Creating and using a USB recovery drive

Operating system:

You can use a USB recovery drive to start your Surface if you’re having problems or need to free up storage space.


Your Surface comes with Windows recovery info that allows you to refresh it or reset it to its factory condition. This info is stored in a dedicated recovery partition on your device.

If your Surface won’t start, or if the recovery info has been removed, you can use your USB recovery drive to access recovery tools and solve problems. You can also use the drive to free up storage space.

Important
  • If you delete the recovery info from your Surface after you create the USB recovery drive, be sure to keep the drive in a safe place. A recovery image will no longer be stored on your Surface, so you'll need your USB recovery drive if you ever have to refresh or reset your device.
  • Surface USB recovery drives are not interchangeable between Surface models. Use only a USB recovery drive that’s for your specific Surface model.

Creating a USB recovery drive

Surface comes with a built-in tool to create a USB recovery drive. You must use an external USB drive formatted to FAT32 (not NTFS), with enough available space for all your recovery data.

Important

Creating a Surface recovery drive will erase everything that’s stored on your USB drive. Make sure to transfer any important data on your USB drive to another storage device before using it to create a recovery drive.

For steps on how to create a USB recovery drive, go to Create a recovery drive.

Once you’ve finished creating the recovery drive, be sure to eject the drive using the Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media icon on the Windows taskbar.

Important

If you choose to delete your recovery partition, you’ll need your USB recovery drive if you ever have to refresh or reset your Surface. Be sure to keep it in a safe place. It's best not to use the recovery drive to store other files or data.

If you can't create a USB recovery drive

If you didn't create a USB recovery drive and you can't access your Surface to create one, you can download the files you need to get your Surface working again—see Download a recovery image for your Surface.

How to start your Surface using your USB recovery drive

Step 1: Make sure your Surface is turned off and plugged in, and then insert your USB recovery drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 2: Press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button on your Surface.
Step 3: When the Surface logo appears, release the volume button.
Step 4: Follow the on-screen instructions, such as selecting the language and keyboard layout, to enter the recovery tools menu.
Note

You can also use the Surface USB recovery drive if Windows prompts for installation files when trying to refresh or reset under Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery. When the prompt pops up, insert the recovery drive into the USB port on your Surface.

How to reset your Surface using your USB recovery drive

Important

A reset returns your Surface to its factory settings. It deletes all of your personal files, resets your settings, and removes all apps that you installed.

Note

Make sure you have access to the product keys and installation files for any desktop apps, such as Microsoft Office, that you plan to reinstall after the reset.

Step 1: Make sure your Surface is turned off and plugged in, and then insert the USB recovery drive into the USB port.
Step 2: Press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button.
Step 3: When the Surface logo appears, release the volume button.
Step 4: When prompted, select the language and keyboard layout you want.
Step 5: Select Troubleshoot > Recover from a drive. If prompted for a recovery key, select Skip this drive at the bottom of the screen.
Step 6: Select the target operating system you need to reset. (This refers to the current operating system installed on your Surface.)
Step 7: Choose either Just remove my files or Fully clean the drive.
The option to clean the drive is more secure but takes much longer. For example, if you’re recycling your Surface, you should clean the drive. If you’re keeping your Surface, you just need to remove your files.
Step 8: Select Recover.
Surface restarts and displays the Surface logo while the reset process continues. This can take several minutes.

If the USB recovery drive doesn’t work on your Surface

If you can’t boot from your USB recovery drive or don’t see the Recover from a drive option, you may need to configure the boot order so the USB drive is the first option. For more info, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI? and Using Surface UEFI on Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.

Also, make sure that the USB recovery drive is formatted to FAT32, your USB recovery drive is configured correctly, and that the recovery image is the correct one for your model of Surface.

You can use the USB recovery drive to start your Surface if you’re having problems, or to free up storage space.


Your Surface comes with Windows recovery information that allows you to refresh your Surface or reset it to its factory condition. This recovery information is stored in a dedicated recovery partition on your Surface.

Copying or moving this information to a USB drive has two advantages:

  • Recovery. If you ever have a problem getting your Surface to start, you can use the USB recovery drive to start it.
  • Storage. You can free up storage space on your Surface by removing recovery information and storing it on a USB drive. The amount of disk space you can free up varies by Surface model.
Important
If you delete the recovery information from your Surface after you create the USB recovery drive, be sure to keep the USB recovery drive in a safe place. A recovery image will no longer be stored on your Surface, and you'll need your USB recovery drive if you ever need to refresh or reset your Surface.

