The Recovery Room

Last time, we talked about PC restore, refresh, and reset. This week, I’ll continue with Recovery.

A computer can be booted from a recovery drive instead of it’s internal hard drive, and thus you can perform the refresh and reset functions discussed last time, even if you can’t start the computer the usual way.

Recovery means either troubleshooting after booting from external media, such as a DVD or flash drive, or doing a Windows reinstall from external media. This must be created beforehand. Before Windows 8, you were given a recovery disk, or instructed to create a “recovery disk” or “Recovery drive,” using your own DVDs or flash drive and the computer manufacturer’s recovery creation software.

Starting with Windows 8, that function is built into Windows, but you have to take advantage of it before you have a problem. The most common usage of the recovery drive is when replacing a failed hard drive. The recovery drive can also be used for troubleshooting when Windows fails to boot.

You should have an 8 or 16 GB flash drive that has nothing on it you care about. This drive will be used exclusively as a recovery drive: creating the drive will completely erase what’s currently on it.

In Windows 8.1 or 10, click the start button and type “recovery.” You’ll be taken to the Advanced Recovery Options screen. From there, click “Create a Recovery Drive,” and on the next screen, check the box labeled “Back up System Files.” This will put the entire Windows installation on the flash drive so that it can be used to reinstall Windows. Choose the flash drive you want to use. (Be careful If you have more than one flash drive plugged in; Remember, this process will erase the drive!)

If you do not check the “Back up System Files” box, the drive can still be used for troubleshooting, but cannot be used to reinstall Windows on a new drive.

Creating the recovery drive will take some time. When done, label it with the model of your computer, and keep it in a safe place.

You should prepare a separateĀ  recovery drive for each computer you own, because a drive made on one computer will not work correctly on another.

If you don’t already have a recovery drive for your computer, make one today! It’s cheap insurance.

More on making a recovery drive:

Using the recovery drive:

Next Time: Drive Images

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