Windows 10 tip: Create a recovery drive

If your Windows 10 PC is operating perfectly right now, great. Take advantage of the opportunity to create a recovery drive so you have a way to perform repairs if something ever goes wrong.

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With this check box selected, your recovery drive can be used to reinstall Windows 10.

Click to enlarge

The one immutable law of PCs is that stuff happens. And when it does, there's usually a way to recover, if you had the foresight to create a recovery drive first.

Booting from a USB recovery drive allows you to perform basic troubleshooting repairs on any Windows system. If you select the option to copy system files to the recovery drive, you can boot from that drive and reinstall Windows using the original OEM files.

Creating a basic recovery drive requires a USB drive that is at least 512MB in size. For a recovery drive that includes Windows system files, you'll need a larger USB drive; for a 64-bit copy of Windows 10, the drive should be at least 16GB in size. The recovery drive tool formats the drive, so be sure to make backup copies of any important files on that drive before you begin the process.

You'll find the Recovery Media Creator tool in the old-style Control Panel, under the Recovery heading. The easiest way to get there is to type Create a recovery drive in the search box on the taskbar, then click the shortcut from the search results.

If your system included a partition with the OEM version of Windows 10 and you want your recovery drive to include those files for reinstalling Windows, be sure to select the Back up system files to the recovery drive option on the first page.

If you don't have an OEM recovery partition, you can add Windows 10 installation files to the recovery drive, creating media that you can use to install, reinstall, or repair Windows 10 on any PC. Follow these steps:

  1. Download the Windows 10 ISO file following the instructions in my FAQ: How to install, reinstall, upgrade and activate Windows 10.
  2. Double-click the saved ISO file to mount it in File Explorer.
  3. Open a second File Explorer window and display the contents of the USB recovery drive.
  4. Position the two File Explorer windows side by side and then drag the complete contents of the mounted ISO drive to the recovery drive.

Label the drive and keep it in a safe place.

Previous tip: Defrag secrets for hard disks and SSDs

Next week: Another Windows 10 tip from Ed Bott