Windows recovery disk tip: When and if it needs updating

It’s not a backup, but a life preserver.

windows boot drive bsod
Michael Homnick

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Jimmie Bates wants to know if he should ever update his Windows recovery disk. I checked with Microsoft to get the full story, and here’s what I found out.

Making a recovery drive

Windows 8 and 10 have a built-in tool to create a rescue disk, aka Recovery Drive. 

First of all, let’s be clear about what the recovery disk is. It’s not an image of your entire OS installation, or a full system backup. According to Microsoft, a user-created recovery disk for Windows 10 includes a bootable recovery environment along with the following:

  • Windows Component Store
  • Installed drivers
  • Backup of preinstalled Windows apps
  • Provisioning packages containing preinstalled customizations (under C:\Recovery\Customizations)
  • Push-button Reset configuration XML and scripts (under C:\Recovery\OEM)

All this disk will allow you to do is fix a broken installation of Windows, either by repairing boot files or performing a reset of the OS itself, should it be unbootable. It does not include any of your data files, so you should always have a backup. This is also another situation where keeping your data files on a separate partition from the OS will come in handy.

If you want a full system backup you’ll need to either clone or make an image. And to definitively answer the question posed in my headline, you do not need to update a recovery disk once it’s created. 

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon