Windows 8 : Using the Windows 8 Recovery Tools (part 1) - Creating a System Recovery Disc, Booting to the Windows Recovery Environment

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Like previous versions of Windows, Windows 8 includes a full suite of system recovery tools that can help fix a non-booting PC and correct other system issues. Some of these tools are available from within Windows 8, but since you often need them most when Windows won’t boot, they’re also available outside of Windows as part of the Windows Recovery Environment, or WinRE. This environment can be accessed from the Windows Setup media (DVD or USB flash drive), from a dedicated system recovery disc (or drive) you can (and should) create, or at boot time when your PC first turns on. To start, let’s examine how you can create a dedicated system recovery disc.

Creating a System Recovery Disc (or Drive)

Because these tools are so important and are usually needed when something horrible happens, we strongly recommend taking the time to make a system recovery disc (or USB-based drive) just in case. You can do this from the Recovery control panel. (To find it, open Control Panel and search for recovery. Then, choose Recovery, and not Windows 7 File Recovery.) This interface, called Advanced recovery tools, should resemble Figure 1, providing you with access to a few additional tools.

Figure 1: Recovery control panel


The Recovery control panel won’t even provide an option for optical disc media if a USB flash drive is inserted. So if you intend to make a disc, be sure to unplug any USB media first.

Click the link titled Create a recovery drive. After a User Account Control prompt, the Recovery Media Creator will run. This tool helps you create a bootable USB flash drive or, if you prefer, CD or DVD. (The flash drive must have a capacity of at least 256 MB, and its contents will be erased during the creation process.)

The similar tool in Windows 7 could only create optical disc-based recovery media.

Which to choose? USB is faster and more reliable, but some PCs can’t boot from a USB device, so you will want to test this before committing. We recommend starting with USB and going from there.

Booting to the Windows Recovery Environment

With Windows 8, you now have a wealth of riches when it comes to booting into the Windows Recovery Environment, or WinRE. Of course, you may not be feeling all that positive about things if you have to use these tools. Here are the various ways in which you can access WinRE.

… With the System Recovery Drive

If you created a system recovery drive, you can boot from this USB flash drive or disc, instead of from the PC’s hard drive as usual, and load the Windows Recovery Environment. (Interrupting your PC’s normal boot process varies from machine to machine, so study the firmware screen that appears when the PC restarts for clues or consult your PC’s documentation for the answer.)

… With the Windows Setup Media

Your Windows 8 Setup media can also be used to run the Windows Recovery Environment. (Interrupting your PC’s normal boot process varies from machine to machine, so study the firmware screen that appears when the PC restarts for clues or consult your PC’s documentation for the answer.) When you boot from the Setup media, you will first be presented with a screen in which you select the language, time and currency format, and keyboard or input method. Click Next to skip this screen. When you do, you will be shown the Install now screen. Instead of clicking Install now, however, click the link titled Repair your computer. On the Choose an option screen that appears next, click Troubleshoot.

… By Interrupting the Normal PC Boot

In previous Windows versions, you could interrupt the Windows boot process by holding down the F8 key immediately after the BIOS screen and before the Windows loading animation. If you did it just right, you’d enter the Windows Recovery Environment.

Windows 8 makes this much easier. Instead of trying to interrupt the boot manually—somewhat impossible on touch-screen tablets in particular, but difficult on all Windows 8 PCs because the OS boots so fast—simply navigate into the Metro-style PC Settings interface and visit the bottom of the General area. There, under Advanced startup, you’ll see a Restart now button, as in Figure 2. Click that to enter the Windows Recovery Environment.

… From the Windows 8 Boot Menu

If you have a PC configured for dual-boot (that is, you can choose between two or more operating systems at boot time), you can access WinRE from the boot menu that’s already in place. From the main menu, titled Choose an operating system screen, click Change defaults or choose other options. Then, in the Options screen, click Choose other options, and then Troubleshoot.

Figure 2. A new way to boot into the recovery environment


  •  Windows 8 : File History (part 2) - Recovering Documents and Other Data Files with File History
  •  Windows 8 : File History (part 1) - Enabling and Configuring File History
  •  Windows 8 : Storage Spaces (part 4) - Advanced Storage Spaces: Three-Disk Configurations
  •  Windows 8 : Storage Spaces (part 3) - A More Resilient Space: Two Disks, Two-Way Mirroring
  •  Windows 8 : Storage Spaces (part 2) - The Most Basic Storage Spaces Configuration of All: One Disk, One Space, No Resiliency
  •  Windows 8 : Storage Spaces (part 1) - Getting Ready for Storage Spaces
  •  Windows Server 2012 : Managing and Troubleshooting Hardware (part 11) - Resolving resource conflicts
  •  Windows Server 2012 : Managing and Troubleshooting Hardware (part 10) - Troubleshooting hardware
  •  Windows Server 2012 : Managing and Troubleshooting Hardware (part 9) - Adding non–Plug and Play, legacy hardware
  •  Windows Server 2012 : Managing and Troubleshooting Hardware (part 8) - Restricting device installation using Group Policy
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