Windows 8 now features two built-in recovery features: wipe and restore and backup and restore. Users can go with either the scorched-earth policy for their hard drive, or Windows will back up their personal data, Metro apps (but not desktop apps) and network settings on the same drive and then wipe and re-install Windows. Windows 8 also will feature a power-user ability for users to take their own snapshot (desktop apps included) and set that as their refresh point.
These concepts aren't new, but the methods behind them are -- the Windows bootloader has been completely rewritten to ensure optimal support and restorability if Windows ends up not booting. The Windows Restore process also now leverages the Windows Setup install base, which allows for more consistency throughout the OS and better stability during a refresh.
Microsoft also focused on bringing down the time needed to do that install. An entire refresh for BitLocker users will take less than 7 minutes, because they can just delete their encryption keys and get on with their day. Users of regular old Windows will have a longer refresh time -- about 23 minutes, which is still a great improvement over traditional format and installs.
As a former IT help desk technician, I'm a little excited. If Windows 8 was deployed across an entire corporation, the time spent troubleshooting easily could be replaced by a phone call directing the user to perform a data backup refresh.
But there's one lingering question: drivers. They're the bane of every fresh Windows install, yet they're needed to get the hardware back in action. Will Windows 8's pre-boot environment restore full hardware functionally automatically by shipping with a plethora of drivers? Will it be the OEM's responsibility to inject them into the pre-boot environment? Microsoft is likely working to ensure Windows 8 supports more plug-and-play and class-compliant hardware, but those who have custom-built their computer still may need to do install some drivers. But then again, those who have custom-built their computer likely can set their own restore point.
Either way, Windows 8 is about to get a lot easier to deal with, and that's a good thing, most especially when it comes shipped on tablets.