Windows Recovery Disk May Become Obsolete

John Lister's picture

Microsoft may be ending the need to have a physical disk to reinstall Windows 10. A 'Cloud Download' option could save time and hassle.

At the moment, the main way to reinstall Windows is to use a recovery disk (or a copy of the relevant files kept on a hard drive or USB device.) That's got a few limitations, most notably that not everyone who gets a recovery disk with a new computer will be able to find it.

Other problems are that recovery disks don't always have the drivers necessary to make sure Windows 10 works smoothly with a specific PC, and that the disks don't usually work well for people on the Windows Insider test program.

Cloud Download a New Option

There's also the headache that once somebody reinstalls Windows from a recovery disk, they'll need to download all the security and feature updates Microsoft has released since the disk was made. That's more of an issue with Windows 10 where the update schedule is planned to run indefinitely.

While Microsoft hasn't commented publicly on the changes, they've been spotted by an avid user of Windows Insider. The latest test updates include a new screen that will appear when somebody boots up the computer and selects the reinstall option.

That will now ask "How would you like to reinstall Windows?" and offer two options, "Cloud download: Download Windows" and "Reset locally: Reinstall my existing Windows operating system." (Source:

Given the technicalities of this particular set of tests, the most likely point for this change to take effect is Windows 10 20H1: in other words, the first of the two major updates expected next year. (Source:

No Need To Burn Disc

Windows users can already download the latest version of Windows 10 for recovery purposes, but that involves burning the files to a DVD to create a recover disk. This new option looks like it would be a one-click affair to download and reinstall Windows.

There would still be some limitations, most notably that the method would only work if the computer isn't so screwed up that it can't get an Internet connection.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you keep a Windows recovery disk to hand? Have you ever had to completely reinstall Windows? What would be the easiest way for you to do so?

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Average: 4.9 (9 votes)


olds97_lss's picture

I've had to reinstall windows 2 or 3 times the past 6 months. Twice was on personal computers that inexplicably locked up, then wouldn't boot. I think once was due to a failing SSD, which was also odd. I guess if you don't have another computer that you can download/create install media with, having an option on the recovery screen would be helpful, if you can get that far. If I hadn't had a mirror copy of my SSD, I would have been starting with a blank disk, so the only option would have been to use an external device that had the install on it.

jamies's picture

I have had problems with each option -

Seems that under 64 bit Windows-10 Pro, Windows Update needs at least 2GB RAM to run, MS support having several times advised me to download an ISO image and reinstall from that - either running the install from within a windows session, or putting the ISO on appropriate bootable media.

Then, the problem of drivers for hardware comes to light -
New hardware not included in the build posh-video or storage being the most usual culprits, although I did find that the driver for my webcam was not included in recent win-10 versions.

Mostly such devices come with add-in drivers that can be included as you install, or after the install for the full set of features.

Then there are the 'Restore' disks or partitions - annoying when you find that the Microsoft systems will not communicate with the comms, or other software on the restore image so - as with XP - IE 6 included, but you need IE8 for windows update, and you cannot get the updates to IE8 without the MS systems communicating with the PC.

That, and the sheer slowness of Microsoft update under win-7 took me to offline update, with downloaded sets of the fixes and other updates - either the monthly to-date (less whatever was now discontinued) ISO images, or using an update facility to get all fixes etc for particular software versions.

And .. MS seem to have decided that the monthly sets were too nice for users to have easy access to.

So - my conclusion,
It depends on the system, which of the 4 main options you may find works best (or at all)
Bootable install/update media
Online windows update (within a windows session)
Offline update (from whatever windows version you can get to install and run to update to the needed versions/state)
Recovery disk/partition with special drivers and possibly old software

And there is always your local IT equipment store or maintenance tech!
Then again, that's how one of my clients got a pirated copy of windows (with extras) and office put onto his system.

Focused100's picture

It never fails.
When you need it the most your PC tends to go on the fritz.
Fred Langa from Windows Secrets newsletter had an article which I saved that walked you thru non-destructive reinstall on Win 7 without losing any files or program installs.

It worked like a charm. Saved my behind on more than one occasion.
I've never found a similar article for Win 10 but I wish there was.
If anyone knows of a way pls comment. Thanks.

Stuart Berg's picture

This is what you are looking for:
I've used it with Windows 10 and it works perfectly.
P.S. I also was a big fan of Fred Langa.

Focused100's picture

Thanks Stu,
The date of the post was July 25th 2019 so it was very apropos.

Stuart Berg's picture

The last time I used it the date on the article was January 9th 2019 at the same URL. So it's my belief that they update the procedure as necessary and/or to make it clearer.

anniew's picture

Way back when Dennis gave instructions on making a copy of 10 and then reverting back to 7, I did that. I have the W 10 install CD I made based on those steps. Haven't wanted to switch to 10, but with 7 losing all support, I may be forced to use 10. My question is if my install 10 CD that I made, will work now to do the upgrade.