Imagine if you turned on your computer and for some reason you can’t boot into Windows. You keep trying but your machine won’t allow you to get there. What can you do? That is what this tutorial is all about. One of the most important tools that you can add to your digital arsenal is a Windows 10 recovery USB drive.
What Is a Windows 10 Recovery USB Drive?
I look at a recovery USB drive as a second safety net. If Windows can’t start normally a couple times in a row it should boot from the recovery partition on the third restart attempt. The recovery partition gives you access to tools that you can use to troubleshoot and repair problems that are preventing you from starting Windows normally. A Windows 10 recovery USB gives you access to the same tools that your recovery partition does. If for some reason you are unable to boot to the recovery partition you can use your USB recovery drive to get access to the tools that you need to get back into Windows.
With a recovery drive you can reinstall Windows, troubleshoot problems, and do repairs when you can’t boot normally. In this guide we are going to learn how to create one and how to use it.
How to Create a Windows 10 Recovery USB Drive
- Get a USB drive. I recommend one with 32 GB of storage.
- Holding down the Windows key press the S key.
- Type “Control Panel” (without the quotes) and hit Enter.
- Search for “create a recovery drive” (without the quotes).
- Click “Create a recovery drive.”
- If UAC pops up click Yes.
- Make sure there is a check by “Back up system files to the recovery drive.”
It will take a while to complete. Don’t turn off your computer before the operation finishes.
Now let’s make sure that your computer is set to boot from a flash drive. To do that we will need to check the boot order that is set in your BIOS settings.
Set Your Boot Order So You Can Boot from USB
- Turn on or restart your computer.
- When your computer starts up begin repeatedly hitting the key on your keyboard that will take you into your BIOS settings. It is different for different brands of computer. On my laptop it is the ESC key. It might be different for yours. For most it will be the ESC, F1, F2, F10, F12, or DEL key.
- Once you are in your BIOS settings make sure to change your boot order so your computer attempts to boot from USB first.
- Choose to Save and Exit.
Now you should be able to boot off a USB flash drive.
How to Use a Windows 10 Recovery USB Drive
- Plug your USB drive into an open USB port on your computer.
- Reboot your PC.
You will be asked about your keyboard layout. Choose your region to continue.
You will be greeted with a list of at least four options:
- Recover from a drive
- Use a device
Recover from a drive – Choose this to reinstall Windows.
Continue – Choose this to continue booting into Windows.
Use a device – Choose this to use a USB drive, network connection, or recovery DVD.
Troubleshoot – Choose this to reset, troubleshoot, and repair.
If you need to troubleshoot and fix problems booting to Windows 10, choose Troubleshoot and then Advanced.
If you choose Troubleshoot and then Advanced here are a list of the tools you will have to work with:
- Startup repair
- Command prompt
- Uninstall updates
- UEFI firmware settings
- System restore
- System image recovery
Startup repair – Choose this to fix problems that prevent Windows from loading.
Command prompt – Choose this option to access the Windows command line.
Uninstall updates – Choose this to uninstall updates that are causing problems.
UEFI firmware settings – Choose this to access your UEFI/BIOS settings.
System Restore – Choose this to take the system back to a prior restore point.
System image recovery – Restore your system from a system image if you have made one.
A Windows 10 recovery drive is an important tool in your digital toolbox. If you ever can’t boot into Windows and for some reason are unable to access the recovery partition you will be glad you made one.