Pro tip: Use an optical Recovery Drive in Windows 8.1

If you're wondering whether you can create a Recovery Drive on an optical disc in Windows 8.1, Greg Shultz says the answer is yes and no. Find out what he means.

A new feature in Windows 8 is the Recovery Drive, which allows you to create a bootable USB flash drive that contains a host of tools you can use to revive an ailing Windows 8 system. In order to retain compatibility with Windows 7 backups, Windows 8 also came with the Windows 7 File Recovery tool, which you can use to create and restore Windows 7 compatible backups. The Windows 7 File Recovery tool's compatibility features also include the ability to create the Recovery Drive on an optical disc.


 When Microsoft removed the Windows 7 File Recovery tool from Windows 8.1, it also removed the ability to create a Recovery Drive on an optical disc. This means that in Windows 8.1, you can only create a Recovery Drive on a USB flash drive.

I've heard from a number of TechRepublic readers who are wondering if there is a workaround that allows them to create a Recovery Drive on an optical disc. The answer is yes and no. In this article, I'll explain what this means.

What is a Recovery Drive?

A Recovery Drive allows you to boot your system and easily access a number of recovery and troubleshooting tools that you can use to revive an ailing Windows 8.x system. A Recovery Drive looks and works the same in Windows 8.1 as it did in Windows 8; therefore, everything I wrote in previous articles about the tools on the Windows 8 Recovery Drive still apply in Windows 8.1.

The optical way in Windows 8.1

In Windows 8.1, you can create a Recovery Drive on a USB flash drive using the same procedure as in Windows 8. In Windows 8.1, you get an optical Recovery Drive by using your Windows 8.1 installation DVD. You probably updated to Windows 8.1 via the Windows Store and don't have a Windows 8.1 installation DVD, but you can get one by following the procedure I describe in the article Get the ISO you need to create your own Windows 8.1 DVD.

To use a Windows 8.1 installation DVD, you boot your system from the DVD as you normally would. You'll see the first screen titled Windows Setup. As you see in Figure A, even though this is for Windows 8.1, the logo still says Windows 8.

Figure A



The first Setup screen in Windows 8.1 still says Windows 8.

Even though you aren't planning on installing Windows 8, go ahead and click Next. You'll see the second Windows Setup screen and, instead of selecting Install Now, click the Repair Your Computer option at the bottom of the screen (Figure B).

Figure B



Click the Repair Your Computer option.

You'll be prompted to choose a keyboard layout, which will seem redundant since you chose the Language in the first step. Once you select a keyboard layout, you'll see the first Recovery Drive screen. As you see in Figure C, you can tell that you're using a Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive.

Figure C



While the Setup screens showed Windows 8, the first Recovery Drive screen shows Windows 8.1.

When you select the Troubleshoot option, you'll be able to access all of the standard Recovery Drive options you'll need to revive your Windows 8.1 system (Figure D).

Figure D



From a Windows 8 installation DVD, you'll be able to access all of the Recovery Drive options.

What's your take?

Will you use your Windows 8.1 installation DVD as a Recovery Drive, or will you just use a USB flash drive?

If you have comments or information to share about this topic, please drop by the TechRepublic forums and let us hear from you.




Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.


1 - I don't have Windows 8.1 installation DVD

2 - Can't open USB Recovery Drive in Windows at startup! Although I requested from BIOS

3 - Due to a failure in my computer I could not open it




I am getting to figure D from control panel without DVD and File History OFF


I have MDOP. It has an enhanced replacement for the recovery tool mentioned above. Boot off a USB key or a DVD drive. Of course it is on TechNet Plus or for larger companies only.


Rather depending on recovery Drive I would like to have Deep Freeze on my machine. Just simple restart will restore my system back. Why should go to complex method then?


I'm not sure if you are aware, but there seem to be major problems with the Windows 8.1 update, at least as far as the Win 8 Acer OEM version is concerned. Problems include not being able to connect to the internet and video not displaying properly. I found this out by chance after contacting an Acer support contractor a few days ago about another matter, and I thought I'd check to se if there were any problems re the Win 8.1 update as I was contemplating installing it over the holiday break. Apparently Microsoft is aware of the problems and is working on a fix, but it won't be ready til February/March.

Is anyone else aware of such problems? I haven't heard or read anything other than from this source. Please let me know!


Nearly everyone, doesn't even think about a recovery drive, until its too late. So this issue is only important if you have important work info. The time to get the PC working would be critical so USB option would be quickest repair. Otherwise use a different computer. Re-imaging is slowest but easy. 


Why use an optical recovery drive when you can build your own recovery bootable DVD for a price next to nothing? I have been using recovery DVDs since the invention of CDs and then DVDs. Better yet, switch to Linux for free and have instant recovery drives which is one advantage all UNIX platforms have enjoyed for years. Be smart and kiss Windows sayonara. Also, Windows have been using recovery software for years capable of backing up all the OS and data and cost you nothing as the software comes installed from factory of most PCs if not all. Microsoft is always throwing monkey ranges since version 3.1 and that will never change;so, change to Linux which is also more dependable than Windows. 


@jshore I am not really surprised that there is an Acer problem. Is this for Windows 8? Out for 14 months and still not fixed? Don't hold your breath. If anything it could be Acer who has to fix it.


@Cicuta2011 : Why am I not surprised that it didn't take a Linux troll too long to make the usual dumb comments. Go back to compiling your binaries or trying to figure out how to install drivers for a MFP.


@Gisabun @jshore The problem relates to the 8.1 update - there don't appear to be any unique problems with Acer's version of Win 8, at least none that I am aware of (and none that I have experienced). 

I was just wondering whether the update problems are unique to Acer's version of Win 8 or are others having problems too? Afterall, the update is a one-size-fits-all product, but does it really do the job properly?