In this tutorial, we will learn How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a recovery drive. We’ll also show you how to perform a clean installation of a Windows 10 system, but the procedure will be similar when using a recovery drive provided by the device manufacturer.

Back up your data

First of all, you need to back up your data so that you do not lose any of the files during the system restore process. There are several ways to accomplish this task – the final choice will be up to you. If you need to save single files, this can be done by manual copying to a flash drive or cloud storage. However, Windows offers several additional backup solutions.

Option 1. Back up with OneDrive

If you’re using OneDrive, you can set up automatic backups of specific folders to storage, including the Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders. To do this, go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup. Then under Back up files to OneDrive, click on Sign in to OneDrive. After that, a window will open to choose which folders you want to create copies of.

How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a Recovery Drive

When choosing this option, you should remember some nuances. Only three folders are backed up, and even then, you need to have enough free space on OneDrive and a high-speed Internet connection to keep the backup process quick and hassle-free.

Option 2. Back up to an external drive

If you prefer local backups, then File History is a great option. You can access this feature in Settings > Update & Security > Backup Service.

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Now we are interested in the second section, Backup using File History. At this point, you need to connect an external hard disk drive (HDD), solid-state drive (SSD), or flash drive and make sure it has enough space to store a backup of your files. Then click Add a drive and select the device you want to use as backup storage.

How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a Recovery Drive

After selecting the desired drive, automatic backup of some default directories will be activated. Select the More options link to change the backup settings. You can add and remove folders from a backup or prevent a specific folder from being backed up. For example, you can back up all files and child folders in a folder except for a particular subfolder. You can also set up regularly scheduled backups but click Archive Data Now to create a backup immediately if you’re preparing for a clean system installation. It would be best if you made sure that there is enough disk space for backup.

After the backup is complete, you can cancel future backup jobs so that Windows doesn’t accidentally start the backup process again. To do this, click the Stop Disk Usage button on the same Backup Settings page. This manipulation will not affect the already created backups.

Install Windows 10 using a recovery drive

After creating the system recovery disk, all you have to do is start the recovery process. This procedure will delete the data on the computer, so we started with creating a backup. To boot from a flash drive, you can use the advanced Windows 10 startup menu. To activate it, go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery. On this page, in the Advanced Startup section, click Restart Now.

How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a Recovery Drive

When the computer restarts, a blue screen will open with additional boot options. You need to select System Image Recovery and then specify the drive you are using as the recovery drive. The computer restarts again, and the recovery process begins.

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How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a Recovery Drive

You may need to press a specific key, such as F12 or Esc at startup, to open a menu with advanced boot options on older computers. You’ll also need to do this if your computer can’t start Windows. Each laptop and computer manufacturer uses different keys to access this menu. If the F12 or Esc doesn’t work, look for information on the manufacturer’s website.

Option 1. Clean installation of Windows

After booting from the installation media, you may be prompted to see if you need to perform a system upgrade or require a clean installation. Select No to perform a clean installation, follow the on-screen instructions to select a culture, and then choose Custom: Install Windows only (advanced). After that, you will see a list of local drives on your PC.

How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a Recovery Drive

You can format each of the available partitions and disks or delete all partitions and create a new partition for installation. You’ll need to select one of the partitions as the target location for the installation, and then click Next and wait for the installation process to complete. You will then be taken to your computer’s Initial Configuration Environment (OOBE).

Option 2. Using the Windows Recovery Disk

If you created a separate recovery drive using the Recovery Drive app in Windows 10, the recovery process would be more straightforward. After booting from the recovery disk, you will have the option to select a region and keyboard layout, and then you will see a menu similar to the boot options menu that was used earlier. It will be available from Troubleshoot section > Recovery from a drive, which you need to select.

How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a Recovery Drive

After that, choose whether you want to delete the files or completely clean the disk and confirm that the recovery process starts. You’ll go through the normal Windows 10 installation process, as you would with the method described above, and then the desktop environment will load.

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If you used a recovery drive from an OEM, access to the recovery drive should be the same, but the process will differ. Follow the hardware manufacturer’s instructions to complete the recovery process.

Data and Driver Recovery

After reinstalling Windows 10, you may want to repair your drivers, primarily if you used a standard Windows 10 installation disc. If you have backed up the drivers in advance, you can mount the disk with the copy and start Device Manager (for example, by right-clicking on the Start menu and selecting Device Manager).

How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a Recovery Drive

If any drivers are missing, you’ll see a warning icon next to each affected device. Double-click the device name to open its properties, click the Driver tab, and click Update Driver. Select the Find drivers on this computer option, then select the folder that contains all your driver backups. Be sure to select the Include subfolders check box, and Windows will find the appropriate driver for each device.

Repeat this procedure for all devices with missing drivers.

There are several ways to recover your personal files. If you used the OneDrive backup method, you need to turn on syncing so that copies of the files appear in the appropriate directories. You can save your files locally to access them at any time.

If you used File History backups, go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup Service. Under Back up using File History, select the More options option, and then click Restore files from current backup. Select the most recent backup, after which your files will be restored to the appropriate folders.

You’re done! If you follow the steps described in this instruction, you will get a stable computer with your files.

Conclusion: How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a recovery drive

I hope this guide on How to back up your files and reinstall Windows 10 using a recovery drive was easy. If you face any issues, please comment below. Also, share your experience with Windows PC Recovery in the comments below.


Ruby has been a writer and author for a while, and her content appears all across the tech world, from within ReadWrite, BusinessMagazine, ThriveGlobal, etc.

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