In a previous article, I showed you how to create a backup image using Windows 10’s built-in backup program. Along the way, we were prompted to create what’s called a “Recovery Drive” to be used in the event of a disaster from which you wish to recover.
A recovery drive is a USB flash drive from which you can boot your computer in order to restore a previously created image, as well as perform a number of other Windows recovery tasks.
You don’t have to be taking a backup image to create a recovery drive, and it’s actually convenient to have around; it can take the place of your original installation media should that not be available.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
Creating a recovery drive
Click on the Start menu (or type the Windows key on your keyboard) and begin typing “recovery drive” (without the quotes). The first search result should be “Create a recovery drive”. As soon as that appears, click on it.
After confirming UAC (not shown), you’ll be presented with the Recovery Drive wizard’s first screen.
Make sure that “Back up system files to the recovery drive” is checked. This may require a larger flash drive, but ensures that you’ll be able to reinstall your system from scratch using this drive, should the need arise.
The wizard will then scan your system for eligible USB flash drives. If you have not yet inserted a USB flash drive for this purpose, you can do so now, while it scans. The scan can take some time.
When complete, the wizard displays available drives, as well as the minimum size the drive should be.
If more than one is listed, click on the one you want to use, and then click Next.
You’ll be given an important warning.
The drive you use for your recovery drive (in this case, my USB drive) will be completely erased.
Make sure there is no important data on the drive, and click Create to begin the process.
This can take a surprisingly long time — at least it did for me. The length of time depends on the speed of your machine, your flash drive, your USB interface, and even what else you might be doing with your computer as the process proceeds.
When completed, the wizard simply displays a message that it’s done.
Click Finish to exit the wizard.
Using your recovery drive
I’ll cover using the recovery drive in more detail in a later article, but the most important thing to realize is that it’s something you boot from. By that I mean you reboot your computer, so have your UEFI or BIOS configured to check for bootable USB media before booting normally from the hard disk.
There’s more information on exactly what that means in my article How do I boot from CD/DVD/USB in Windows 8 & 10?
This article is included in my book, Backing Up In Windows 10, available now. Top-to-bottom, end-to-end, Backing Up In Windows 10 will walk you through all the steps you need to keep your data safe, using Windows 10’s built in tools, as well as a free alternative.