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Create a Recovery Drive or System Repair Disc in Windows 8, 8.1 and 10

By , winhelp.us logo. Last updated: 2020-10-07

How to create a Recovery Drive (USB) or a System Repair Disc (CD/DVD) in Windows 8, 8.1 and 10

Windows 8/8.1 and 10 allow creating a bootable USB Recovery Drive or a CD/DVD-based System Repair Disc that boots straight into Recovery Environment (aka Limited Diagnostic Mode).
You can use it to repair startup, file system, and other problems with Automatic/Startup Repair or Command Prompt tools, running System Restore, and Refreshing or Resetting your PC (note: Reset this PC in Windows 10 either preserves or removes your personal files and then re-installs Windows and Windows Store apps; no desktop programs are kept).

In essence, Recovery Drive and System Repair Disc are troubleshooting tools for fixing Windows startup and stability problems. It is strongly recommended to create the drive or disc before getting into trouble - if you cannot start Windows, you might be out of luck in repairing your PC.
In Windows 10, Recovery Drive is the preferred method as it contains more options.

While you can use Recovery Drive or System Repair Disc to restore a System Image Backup if you have a backup to restore from, they are not backup-restore tools per se.
The drive or disc only contains files needed to repair a Windows installation. No personal data (documents, photos, videos, etc) is stored on or recovered from the drive/disc.

The USB drive or CD/DVD cannot be used to install Windows 8 or 8.1.
Windows 10 Recovery Drive (but not System Repair Disc) allows using the new "Recover from a drive" feature that removes everything (this includes all your documents, photos, videos, etc) and performs a clean install of Windows 10 according to the settings stored on the removable drive.

Caveats of a Recovery Drive and a System Repair Disc

Please bear in mind that a 32-bit (x86) Recovery Drive can only be used to fix 32-bit Windows editions and a 64-bit (x64) Recovery Drive works with 64-bit Windows editions only.
Also, you cannot use Windows 10 Recovery Drive to fix Windows 8 or 8.1, or Windows 8.1 Recovery Drive to fix Windows 8 or 10, or Windows 8 Recovery Drive to fix Windows 8.1 or 10.
The same rules apply to System Repair Discs.

You cannot use Refresh or Reset Your PC features if Windows is installed on a drive with GPT (not MBR) partition table until you force the "UEFI only" boot setting in BIOS/EFI. Windows 8/8.1 and 10 will not detect GPT partition alignment correctly if BIOS booting is enabled.

Recovery Drive is not a full backup of your device.

Windows 8 and 8.1 Recovery Drive and System Repair Disc are very similar to Windows 7's System Repair Disc. They are not device-specific, only hardware architecture (32- or 64-bit) specific.

Warnings for Windows 10 Recovery Drive users

Windows 10's System Repair Disc is again similar to the Windows 7 version, but Recovery Drive contains a 2-4 gigabyte WIM (Windows Imaging File Format) file that can be used to perform a clean install of Windows using the backup of volume/partition layout of your device's hard drive or SSD (the backup files are also stored on the USB drive).

This also means that Windows 10 Recovery Drive is very device-specific when using the new Recover from a drive feature.

After replacing or repartitioning Windows 10 system drive, you must also update your Recovery Drive.

Windows 10 users should update their Recovery Drive monthly, after installing Microsoft's updates. If you fail to do so for several months, some features such as reinstalling Windows while keeping your personal files may not be available after booting from an outdated drive.

Requirements for Windows 8/8.1/10 Recovery Drive or System Repair Disc

First, make sure you have a blank CD/DVD for System Repair Disc (this option is only available in Windows 8 and 10) or a USB drive with at least 256 MB (megabytes) of total disk space for Windows 8 or 8.1 Recovery Drive.
For Windows 10 Recovery Drive, you need a USB stick with at least 4 GB (gigabytes) of free space for 32-bit Windows or at least 8 GB for 64-bit Windows.

Some OEM (Windows is preinstalled) computers have heavily customized recovery partitions that might require up to 32 gigabytes of disk space on Recovery Drive.

It is not recommended to use USB drives larger than 32 GB for Recovery Drive, because the drive will be formatted as FAT32 and this file system type cannot access more than 32 GB of data. Using the FAT32 file system also prevents storing System Image Backups on the drive (NTFS is required for image backups).
Therefore, USB flash drives are the preferred media, rather than USB hard drives.

CD or DVD in Windows 8 and 10 must really mean blank because the program is not capable of overwriting rewritable media. You can blank a CD or DVD by opening File Explorer (keyboard shortcut Windows Key+E), right-clicking a CD/DVD writer in the list, and selecting Erase this disc.

The USB drive can be a simple pen drive (stick) or a USB hard drive. Please note that this drive will be formatted and you will lose all files on it. Do make a backup copy of your important files first!