Create a recovery drive

Surface comes with a built-in tool to create a USB recovery drive. To create a recovery drive, you'll need an external USB drive formatted to FAT32, with enough available storage space for all your recovery data.

Note
You can also download the recovery files from the Surface website. For more info, see Download a recovery image for your Surface.

Find out how much space you’ll need on the USB drive

Step 1: Go to Start Windows logo key, and in the search box, enter recovery.
Step 2:In the search results, select Create a recovery drive.
Step 3:In the User Account Control dialog box, select Yes.
Step 4: Select the Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive check box, and select Next.

The next screen will indicate whether you have enough storage space available on your USB drive.

Step 5: Select Cancel to close the recovery drive tool.
Important
Creating a recovery drive will erase anything that’s already stored on your USB drive. Make sure to transfer any important data from your USB drive to another storage device before using it to create a Surface USB recovery drive.

Format the drive to FAT32

Step 1:Insert your USB drive into the USB port on your computer.
Step 2:Open File Explorer, right-click the USB drive, and select Format.
Step 3:Under File system, select FAT32 > Start.

Create the recovery drive

Step 1: Connect the power supply to your Surface and plug it into an electrical outlet.
Step 2: Insert your USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3: Go to Start Windows logo key, and in the search box, enter recovery, and in the search results, select Create a recovery drive.
Step 4: In the User Account Control dialog box, select Yes.
Step 5: Select Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive > Next.
Step 6: Select the USB drive you want to use, and select Next.
Step 7: Select Create.
The recovery image and recovery tools will be copied to your USB drive.
Your Surface must stay awake during the copy process, which will take 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 8:

After the recovery tools are copied, do one of the following:

  • Select Finish if you want to keep the recovery tools on your Surface.
  • Select Delete the recovery partition if you want to remove the recovery tools from Surface and free up disk space. To confirm, select Delete, and when removal is complete, select Finish.
Step 9: Remove your USB drive from your Surface and keep it in a safe place.

It's best not to use the recovery drive to store other files or data.

Important
If you choose to delete your recovery partition, you’ll need to have your USB recovery drive if you ever need to refresh or reset your Surface.

Use a recovery drive

Once you’ve created a recovery drive, you can use it to start your Surface, if needed. For more info, see Using a Surface USB recovery drive.

To make sure you’ll be able to boot from the recovery drive, configure the boot order so the USB drive is the first option. For more info, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI?


You can use the USB recovery drive to start your Surface if you’re having problems, or to free up storage space.


Your Surface comes with Windows recovery information that allows you to refresh your device or reset it to its factory condition. This recovery information is stored in a dedicated recovery partition on your Surface.

Copying or moving this information to a USB drive has two advantages:

  • Recovery. If you ever have a problem getting your Surface to start, you can use the USB recovery drive to start your Surface.
  • Free up storage. You can free up storage space on your Surface by removing recovery information and storing it on a USB drive. The amount of disk space you can free up varies by device.
Important
If you delete the recovery information from your Surface after you create the USB recovery drive, be sure to keep the USB recovery drive in a safe place. A recovery image will no longer be stored on your Surface, and you'll need your USB recovery drive if you ever need to refresh or reset your Surface.

Create a recovery drive

Surface comes with a built-in tool to create a USB recovery drive. To create a recovery drive, you'll need an external USB drive formatted to FAT32, with enough available storage space for all your recovery data.

Note
You can also download the recovery files from the Surface website. For more info, see Download a recovery image for your Surface.

Find out how much space you’ll need on the USB drive

Step 1: Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and tap Search.
(If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and click Search.)
Step 2:In the search box, enter recovery, and in the search results, tap or click Recovery, and tap or click Create a recovery drive.
Step 3: In the User Account Control dialog box, tap or click Yes.
Step 4: Tap or click Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive, and tap or click Next.

The next screen will indicate how much storage space is available on your USB drive.

Step 5: Tap or click Cancel to close the recovery drive tool.
Important
Creating a recovery drive will erase anything that’s already stored on your USB drive. Make sure to transfer any important data from your USB drive to another storage device before using it to create a Surface USB recovery drive.

Format the drive to FAT32

Step 1:Connect the USB drive to your computer.
Step 2:Open File Explorer, right-click the USB drive, and choose Format.
Step 3:Choose File system > FAT32, and select Start.

Create the recovery drive

Step 1: Connect the power supply to your Surface and plug into an electrical outlet.
Step 2: Insert your USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3: Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and tap or click Search.
Step 4: In the search box, enter recovery, and in the search results, tap or click Recovery, and tap or click Create a recovery drive.
Step 5: In the User Account Control dialog box, tap or click Yes.
Step 6: Tap or click Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive, and tap or click Next.
Step 7: Tap or click the USB drive you want to use, and tap or click Next.
Step 8: Tap or click Create.

