This is the forth in our Windows 10 Backup and Recovery series. You can find the previous article here: Create A System image Backup in Windows 10.
Today, I’ll cover how to create and use a Windows 10 Recovery Drive.
If you don’t know, a Recovery Drive is a bootable USB drive that can be used to repair or recover your Surface, in the event it won’t start normally. As such, I recommend that every Surface owner has one ready to go at all times. Personally, I keep one on my key-chain, so I always have it with me.
Also, once you use a USB drive as a Recovery Drive, you should not use it for anything else because the recovery tools can get messed up – so make sure you have one available just for this purpose.
Create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive
To create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive, follow the steps below.
- Obtain a USB Drive with at least 8GB of capacity and plug it into your Surface.
- Log in to the Surface with Administrator rights.
- Search for Create a Recovery Drive and then select it from the results. You might get a security popup. If you do, tap or click Yes.
- When the Recovery Drive tool starts, ensure the Back Up System Files to the Recovery Drive option is selected, select Next and you’ll get a “please wait” screen.
- Once the Select the USB Flash Drive window appears, select the drive you want to use (in this case, I’m going with (E:\Win10_RCVY) then tap or click Next.
- The Overwrite warning window will appear as shown below. Tap or click Create to start the Recovery Drive creation process.
- This could take some time as a large number of files will be copied to the USB drive but you’ll get a progress bar letting you know how the process is going.
- Once it’s finished, select Finish to exit the Drive Creation process then eject the USB drive.
Once ejected from your Surface, put the drive somewhere it will be handy. Remember, you shouldn’t use it for anything else so make sure you mark it as your Recovery Drive (I used a Sharpie on mine). That way you won’t accidentally use it for anything else.
Create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive: FAQ
Here’s the answers to some frequently asked questions about Recovery Drives in Windows 10:
- Will this free up space on my Surface like in Windows 8.1? No, Windows 8.1 included a dedicated recovery partition that you could delete to free up space. It doesn’t exist in Windows 10.
- Can I make more than one in case I lose it? Yes, you can. In fact, I would recommend it, if you have the USB drives to spare.
- Do I need to update the Recovery Drive? Only when there’s a major update to Windows.
- Is there a non-USB option? Technically, you can also make a recovery DVD but, because it’s missing some important data such as volume/partition layouts, I always recommend going for the USB Recovery Drive option.
Now that you have your recovery drive and some of your questions answered, let’s move on to using your Recovery Drive.
Using Your Windows 10 Recovery Drive
Your Recovery Drive should only be needed in the event your Surface is so messed up that even the built-in Advanced Recovery Tools won’t start.
Basically, once your Surface fails to boot several times, Windows 10 will automatically try to bring up the Advanced Startup Tools, which should allow you to troubleshoot and fix problems. If your Surface can’t bring up these tools, you will need your Recovery Disk to fix it. At that point, plug in the Recovery Drive and restart.
It should automatically boot from the Recovery Drive and allow you access to the Advanced Startup Tools. From here, you can do several things to help troubleshoot your Surface, such as perform a System Restore, Restore from a System Image, or try an Automatic System Repair.
Special Note For Surface 3 Owners: For you, the Recovery Drive is a bit more important than it is for Surface Pro (1/2/3/4) owners running Windows 10. This is because the version of the built-in Advanced Startup Tools in Windows 10 Home doesn’t offer the same tools as on the Pro versions of the Surface. As a result, to get access to all of the recovery tools, you will need to plug in your Recovery Drive and select the Use A Device option. When you do, your Surface will restart and you’ll get access to all of the tools.
So there you go. You now have a recovery drive just in case the worst happens and your Surface won’t boot. Hopefully, you’ll never need it.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.