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How to Create a Windows Recovery Drive

A drive to boot from when your machine won’t boot.

A Windows Recovery Drive can be used to restore Windows backups to your machine and much more. I'll show you how to create one.
Recovery Drive in Search Results
Recovery Drive in search results. (Screenshot:

A recovery drive is a USB flash drive from which you boot your computer in order to restore an image previously created with Windows’ now deprecated built-in backup as well as perform a number of other Windows recovery tasks — including reinstalling Windows from scratch.

It’s convenient to have around, as it can take the place of your original installation media, should that not be available. Here’s how to create one.

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Creating a Recovery Drive

Search for and run the Recovery Drive app. Insert a 16GB or larger USB thumb drive. This drive will be completely erased. Follow the instructions in the app to create the recovery drive, making sure “Back up system files to the recovery drive” is checked. Be sure to test your ability to boot from the recovery drive after it’s been created.

Creating a recovery drive

Click on the Start menu (or type the Windows key on your keyboard) and begin typing recovery drive. The first search result should be “Recovery Drive – App”, as shown above. As soon as that appears, click on it.

After confirming User Account Control (not shown), you’ll be presented with the Recovery Drive wizard’s first screen.

Make sureBack up system files to the recovery drive” is checked. This may require a larger flash drive but ensures that should the need arise, you’ll be able to reinstall your system from scratch using this drive.

Click Next.

Create a Recovery Drive
Creating a recovery drive. (Screenshot:

The wizard will 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 needs to be.

If more than one is listed, click on the one you want to use and click Next.

Selecting the USB drive to be a recovery drive.
Selecting the USB drive to be a recovery drive. (Screenshot:

You’ll be given an important warning.

Recovery Drive Warning
Recovery drive warning. (Screenshot:

The drive you use for your recovery drive will be completely erased.

Make sure there is no important data on the drive, and click Create to begin the process.

Creating the Recovery Drive
Windows is creating the recovery drive. (Screenshot:

This can take a surprisingly long time — at least it did for me1. The length of time depends on the speed of your machine, your flash drive, your USB interface, and what else you are doing with your computer as the process proceeds.

When completed, the wizard displays a message that it’s done.

Recovery Drive Ready
The recovery drive has been created. (Screenshot:

Click Finish to exit the wizard.

Using your recovery drive

The most important thing to realize is that a recovery drive is something you boot from. By that, I mean you reboot your computer with the UEFI or BIOS configured to check for bootable USB media before booting normally from the hard disk.

Do this

You don’t have to do this now. You can create a recovery drive on a different machine when you need it — as long as the machine is running the same version of Windows. But it’s good practice to create one before you need it, and even make sure you can boot from it so you’re prepared when the time comes.

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Podcast audio


Footnotes & References

1: Seriously. It took over an hour on my laptop. I’m not sure if I picked a particularly old/slow USB thumb drive or what.

13 comments on “How to Create a Windows Recovery Drive”

  1. I did this last week. Total size of the files was approx 16 gb. I assume I don’t get problems with reactivating windows? So far I didn’t need it.
    Thank you, Leo, for all the good work.
    I understand that microsoft has an opening in the management board?

  2. Dear Leo
    Thank you SO much for your wonderful step by step guide to creating a recovery disc.
    As a complete novice to Windows 10 I found it invaluable.

    I did try to do a system image following your steps but got the same error message others have experienced about the usb drive not being suitable or something.

    Hope I will be ok with just this recovery disc. I used a 32gb usb and it only used about 6gb

  3. When I attempt to create a Recovery Drive, I can locate and start the Recovery Drive App to its launch page, but when I click next Recovery Drive reports “We can’t create a recovery drive on this PC”, then in smaller print “Some required files are missing. To troubleshoot problems when your PC can’t start, use your Windows installation disk or media.”

    How do I learn which files are missing? Is there a log file I can check?

    Any help will be appreciated,

  4. Thanks so very much Leo, about “How to Create a Windows Recovery Drive”, as this couldn’t come at a better time. I recently purchased an SSD and followed your steps on “How to Create a Windows Recovery Drive”, and it was quite easy. I then labeled the SSD as a “Recovery Drive” and the top of the Samsung Box that the SSD came in. Now, if anything were to happen, I am better prepared than I ever was in the past.


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