Microsoft Windows 8.1 Repair and Recovery

Preparing for Disaster

In the Windows 7 days, you had a few options for getting to the repair menu. You could press F8 to interrupt the boot sequence or you could pop in a DVD of Windows to boot from. With newer laptops moving to super-fast SSD and eliminating the DVD drive, you’re left without those options. If Windows won’t boot, you’ll need to have a recovery drive handy. Let’s go through the process of creating one on a USB memory stick.

  1. Open the Charms bar and click Search.
  2. Type “recovery drive” and click on Create a Recovery Drive.
  3. Make sure the Copy the Recovery Partition checkbox is checked (Figure 1) and click Next.
  4. After a moment, the wizard will tell you the size of the flash drive needed. In my case it was about 16GB so be aware that you’ll need a pretty decent sized drive. Plug it in and Windows will start scanning the drive. Click Next.
  5. Note that the drive will be wiped, so be sure to back up anything important. Click Create.

The creation of the recovery media will take some time. In my case, it took about a half an hour. Once it finishes you will have the option of deleting the recovery partition. This may save you some space, but if you lose your recovery media it will be difficult to recover your operating system. I recommend keeping the recovery partition.

Using the Recovery Media

If you run into trouble and aren’t able to boot to Windows, you can insert your recovery media and boot to it. Once booted into the recovery console, you will have a few options. Once you select a keyboard layout, select the Troubleshoot option.

From here you will have a few options for recovering – Refresh, Reset and Advanced options.

  • The Refresh your PC button will repair Windows issues without affecting your files. However, as this is simply using your recovery partition, any applications installed from the internet or physical media will need to be reinstalled. Once the Refresh operation is complete, a list of applications that were removed will be placed on your desktop.
  • The Reset your PC button will remove all applications and data and reset your computer back to the way it was when you first received it. This is obviously a more drastic option than the refresh method so only try this if the refresh doesn’t work.

Advanced Recovery Options

If you choose the advanced options on the recovery screen, you will have several more options.

If you use System Restore to take snapshots of your machine, you will have the option of restoring back to a specific snapshot.

Another option is to restore to a system image. This is similar to using a recovery partition, but instead of losing any apps installed, the system image will include all applications and data at the time the image was taken.

Similar to earlier editions, you can also perform a Startup Repair. This will run through some common startup issues and attempt to resolve them automatically.

If you really know what you’re doing, you can also access the Command Prompt from the Advanced Options menu.

Hopefully with the plethora of options available to you, you will have good luck repairing your Windows 8 machine. Good luck!