After creating the Recovery Drive, you must test that your PC is actually able to boot from it. Some older USB sticks do not support booting at all. Also, remember to check your computer's boot order to verify that booting from USB devices is enabled and listed before hard drive booting.

If your computer has both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0/3.1 or newer ports, connect Recovery Drive to an older USB 2.0 port - this resolves many boot problems.

Creating a bootable USB Recovery Drive in Windows 8, 8.1 and 10

First, connect the USB drive you plan to use as a Recovery Drive: at least 256 MB for Windows 8 and 8.1, and at least 4 GB for 32-bit/x86 Windows 10 or at least 8 GB for 64-bit/x64 Windows 10.

In Windows 8 or 8.1, open Settings Search with keyboard shortcut Windows key+W and type recovery into the Search box. Click Create a recovery drive. Touch screen users should swipe in from the right side and tap Search first.
In Windows 10, open the Start menu or Cortana keyboard search (Windows Key+S), type recovery and click Create a recovery drive in the Settings section.

If you cannot find the item, open Command Prompt or PowerShell (use WINDOWS KEY+X shortcut), type recoverydrive.exe, and press the ENTER key to launch the program.
Windows 8.1, Settings search. To create a bootable Recovery Drive (USB), type 'recovery' into Search box. Then click 'Create a recovery drive'. Windows 10, Start menu search. To create a bootable Recovery Drive (USB), type 'recovery' into Search box. Then click 'Create a recovery drive'.

As expected, User Account Control pops up. Click Yes to verify that you know what you're doing.
Windows 8, User Account Control prompt for Recovery Media Creator. Click Yes.

Create a recovery drive window opens. First, tick the Copy contents from the recovery partition to the recovery drive (Windows 8 and 8.1) or Back up system files to the recovery drive (Windows 10) checkbox. Then click Next.
Please note that you cannot use the Recover from a drive feature in Windows 10 unless you tick the checkbox.
Windows 8.1, Create a recovery drive. Tick the 'Copy contents from the recovery partition to the recovery drive' check box and connect a USB drive. Then click Next. Windows 10, Create a recovery drive. Tick the 'Back up system files to the recovery drive' check box and connect a USB drive. Then click Next.

If you cannot enable the Copy contents from the recovery partition to the recovery drive or Back up system files to the recovery drive option while creating a Recovery Drive in Windows 8, 8.1, or 10, you need to copy Windows install.wim file onto a hard drive or SSD. Please note that this will raise Recovery Drive space requirements from the default 256 megabytes to about 4 gigabytes in Windows 8 and 8.1.
Windows 8, Create a recovery drive. Connect a USB drive. Then click Next.

In case Recovery Drive creation completely fails with the "We can't create a recovery drive on this PC. Some required files are missing." error, the winre.wim file or System Reserved partition is missing. See the Restore Windows RE in Windows tutorial on how to resolve this problem.
Windows 8.1, We can't create a recovery drive on this PC, Some required files are missing. You need to recover winre.wim file from Windows ISO or DVD.

Click or tap the correct drive letter in the Select the USB flash drive window. Then click Next.
If your USB stick or drive is not listed, verify the space requirements (The drive must be able to hold at least...) in the dialog.
Windows 8, Recovery Drive, Select the USB flash drive. Click the correct drive in the list. Then click Next.

Windows will then warn you that all contents of the selected drive will be deleted. To continue, click Create.
Windows 8, Recovery Drive, Create the recovery drive. Everything on the selected USB drive will be deleted. If this is OK, click Create.

The drive formatting and file copying process might take several minutes, depending on the speed of your USB drive. In Windows 10, copying system files can take even 10 or more minutes.
After the drive is ready, click Finish.
Windows 8, Recovery Drive, The recovery drive is ready. Click Finish.

Now test that your device is really able to boot from the Recovery Drive: some older USB drives do not support booting. If this is the case, create Recovery Drive on a newer stick and re-test.
If your computer has both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 or newer ports, connect Recovery Drive to an older USB 2.0 port - this resolves many boot problems.

Windows 10 users must update their Recovery Drive monthly, after installing Microsoft's updates. If you fail to do so for several months, some features such as reinstalling Windows while keeping your personal files may not be available after booting from an outdated drive.

Creating a bootable CD or DVD System Repair Disc in Windows 8 and 10

Some users might prefer to create a bootable CD or DVD System Repair Disc. This is possible in Windows 8 (not 8.1!) and 10 only.

In Windows 10, System Repair Disc is the far inferior option because it does not contain a backup of important system files and partition/volume layout, so USB-based Recovery Drive is always the preferred option.

