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Microsoft has billed Windows 10 as the “last version of Windows that you’ll ever need,” since it will automatically be updated and upgraded without further need for downloading any further upgrades, features or patches.  Therefore, it is necessary to set an out-of-the-box or complete setup baseline to repair or restore your computer in the event that something serious happens to it.  Because re-install disks no longer come with your machine and Windows 10 is specifically set for only the computer it is installed on, it is even more important than ever to prepare for problems before they occur, when it may well be too late. AFTER YOUR COMPUTER IS SET UP, THIS IS ABSOLUTELY THE FIRST THING YOU SHOULD DO!!!

Here’s how:

FIRST, LET’S BE CLEAR about the differences between earlier versions of Windows (e.g. 7, 8, 8.1) repair and recovery options and those for Windows 10.  Those versions of the Recovery Drive and System Repair Disk were not device-specific, only hardware architecture specific (e.g. 32- or 64-bit).  Windows 10 is device-specific as well as architecture specific, meaning that recovery is specific to that machine, and the disk cannot be used on just any Windows 10 machine (or on a machine with previous Windows versions, either), like the old O/S DVDs you may have been used to.  You should also remember that, because of this, you must update your Windows 10 recovery drive in the event that you replace or repartition your hard drive or change the “bittedness” of your operating system (perhaps via upgrade). Finally, know that you cannot use the Refresh or Reset features on a drive which has a GPT (vs. MBR) partition table unless you force a “UEFI only” boot setting in the BIOS/UEFI.  Sounds like a lot more work.  It can be.  But most home users don’t make these types of modifications to their computer drives, so it probably won’t even come up for them.

Also, make sure you have an empty DVD and USB drive, as it will be formatted before creating the disk.  You will need a USB drive with at least 4Gb (32 bit) and 8Gb (64 bit) at a minimum, but as high as 32Gb, depending on your recovery partition.  Experience has suggested that, even though you have USB 3.0 on your computer, connecting the USB drive to an older USB 2.0 port doesn’t create as many boot problems for some reason.

This is your best choice for correcting future issues with your computer:  Like Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10 provides for the creation of a bootable USB Recovery Drive.  When used, it goes straight into Recovery Environment (a/k/a Limited Diagnostic Mode), enabling repairs to startup, file system as well as other problems, running “System Restore” and “Refreshing or Resetting the PC”.  But remember:  If “Reset this PC” is used in Windows 10, it either preserves or removes your personal files (depending on your selection) but does not keep your desktop programs after Windows is reinstalled. So, if you have installed programs and stored them on your desktop (as opposed to the hard drive) you may be out of luck. You might plan up front by installing everything to your hard drive, where it should be anyway.  Windows 10, using the “Recover from a drive” feature will be a “clean” install of Windows 10 using the settings stored on the removable drive, but t will remove everything else.

First, connect your USB drive, make sure it appears in your “This PC” drive listing.  Then open your Start Menu (or tell Cortana), then type recovery,  click create a recovery drive in the Settings section. Of course, click Yes when the User Account Control pops up.

The Create a Recovery Drive window will now open.  You will notice a check box that reads “copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive”.  This box MUST be checked to create the recovery drive, then click “Next”. At the next window, check “back up system files to the recovery drive” then click Next.  [That should usually do it.  Of course, sometimes you can do everything correctly, and you may get a message that says “We can’t create a recovery drive on this PC”. Usually this is because a required file is missing or a system reserved partition is missing.  In order to rectify this problem, you will have to Restore Windows RE first. The next step will be to select your USB device from the Recovery Drive window, then after the warning that your drive will be wiped, click Finish. The process will take place (it could take a little time) and you will be notified (“The recovery drive is ready”) when it is complete.

This is actually an inferior option to the creation of the Recovery Drive discussed above, because it will not contain a backup of certain important system files and some pertinent disk partition information.  Still, it’s useful and a backup in case for some reason your USB drive fails or is lost. To create this, first, insert a blank DVD into your computer’s drive.  Next, type “backup” in the Start Menu box or tell  Cortana (or type sdclt.exe at a command prompt), causing the Settings menu to appear.  Select the choice “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)” on the left side of the menu.  In the next window, select the “Create a System Repair Disk” option on the left side, then select the correct DVD drive from the drop-down menu, and then click “Create Disk”. (You may be prompted to erase the disk, do so.)  You may also want to check “Close this Wizard after the disk is erased). After the disk is created, you will be prompted to name the disk (I suggest that you date it as well to distinguish it from any later versions you may create), and then close any open windows and eject the disk.

This should go without saying, but just because it appears that your disk or drive appears to be done correctly, it doesn’t mean that it will work in the crunch when you actually need it.  Consequently, you should test it immediatly, so you have that peace of mind you so desperately desire.  Doing this will also teach you how your system boots from a DVD or USB device by changing your settings, if necessary, in your BIOS or UEFI.  [See Tip #97, FAQ #72]

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