Windows 8.1 refresh shenanigans

Yesterday, I decided I wanted to do a system refresh on my Windows 8.1 laptop. This machine is a Lenovo ThinkPad that originally shipped with Windows 7. I’ve since upgraded it to 8 and 8.1. I bought the Windows 8 upgrade online from Microsoft, so I have no install media. And of course I have no install media for 8.1. This leaves me in an awkward position, where I can’t do a normal refresh, as I have a Windows 8 product key, but no media for either 8 or 8.1. This is a pretty well-documented problem, and I think it really reflects poorly on Microsoft that they’ve done nothing to address it.

There are various (slightly Rube Goldberg style) workarounds, none of which worked out for me. The one thing that did work is the solution documented here, using the “recimg” command to create a restore image on my hard drive, which can then be used for the refresh. What that article didn’t make clear, though, is that the image you create that way has all your installed programs in it. That’s clear from this support document, but I didn’t find that one until today.

So, basically, I spent three hours creating a restore image that contained all the installed apps that I wanted to get rid of via the system refresh! Then I ran the refresh, and wound up with a Windows install that was nearly identical to the one I started with. Oh well. I guess the only way to clean things up would be to do a full format and re-install. But, again, since I have no 8.1 install media, I’m not sure I could even do that. It’s enough to drive a guy straight to Ubuntu. (Which probably works pretty well on a ThinkPad. Hmm.)

The main motivation for wanting to do the refresh was that I wanted a nice clean machine for the fall, since I will probably be taking a class via Coursera, and I wanted a good fast machine to work on. Well, I can still mess around with it some more and see what I can do with it.

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