How to create a Windows 10 recovery drive

Having a Windows 10 recovery drive should be a key component of your backup and recovery strategy. While not a backup itself, a recovery drive can be used to repair and recover your PC in the event of a startup failure.

A recovery drive is a bootable USB stick which contains a minimal Windows environment. You can access Windows’ built-in backup and recovery utilities, as well as a basic command line to let you interact with your system. You can think of a recovery drive as providing a way to jumpstart a Windows 10 PC that’s having problems.

Screenshot of creating a recovery drive in Windows 10

The process of creating a recovery drive is now somewhat buried within Windows. The easiest way to find it is by searching for “create a recovery drive” in the Start menu. You’ll need to be logged in as an administrator to run the program which appears.

Screenshot of creating a recovery drive in Windows 10

The first screen of the wizard provides an overview of what recovery drives can do. There’s a solitary checkbox which we recommend you keep enabled. This option, “Back up system files to the recovery drive,” will copy essential Windows files to your drive, giving it the ability to reinstall Windows on your PC in the event of an emergency. Click “Next” to proceed.

You’ll be shown a “Please wait” loading screen while the contents of your recovery drive are prepared. This may take a little while, especially if you opted to include your system files. After a few minutes, you’ll be shown a confirmation screen asking you to connect your USB stick. The screen will tell you the required capacity of the drive. Any files currently saved to the USB will be permanently deleted when the recovery drive is created.

Screenshot of creating a recovery drive in Windows 10

Connect your USB stick and press the “Next” button to begin the writing process. This might take a while depending on the number of files that need to be copied and the speed of your USB stick.

Once the process is complete, your drive will be ready to use. If you ever encounter a startup problem, you’ll be able to connect your recovery drive and use its tools to start restoring your system. It’ll let you recover from a System Restore point, reflash your PC from a system image, completely reinstall Windows or drop to a command line to manually inspect issues.

Remember that the steps to boot from a USB drive can vary by device; please refer to the documentation for your hardware if you have trouble booting from your recovery drive.

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Have you ever used a Windows recovery drive?