issue. The best part is that all applications that are installed when you create the custom image will still be there after you perform a refresh.

When you use recimg.exe to create a custom refresh image it will always save the image as CustomRefresh.wim and overwrite any existing images located in the same folder. Therefore, it is suggested that you create a separate folder for each custom refresh images that you may want to revert back to. I suggest you create a folder called C:\custom-refresh, but it can be whatever name you like, which will be the base folder that you store all of your snapshot folders. Whenever you create a new refresh image, you would then specify another folder under the C:\custom-refresh folder that uses the current date or some other useful indicator as the subfolder name.

As an example, if I was going to create an image today, I would specify that I want to save it it to the C:\custom-refresh\12-12-12-4-41-PM folder. Recimg would then automatically make the subfolder for us and create the image in it. You can then create a text file in each snapshots folder that contains information about what major apps are installed or the current state of Windows.

Note: These images can be very large, with sizes being over 20GB for each image. Therefore be sure to save them on a drive that has plenty of free space available.

When you have decided where you want to store the images and are ready to create a custom refresh image we need to open an elevated command prompt in Windows 8. To open an elevated command prompt, use the Windows+X keyboard combination (Windows Key + I key) to open the Power User Tasks menu.


Power User Tasks Menu


When the menu is open click on the Command Prompt (Admin) menu option. If you use receive a User Account Control prompt, please allow it to continue. You will now see an elevated command prompt as shown below.


Elevated Command Prompt


To create a custom refresh image using the current state of your Windows 8 installation you would use the recimg.exe program with the following syntax:

recimg.exe /createimage <folder>

Using this syntax, if we wanted to create a new refresh image and save it to the C:\custom-refresh\12-12-12-4-41-PM, I would use the following command:

recimg.exe /createimage C:\custom-refresh\12-12-12-4-41-PM

Note: If there are spaces in your folder path, you must enclose the path in quotes. For example, recimg.exe /createimage "C:\custom refresh\12-12-12-4-41-PM"

Once you type the command and press Enter on your keyboard, recimg.exe will start to create the custom refresh image in the specified folder. This process can take a very long time so please be patient while the image is created.


Creating Snapshot


When the image has finished being created you will be be back at the command prompt and the screen will look similar to below.


Finished Creating Image


If there are any errors while creating your custom image, please see this recimg.exe troubleshooting section for tips on how to resolve them.

If there were no error messages, you will now see that there is a file called CustomRefresh.wim inside the folder you specified. This is the custom refresh image that you just created. When you create a custom refresh image using the above process, Windows will automatically register that image as the default one to use when you perform a refresh. This means that you do not have to do anything else to have Windows 8 use this image going forward.

You can confirm that this image is now the default refresh image by typing recimg.exe /showcurrent at the command prompt. This command will list the current image that will be used for a Windows 8 refresh.


Showcurrent argument


If you wish to change back to the default Windows 8 refresh settings, which is to refresh your computer using your Windows DVD or through an image supplied by your manufacturer, you can enter the command recimg.exe /deregister and press Enter on your keyboard. If it is successful, the command will display the message: RecImg: Operation completed successfully.

Finally, if you have multiple images it is also possible to specify which image you want to use as your default refresh image. To do this you would use the following command syntax:

recimg.exe /setcurrent <folder>

Using this syntax, if we wanted to specify a different custom refresh image that is located in the c:\custom-snapshots\10-15-12-02-16-PM folder we would use the following command:

recimg.exe /setcurrent c:\custom-snapshots\10-15-12-02-16-PM

Note: When using /setcurrent, you should only specify the path to the folder that contains the image you want to use. You should not include the image name itself as part of the argument.

Once you type the command and press Enter on your keyboard, the custom refresh image that is stored in the specified folder will now become the current refresh image. If the image is assigned properly, the command will display the message: RecImg: Operation completed successfully.

If you have any questions about this process, please ask in the Windows 8 Forum.


Custom Refresh Image Troubleshooting

When creating custom refresh images the process may fail with a variety of different error messages. Below are some troubleshooting tips for various error messages you may receive while working with custom refresh images.

Error Code - 0x80042316

This error may indicate that another another instance of the Volume Shadow Copy Service is currently running and causing a conflict. Please wait a bit for that operation to complete and try again.

Error Code - 0x800423f2

This error is typically caused by a timeout that occurs while creating the image. If you are receiving this error you may want to increase the time from the default of 10 minutes to a greater amount of time so that you can finish the VSS operation. To increase the timeout you need to create a DWORD value called CreateTimeout under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SPP Windows Registry key. You should add a decimal number of 12000000, which is in milliseconds, to the CreateTimeout value to set the timeout to 20 minutes.

If you do not feel comfortable editing the registry, you can use this registry file to create the value for you and set the timeout to 20 minutes:


Error Code - 0x80070490 A CustomRefresh.wim file could not be found in the specified directory.

This error is caused when you specify a folder that does not exist using the /setcurrent argument. Please confirm that folder exists, and if it doesn't, use the proper path. If there is a space in the path be sure to enclose your path in quotes.

If you run into any other other error codes, please let us know in the Windows 8 Forum.



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