Free up space on Surface tablets – Part 1

As you probably know, Surface tablets (ok, tablets in general) don’t have an over abundance of space available for data storage. This can be especially true if you have a 32GB RT/2 or a 64GB Pro/Pro2 model.

Sometimes, this lack of space can be quite inconvenient. For example, if you want to import iTunes music to your Surface or if you want to sync 20GB of Skydrive data locally but, you’re a few GB short of free space.

Fortunately, there are a couple of easy things you can to to free up space on Surface tablets. I’m putting together a 3-part series to show you how.

We’ll start by showing you how to move your recovery partition to a USB device. This can free up as much as 3.5GB on a Surface RT/2 or a whopping 7GB of space on a Surface Pro/Pro2!

OK, awesome, so what is a recovery partition?

Surface tablets come with a recovery image that allows you to reset it to the state it was in out-of-the-box. This feature can be really handy (for example, if you’re selling your Surface to someone and don’t want to risk them seeing your files) but it is stored locally. And takes up space on your tablet that could be used for something else.

To free up space, you can create a USB recovery drive as a replacement for this recovery image. When you do so, a copy of the Windows recovery image is saved, along with a copy of the Windows Recovery Environment. Then, you can remove the original one and reclaim the storage space for apps, music, or other data.

It is important to keep the USB recovery drive safe!! Using the instructions below, we will create a copy of the recovery environment and delete the local copy from your Surface. After that, and you will need your USB drive to successfully refresh or reset your Surface in the future.

Free up space on your Surface: Create a USB recovery drive

Surface comes with a built-in tool to create a USB recovery drive. You will need an external USB flash drive with at least 4 GB of storage for Surface RT and with at least 7 GB of storage for Surface Pro.

Note: Creating a recovery drive will erase anything already stored on your USB flash drive. Make sure to transfer any important data from your USB drive to another storage device before using it to create a Surface USB recovery drive.

  • Make sure your Surface is plugged in and connected to power. Don’t skip this step even if your battery is fully charged.
  • Plug an empty USB thumb drive into the USB port.
  • Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search.
  • Enter Recovery in the search box.
  • Tap Settings, then tap Create a recovery drive.

  • If you get a prompt for admin rights, tap Yes so the recovery drive tool will open.
  • When the recovery drive tool opens, make sure the box is checked next to “Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive” then tap Next.

  • In the Select a USB drive window, make sure the USB drive is selected and tap Next.

  • Now you’ll see the “Create the Recovery Drive” window. Tap Create.

Free up space on Surface

  • The recovery image and recovery tools will be copied over. It will take up to 15 minutes if your battery dies, it could be a problem (which is why the first step was to plug your Surface into power.)

  • When it’s done copying over the recovery tools, you’ll get this window. Tap Delete the recovery partition when you’re ready to proceed.

  • That will take you to the Delete the Recovery Partition window. Read the warning and tap Delete.

  • When you get this confirmation window, the removal is done, tap Finish.

  • Eject your USB drive gracefully. You don’t want to risk corrupting your recovery drive at this point by being impatient.

That’s it!

The USB drive is now your Surface recovery drive. Did I mention anywhere that you should really keep it in a safe place?

Also don’t use it to store other files or data. Even if it has extra space available, it just can’t end well.

I hope you find this useful. I know its a little bit involved but since it can free up more than 10% of the space on a 32GB Surface RT or Surface 2, I think it’s worth it.

In the next part of this series, I’ll go over how to add a MicroSD card to your Surface so apps can be installed to it. Technically, it isn’t freeing up space but it is making more space available for use so i think it’s close enough.

As always, if you have questions or comments, please let me know.


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