Reader Larry wrote me regarding his new Asus machine, which came without any kind of recovery disks (which would be used to restore Windows in the event of a major system meltdown).
That's not uncommon these days. Even on systems that have optical drives (which are increasingly rare), computer vendors opt to save money by skipping the Windows restore/recover disks that were once common.
Fortunately, Windows 8 makes this much less of a problem. For starters, the OS includes two new features, Reset and Refresh, that can help overcome the kinds of problems that would normally require recovery media.
Refresh effectively reinstalls Windows while retaining all your programs, settings, and data—a great way to troubleshoot a system that's gone flaky on you. Reset, on the other hand, does a system wipe and reinstall, giving you the equivalent of a factory-new installation. Neither option requires any kind extra media.
Ah, but what happens if your system won't boot? That's when you need some kind of bootable recovery tool. Fortunately, Windows 8 makes it easy to create one, using either a flash drive or blank disks. Here's how:
1. From the Windows 8 Start screen, type recovery.
2. In the search-results pane that appears, click Settings, then click Create a recovery drive.
3. If the option isn't grayed out, check the box marked Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive. (Without that, you'll get only system-repair tools, not a full reinstall capability.) Then click Next.
4. The tool will tell you how much capacity you'll need for the backup. By default, it will create a bootable flash drive, but if you don't insert one, you'll see you can also click Create a system-repair disc with a CD or DVD instead.
5. Follow the remaining prompts to complete the process.
Now label the drive (or discs) and set it aside until you need it (which will hopefully be never).
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at email@example.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.