Laptop/PC – Windows Recovery Information/Guide

“Help! My laptop/PC has run into problems and needs Windows reinstalled! Where is my Windows license key and how can I recover my PC?” Fear not, this post shall be your guide to get your PC back.

License Key

If your device didn’t come with one of those classic Windows Certificate Stickers applied to the chassis most likely it was embedded by the manufacture into your machine. Specifically it is saved in the BIOS of the motherboard so it’s permanently tied to the hardware and any version of Windows 8 and higher will be able to read it and make use of it for activation.

If you really want to see the key there is software available that can extract it from a working install. And I recall seeing a command prompt tool built into Windows to see it as well. However I have no experience with any of them, and honestly it sounds like more of a hassle than what it’s worth. Besides, you can ask for a new key from your manufacturer.

If your machine had a sticker and it has since faded, ripped, or otherwise become unreadable you should be able to get a new key from the manufacturer without any additional cost. All you need to do is call them up, explain the situation and they should be able to provide one for you.

So, now that you have your key, let’s see what recovery options are available.

Built In Recovery Partition

Most manufactures have a built in recovery partition that you can boot into with a special key press at boot.  From here you can factory reset your PC or perform a refresh of your PC keeping your files intact. To access this, please consult your manufacturer for the details.

Recovery DVD

As far as I am aware no manufacture ships recovery DVD’s with their PC’s anymore. This isn’t to say they are unavailable as I did find them from Toshiba for my C55D-B5214 on their website. The only catch? They wanted $40 for them. That price to me seems a bit steep, especially when it used to be free and DVD media is so cheap these days. I am not sure where the high price tag comes from. Needless to say I didn’t purchase them and found another option. However, if you want a no fuss option this may be it. I have never used OEM Recovery Options to know for sure what’s included.

Windows Media Creator Tool

If you no longer have access to the recovery partition, the next step is to get a hold of some installation media. If you are running Windows 8.1 or 10, you can get these directly from Microsoft’s web site:

Installing Windows 10 using the media creation tool:

Create installation media for Windows 8.1:

This will require you have a working PC running Windows and either a blank DVD to create a bootable disc or a USB drive with at least 8GB to create a bootable drive. The process is very straight forward so don’t fret about understanding the instructions. It’s literally just a few clicks.


Now that you have your license key and installation media you are ready to restore or reinstall your OS.

This is pretty simple, and I actually have already written an article on this for Windows 8.1.  You can follow those instructions here: Restoring Windows 8.1 from a USB Recovery Drive

If you are looking to recover a bad install, you will want to choose the refresh, to reinstall Windows but keep your files. Otherwise to do a clean install, choose the reset option which will remove everything.

The basic instructions that can be applied is boot into the recovery media, then pick the appropriate recovery method, refresh or reset. It will run for a while after you pick your option and start the process. Then you should be greeted by a login screen or the account creation/set up process to finish things up.

I hope this is helpful to those who need it, but honestly I hope you never reach a point where such drastic measures are required. Good luck!


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