When you can't create the Windows 10 Recovery Drive, try these three fixes

The words you don't want to read: "We can't create a recovery drive on this PC." These workarounds should help in most situations.

Arthur Eardley tried to do what he knew he should do—create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive. But Windows’ automated process for creating this drive failed.

If you’re running Windows 10, you need to create a recovery drive—a bootable flash drive that will allow you to restore your system from a restore point, an image backup, or through a complete reinstall.

There’s no single solution to this problem. A fix that works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

But first, a quick review on creating a recovery drive: Plug in an empty flash drive with a capacity of 4GB or more. Note that Microsoft says you'll need a USB drive that is "at least 4GB" but in our experience you'll need at least an 8GB drive, and possibly even a 16GB drive, and they are so cheap these days it doesn't hurt to error on the side of caution anyway. Next open Control Panel’s Recovery tool, click Create a recovery drive, and follow the prompts.

And yes, you do want to back up system files necessary for a full reinstall.

If you try those directions and get a “We can’t create a recovery drive…” error, try these solutions:

Scan for problems

Your PC may be suffering from a corrupted system file. Here’s how to find out and hopefully fix it:

Type cmd in the Search field. In the search results, right-click Command Prompt and select Run as administrator.

0111 scan

Once you’re inside the command environment, type sfc/scannow and press Enter. The System File Checker (SFC) program will examine Windows files and replace any that appear to be corrupt. This scan rarely takes more than 10 minutes.

0111 cmd

After the scan, try again.

Try another flash drive

Yes, it’s obvious, but a lot of people overlook the obvious. You can buy a 4GB flash drive for less than $5, so there’s really no excuse.

Create an install drive instead

A Windows 10 install drive is very much like a Windows 10 recovery drive. The major differences are that the install drive defaults to reinstalling Windows, and doesn’t know the details of your particular Windows installation.

First, you’ll need to download the media creation tool. Be patient; it’s a big file. Once you have it, plug in your flash drive, launch MediaCreationTool.exe, select Create installation media for another PC and follow the prompts.

0111 install drive 1

When you boot from this drive, the Windows Setup wizard comes up. On the second page of the wizard, ignore the big “Install now” button and click Repair your computer in the lower-left corner. That brings you into an environment nearly identical to the Recovery Tool.

0111 install tool

But if you do a complete reinstall, there’s a possibility that it will require you to enter your Product ID number—the proof that you can legally run Windows 10 on this machine. So take a precaution now: Download and run Nirsoft’s free and portable ProduKey. Save the displayed numbers in a safe place.

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