Restoring Windows 8.1 from a USB Recovery Drive

After playing with Linux Mint on my laptop for a while I found that I wanted to try to get Windows 8.1 reinstalled so I can learn more about it and hopefully create more how to posts here at NautilusMODE.   So if you have been following along with my other posts regarding my new laptop(found here, here and here), my back up of Windows had been corrupted which is why I had installed Linux.  So how can you still recover Windows once your recovery image has been destroyed? The answer lies within the recovery USB stick that is required to restore from a back up.

Booting Into Windows Recovery Mode

Windows 8.1 recovery main window.
The options available on this screen and others change depending on if Windows is detected on the disk drive. This is what is shown when Windows is not found.

The first step in this process was to boot from my recovery USB drive. This required my pressing the required key(F12) at boot and then select the USB drive as the boot device. Alternatively you can enter the BIOS(usually the delete key at boot) and adjust the boot order on most devices.  The key used to select a boot device outside the BIOS menu varies by motherboard/BIOS. This information should be found in your PC’s manual or from your motherboard manual(for home built PC’s) if you need it though.

After selecting the USB drive to boot it took about a minute to load Windows Recovery Mode.  Here I was greeted with a blue screen allowing me to troubleshoot or turn off my PC.  With only one helpful option I clicked Troubleshoot and was brought to a new list of options to pick from.

Under the Advanced options is where you can restore your PC from a Windows System Image.  However this is what I had tried previously without any success.  So what is the remaining option?

Reset your PC

Windows 8.1 troubleshoot window.

As attempting yet again to restore from a system image failed, I decided to try another method of recovery.  On the main troubleshooting window there are two Windows options available. One is ‘Refresh your PC’ which will reinstall Windows but keep your files and user accounts. The other is ‘Reset your PC’ which will basically do a reinstallation of Windows. I had wiped this drive clean to install Linux, but I thought that perhaps this would work as it technically reinstalls Windows. The question then was if this would look for the hidden recovery partition to install from or if it had copied Windows to my 16GB flash drive as part of the Recovery USB Drive creation process.

After clicking ‘Reset your PC’ and agreeing to let it wipe my computer to reinstall Windows I was greeted with a black Toshiba screen and a percentage of the process in progress.  Before this began I was also warned that the restore process may need additional files and recovery media and I would be prompted for them during the reset process if required. For me this would simply mean back to Linux if it failed.

After 5 to 10 minutes the process completed(installed to an SSD). No additional media was needed and nothing threw an error. After an automatic reboot, I was then greeted with the standard welcome to Windows dialogs you get when you start your new PC for the first time.  After another 5 minutes or so Windows was ready for me to create an account and I am now able to use Windows 8.1 again.

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