How to: Create a Recovery Drive for reinstalling Windows 10

Technical Level : Basic

One of the big questions persons interested in Windows 10 are asking is how will they reinstall the operating system if needed? As you might know, many users will upgrade to Windows 10 using Windows Update instead of using media DVD or USB. Microsoft will provide backup media for persons who might be on a slow connection. Even for persons who might be able to perform the upgrade using Windows Update, what are your options when the time comes to perform a reinstallation? In this article, we take a look at the options available.

Note: No product key is required when using the Recovery Drive to reinstall Windows 10. Once the recovery drive is created on a computer that is already activated, everything should be ok.

To find out your Activation Status: Click Start > Settings > Update & security > Activation

Microsoft noted the following options are available:

 With Windows 10, you can create your own recovery media and back up the pristine state of the operating system and preinstalled software. If things go wrong and you are unable to refresh or reset your device successfully, you can boot the device using recovery media and reset to the prior pristine state.


What you will need?

  • USB thumbdrive with 4 GBs of space or more
  • Your computer running Windows 10

Click Start and type: create recovery

Hit Enter on your keyboard

You can also find the Recovery drive creator by opening Control Panel (Windows key + X)

Open Recovery

Click Create Recovery drive

Make sure your thumbdrive is connected

Click Next

Wait while the wizard prepares to copy files to your thumbdrive.

Again, make sure your thumbdrive is at 4 GBs, click Next

The Recovery drive wizard will provide a final warning.

Creating the recovery drive can take some time. You can do something else while it is prepared.

When complete, click Finish

Booting from Recovery Drive and Reinstall Windows 10

When you need to use the recovery drive, simply connect it to your computer and boot from it. The methods for booting from a thumbdrive might vary depending on the model and make; consult your computer documentation for instructions how to boot from external media. Some might require that you press ESC, F2, F9, F10, F11, DEL or a combination of keyboard commands. Some might even require that you boot into the BIOS or Firmware and change boot options.

If you are installing from a thumb drive, see the following instructions how to prepare your computer to boot from one:

The Windows logo will appear on screen, this might be here for a while, as long as you see the indicater, everything should be ok.

Choose your keyboard layout - in my case, I will choose US. If you don't see your keyboard layout listed, click See more keyboard layouts

Click Troubleshoot

Click Recover from a drive

Follow the on screen instructions and wait while Windows 10 reinstalls.


How to upgrade to Windows 10 from within Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 using Windows Update

How to: upgrade from previous versions of Windows using Windows 10 ISO file How to: Switch from 32 bit versions of Windows to Windows 10 64 bit

How to reserve your free upgrade to Windows 10

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The article says to click on Create Recovery Drive, yet no such option is displayed. What does on click on in the menu?   Thank you.

EDIT: Never mind!  (Still on my second cuppa.)

I need to ask. If iI have Windows 10 from windows insider program, can I move it to another (bigger) partition or hard drive?
If make Recovery disk for it and reinstall (when need) i lost activation or not?
You won't be able to choose a partition, but you will be able to reinstall on a bigger hard disk.
Windows Insider MVP
MVP-Windows and Devices for IT
When I remove partition (with win 10 now) can I install it on another (test have something like 40-50GB, on second i have free space (boot partition) and on 3rd I have just Linux ;]).
After re installing, will it ask for the product key for Windows 10?
Using recovery disk I need use serial and activation or both are done (like recovery on mobile computers)?


My attempt to create a recovery drive with Build 10240 produced the response 'We can't create a recovery drive on this PC.  Some required files missing ...'


I take it that an update installation will create a new serial number.  If you update from an ISO I suppose that also generates a new serial. I suppose it does this from your old OS serial.

If you want to do a new clean install from an ISO where do you obtain the serial?  There seems no info I can find to do with serial number control/generation.

Any ideas?



You would need to uninstall the product key currently used on your system, and then re-activate the new installation with it.

See: How to Uninstall a Product Key


thanks for the reply. After W10 installs via the update will it have a new serial?

If not, does that mean I can clean my drive then do an iso clean install using my current W8.1 serial?



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Last updated December 1, 2020 Views 963,638 Applies to: