Protect yourself with a Windows 8 Recovery Drive

Accessing the Recovery Drive tool from the Start screen is easy

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If you haven't done so yet, you need to create a recovery drive for your Windows 8 system. Doing so now will save time and effort, not to mention grief, should you encounter a problem with your Windows 8 installation. A Recovery Drive will allow 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 system.

Unlike its predecessor, Windows 8 allows you to create a Recovery Drive using a USB flash drive, which provides you with new capabilities, such as being able to backup an OEM recovery partition. Of course, you can also create a Recovery Drive on an optical disc - just like you did in Windows 7. While both procedures end up with the exact same Recovery system, they are created from separate user interfaces - the USB Flash drive is created from a new user interface and the optical disc is created from the old System Repair Disc user interface. Why Microsoft didn't unify the process under one roof, I don't know.

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In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to create a Recovery Drive in Windows 8 using a USB flash drive. I'll also show you how to create a Recovery Drive on an optical disc.


Regardless of whether you are creating a Recovery Drive using a USB flash drive or on an optical disc, it is important to remember that a Recovery Drive is bit specific. In other words, if you create a Recovery Drive in a 64-bit version of Windows 8, you can't use that drive to boot up and repair a 32-bit version of Windows 8. Likewise, you can't use a 32-bit Recovery Drive in a 64-bit system.

Using a USB Flash Drive

To begin with, you need to know that the USB flash drive you choose to use will become a dedicated Recovery Drive - you won't be able to use it for anything else. In its base configuration, the contents of the Recovery Drive will require about 256MB of space. However, if you choose to include the OEM recovery partition, you'll need more space. Thus, if you are creating a basic Recovery Drive, you can use a 1GB USB flash drive. (If you have a smaller sized drive, from the old days, you could use it as well.) If you are going to add OEM recovery partition, you'll want at least a 16GB USB flash drive.

To launch the USB flash drive version of the Recovery tool, use the [Windows] + W keystroke to access the Search Settings page, type Recovery Drive in the text box, and click Create a recovery drive, as illustrated in Figure A.

Credit: Images by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic


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.


If you only create a base recovery disk, can it be used for multiple machines? I did not see in the slides anything about copying the OEM information. Is that included in the default recovery process?


Maybe it's just me. When I think of OEM information, I think computer maker. I would not expect the OEM information on my HP Elite to be the same as the OEM information on my Surface Pro. (Interestingly, running the utility on my HP Elite did not work. The checkbox was simply grayed out.) If I understand this correctly the "OEM" information is part and parcel of the Windows recovery partition and the utility does not distinguish between was is Windows-specific and what is PC-specific (i.e. drivers)?


Thanks for the extra clarification, Greg.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...generic and can be used in any system as long as you adhere to the 32-bit/64-bit rule. Don't mistake the Recovery Disk as a backup, it only provides you with the ability to boot up the system and the tools necessary to revive your system and access previously created backup information like and external System Image or and internal Restore Point. Now, if you select the option to include the the OEM Recovery Partition, that does turn the Recovery Drive into a backup of sorts. i.e. the Recovery Drive will now contain a copy of the OEM Recovery information which can be used to return the system to the state it was in when you first got it. In otherwords it would have all the extras that the OEM put onto the system. Of course, once you include the OEM information on a Recovery Drive, then it becomes system specific in that OEM Recovery Partition from and HP laptop would do you no good in an Acer laptop. As to your HP Elite question where the check box was disabled, I can only assume that the HP Elite doesn't include a typical OEM Recovery Partition.