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How to create a Windows 8 USB recovery drive

Perform essential recovery and repair tasks on your Windows 8 PC with a USB recovery drive.

USB flash drives and Dell
Ed Rhee/CNET

A bootable Windows 8 recovery drive can help you repair or restore your PC if and when problems arise. Though you can create a recovery DVD, USB flash drives are much more convenient and are fairly inexpensive.

Here's how to create a Windows 8 USB recovery drive for your PC:

Step 1: From the Windows 8 Start screen, type "recovery," then choose Settings to see the search results under Settings. Select "Create a recovery drive" to begin the recovery drive tool.

Search for Windows 8 recovery tool
Click to enlarge. Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Step 2: When the recovery drive tool appears, check the box next to "Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive" if you want the recovery tools that came with your PC to be included in the recovery drive. If the selection is grayed out, that means your PC doesn't have a recovery partition. Keep in mind that if you do copy the recovery partition, you'll need at least a 16GB USB flash drive. Without it, you can make do with just 256MB. Click Next to continue.

Create recovery drive
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Step 3: Make sure that the USB flash drive you're using is empty and that it shows up in the list of available drives. Any data left on the flash drive will be deleted by the recovery drive tool. When you get to the end of the wizard, click the Create button and wait a couple of minutes for the drive to be created.

That's it. Now you can boot the Windows 8 USB recovery drive and perform a refresh, reset, system restore, system image recovery, and an automatic repair.