The recovery image and recovery tools will be copied to your USB drive. Your Surface must stay awake during the copy process, which will take 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 9:

After the recovery tools are copied, do one of the following:

  • Tap or click Finish if you want to keep the recovery tools on your Surface.
  • Tap or click Delete the recovery partition if you want to remove the recovery tools from Surface and free up disk space. To confirm, tap or click Delete, and when removal is complete, tap or click Finish.
Step 10: Remove your USB drive from Surface and keep it in a safe place.

It's best not to use the recovery drive to store other files or data.

Important
If you choose to delete your recovery partition, you’ll need to have your USB recovery drive if you ever need to refresh or reset your Surface.

Use a recovery drive

Once you’ve created a recovery drive, you can use it to start your Surface, if needed. For more info, see Using a Surface USB recovery drive.

To make sure you’ll be able to boot from the recovery drive, configure the boot order so the USB drive is the first option. For more info, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI?


You can use the USB recovery drive to start your Surface if you’re having problems, or to free up storage space.


Your Surface comes with Windows recovery information that allows you to refresh your device or reset it to its factory condition. This recovery information is stored in a dedicated recovery partition on your Surface.

Copying or moving this information to a USB drive has two advantages:

  • Recovery. If you ever have a problem getting your Surface to start, you can use the USB recovery drive to start your Surface.
  • Free up storage. You can free up storage space on your Surface by removing recovery information and storing it on a USB drive. The amount of disk space you can free up varies by device.
Important
If you delete the recovery information from your Surface after you create the USB recovery drive, be sure to keep the USB recovery drive in a safe place. A recovery image will no longer be stored on your Surface, and you'll need your USB recovery drive if you ever need to refresh or reset your Surface.

Create a recovery drive

Surface comes with a built-in tool to create a USB recovery drive. To create a recovery drive, you'll need an external USB drive formatted to FAT32, with enough available storage space for all your recovery data.

Note
You can also download the recovery files from the Surface website. For more info, see Download a recovery image for your Surface.

Find out how much space you’ll need on the USB drive

Step 1: Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and tap Search.
(If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and click Search.)
Step 2:In the search box, enter recovery, and in the search results, tap or click Recovery, and tap or click Create a recovery drive.
Step 3: In the User Account Control dialog box, tap or click Yes.
Step 4: Tap or click Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive, and tap or click Next.

The next screen will indicate how much storage space is available on your USB drive.

Step 5: Tap or click Cancel to close the recovery drive tool.
Important
Creating a recovery drive will erase anything that’s already stored on your USB drive. Make sure to transfer any important data from your USB drive to another storage device before using it to create a Surface USB recovery drive.

Format the drive to FAT32

Step 1:Connect the USB drive to your computer.
Step 2:Open File Explorer, right-click the USB drive, and choose Format.
Step 3:Choose File system > FAT32, and select Start.

Create the recovery drive

Step 1: Connect the power supply to your Surface and plug into an electrical outlet.
Step 2: Insert your USB drive into the USB port on your Surface.
Step 3: Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and tap or click Search.
Step 4: In the search box, enter recovery, and in the search results, tap or click Recovery, and tap or click Create a recovery drive.
Step 5: In the User Account Control dialog box, tap or click Yes.
Step 6: Tap or click Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive, and tap or click Next.
Step 7: Tap or click the USB drive you want to use, and tap or click Next.
Step 8: Tap or click Create.

The recovery image and recovery tools will be copied to your USB drive. Your Surface must stay awake during the copy process, which will take 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 9:

After the recovery tools are copied, do one of the following:

  • Tap or click Finish if you want to keep the recovery tools on your Surface.
  • Tap or click Delete the recovery partition if you want to remove the recovery tools from Surface and free up disk space. To confirm, tap or click Delete, and when removal is complete, tap or click Finish.
Step 10: Remove your USB drive from Surface and keep it in a safe place.

It's best not to use the recovery drive to store other files or data.

Important
If you choose to delete your recovery partition, you’ll need to have your USB recovery drive if you ever need to refresh or reset your Surface.

Use a recovery drive

Once you’ve created a recovery drive, you can use it to start your Surface, if needed. For more info, see Using a Surface USB recovery drive.

To make sure you’ll be able to boot from the recovery drive, configure the boot order so the USB drive is the first option. For more info, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI?


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