In Windows 8, open Settings Search with keyboard shortcut Windows Key+W, type recovery, and click Windows 7 File Recovery (yes, that actually is named Windows 7 File Recovery).
In Windows 10, open the Start menu or Cortana keyboard search (Windows Key+S), type backup, and click Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

If you cannot find the item, open Command Prompt or PowerShell (use Windows Key+X shortcut), type sdclt.exe, and press the Enter key to launch the program.
Windows 8, Start screen, search results for 'recovery'. Click 'Windows 7 File Recovery' to start creating a System Repair Disc. Windows 10, Start menu, search results for 'backup'. Click 'Backup and Restore (Windows 7)' to start creating a System Repair Disc.

On the left side of the Windows 7 File Recovery or Backup and Restore (Windows 7) window, click Create a system repair disc.
Windows 8, Windows 7 File Recovery. To create a bootable CD/DVD, click 'Create a system repair disc' on the left.

Create a system repair disc window opens. Select the correct drive and click Create disc.
Windows 8, Create a system repair disc. Click 'Create disc'.

If you did not insert a CD or DVD, you will see the "System repair disc could not be created, There is no media in the device (0xC0AA0202)" error dialog. Click OK, insert a blank writable disc and the process will automatically start.
Windows 8, Create a system repair disc. System repair disc could not be created, There is no media in the device (0xC0AA0202). Click OK and insert blank writable media.

In case the inserted CD or DVD is not blank, you will see the following error dialog. Click OK. Then open File Explorer (keyboard shortcut Windows Key+E).
Windows 8, Create a system repair disc. The disc in the selected drive is not blank. You must erase the disc before you can use it. Click OK.

Navigate to Computer or This PC, right-click your CD or DVD writer and select Erase this disc.
Windows 8, File Explorer. To blank a disc, right-click CD or DVD writer and select 'Erase this disc' from the menu.

In the Ready to erase disc window, activate the Close this wizard after the disc is erased option and click Next.
Windows 8, Burn to Disc, Ready to erase disc. Click Next.

Creating the System Repair Disc might take several minutes. After the process is complete, label the disc as instructed and click Close.
Windows 10, Using the system repair disc. Label the disc as instructed and click Close.

You can then safely close all open Create a system repair disc and Recovery Drive windows.

Contents of a Recovery Drive in Windows 10

Windows 10 Recovery Drive contains the following files and folders:

  • bootmgr
  • bootmgr.efi
  • reagent.xml
  • boot\BCD
  • boot\boot.sdi
  • boot\resources\bootres.dll
  • boot\fonts\chs_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\cht_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\jpn_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\kor_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\malgun_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\malgunn_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\meiryo_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\meiryon_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\msjh_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\msjhn_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\msyh_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\msyhn_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\segmono_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\segoe_slboot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\segoen_slboot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\wgl4_boot.ttf
  • efi\boot\bootia32.efi (only in 32-bit/x86 Windows 10)
  • efi\boot\bootx64.efi (only in 64-bit/x64 Windows 10)
  • efi\microsoft\boot\BCD
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\chs_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\cht_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\jpn_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\kor_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\malgun_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\malgunn_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\meiryo_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\meiryon_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\msjh_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\msjhn_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\msyh_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\msyhn_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\segmono_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\segoe_slboot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\segoen_slboot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\wgl4_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\resources\bootres.dll
  • sources\$PBR_Diskpart.txt
  • sources\$PBR_ResetConfig.xml
  • sources\boot.wim
  • sources\Reconstruct.WIM

To see the sources\boot.wim file in File Explorer, you might have to disable the Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) option temporarily. See the Change folder views and options in Windows article for instructions.

Contents of a System Repair Disc in Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 (and Recovery Drive in Windows 8 and 8.1)

Here's the list of files that a typical Windows 8/8.1 and 10 System Repair Disc contains. In Windows 8 and 8.1, the CD/DVD and USB-based Recovery Drive contents are identical.
To see the sources\boot.wim file in File Explorer, you might have to disable the Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) option temporarily. See the Change folder views and options in Windows article for instructions.

  • bootmgr
  • bootmgr.efi
  • boot\BCD
  • boot\boot.sdi
  • boot\bootfix.bin (only in Windows 10!)
  • boot\fonts\chs_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\cht_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\jpn_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\kor_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\malgun_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\malgunn_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\meiryo_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\meiryon_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\msjh_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\msjhn_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\msyh_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\msyhn_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\segmono_boot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\segoe_slboot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\segoen_slboot.ttf
  • boot\fonts\wgl4_boot.ttf
  • boot\resources\bootres.dll
  • efi\boot\bootx64.efi
  • efi\microsoft\boot\BCD
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\chs_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\cht_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\jpn_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\kor_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\malgun_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\malgunn_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\meiryo_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\meiryon_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\msjh_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\msjhn_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\msyh_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\msyhn_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\segmono_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\segoe_slboot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\segoen_slboot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\fonts\wgl4_boot.ttf
  • efi\microsoft\boot\resources\bootres.dll
  • sources\boot.wim

 

Ctrl+F searches in the contents







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