Windows recovery disk tip: When and if it needs updating

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

windows boot drive bsod
Credit: Michael Homnick

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. 

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