How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Drive

A Windows 8 Recovery Drive gives you access to Advanced Startup Options, a menu full of advanced repair and troubleshooting tools like Command Prompt, System Restore, Refresh Your PC, Rest Your PC, Automatic Repair, and more.

Once you have a Recovery Drive created on a flash drive, you'll be able to boot from it in the event that Windows 8 no longer starts properly for some reason, in which case these diagnostic tools will come in handy.

An empty flash drive or one that you're okay with erasing, with at least 500 MB of capacity, will be required. Also, a Recovery Drive is the Windows 8 equivalent of a System Repair Disc from Windows 7. See Step 8 below if you're interested in creating a System Repair Disc for Windows 8.

How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Drive

Considering its value, one of the first things a new Windows 8 user should do is create a Recovery Drive. If you didn't, and need one now, you can make one from any working copy of Windows 8, including from another computer in your home, or even a friend's.

Here's how:

  1. Open Control Panel and select System and Security. Windows includes a tool to create a Recovery Drive and most easily accessible from the Control Panel.

    You won't find this link if your Control Panel view is set to Large icons or Small icons. In your case, just select Recovery and then move on to Step 4.

  2. Choose Action Center at the top.

  3. Select Recovery, located at the bottom of the window.

    Windows 8 Action Center
  4. Select Create a recovery drive.

    Advanced recovery tools in Windows 8

    Select Yes if you're prompted with a User Account Control question about the Recovery Media Creator program.

    You should now see the Recovery Drive window.

  5. Connect the flash drive that you plan on using as the Windows 8 Recovery Drive, assuming it's not already connected.

    You should also disconnect any other external drives if only to avoid confusion in later steps.

  6. Check the Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive checkbox if it's available.

    Create a recovery drive setup window

    This option is usually available on computers that had Windows 8 preinstalled when purchased. If you installed Windows yourself, this option probably isn't available, which likely isn't an issue since you probably still have the original Windows disc, ISO image, or flash drive that you used when you installed it. Something to consider, if you do choose this option, is that you'll need a much larger flash drive than the recommended 500 MB+. A 16 GB or greater capacity drive will probably be more than enough, but you'll be told how much if your flash drive is too small.

  7. Select Next, and wait while setup searches for drives available to be used as a Recovery Drive.

  8. When one or more drives show up, choose the one that corresponds to the flash drive you want to use, and then select Next.

    Flash drive selected on Recovery Drive setup

    If no flash drive is found, but you do have a disc drive, you'll see a Create a system repair disc with a CD or DVD instead link at the bottom of the window. Select that if you'd like to complete that process. (This process is also possible for Windows 7, but with a couple of additional steps. It's nearly the same as Windows 8.)

  9. Select Create to begin the Recovery Drive creation process.

    Please take note of the warning on this screen: Everything on the drive will be deleted. If you have any personal files on this drive, make sure you've backed up the files.

  10. Wait while Windows creates the Recovery Drive, which involves formatting and then copying the necessary files to it.

    This process could take anywhere from a few to several minutes.

  11. Select Finish on the completion screen, which, if everything worked as expected, says The recovery drive is ready.

    The recovery drive is ready confirmation page

Label and Store the Recovery Drive

You're not done yet! The most important two steps are yet to come.

  1. Label the flash drive. Something like Windows 8 Recovery Drive should make pretty obvious what this drive is for.

    The last thing you want to do is toss an unlabeled flash drive in your drawer that has four other ones in there, too, which brings up a vital point:

  2. Store the flash drive somewhere safe. You'll need to know what you did with it when the time comes to use it!

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