Stuff happens. Sometimes you install a dodgy piece of software. Sometimes the cumulative effect of lots of installs messes up the PC. Sometimes you’re running a pre-beta developer preview release of an operating system and it breaks. And that’s when some new features in Windows 8 come in handy.
In Control Panel, under General, you can find two useful features:
Refresh Your PC
This will allow you to undo changes to your PC back to the Windows defaults without affecting your data or files. I did this yesterday on my Microsoft Build Samsung slate PC when the gyroscope functionality broke. It took around 5 minutes, and I got a “new” operating system that remembered who I was and retained my limited amount of data (in My Pictures).
A application report is posted on the desktop. This details the applications that were uninstalled, and in my experience, it gave me URLs to download the software again.
Reset Your PC
You might want to sell your Windows 8 PC on Ebay. You can reset the operating system without any media by hitting this option. It will restore the entire OS to factory defaults, wiping all of your data (allegedly).
I did a reset a few minutes ago to see how it would work. It worked as advertised; the PC was reset to the original installation and all my data and settings were gone. It took around 5 minutes to reset, and maybe another 5 to do the mini-setup wizard.