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.



About Greg Shultz

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.

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