What is a recovery USB?
Recovery USB is a USB version of system repair disc in Windows, which contains several recovery tools. You can use them to repair or troubleshoot the unbootable computer, restore your computer to factory settings, or directly install Windows on it. And you can get it by the following methods:
- Create a Windows 10 recovery disk with the Recovery Drive feature.
- Use installation disc comes along with your computer. Usually, it's a CD/DVD disc.
- Download Media Creation tool and create one with it.
Well then, assuming you already have a bootable USB, how to restore Windows 10 or 11 from USB it? Please keep reading below and learn 3 easy ways to complete this.
Method 1: Recover Windows 10/11 from a recovery drive
Here you will create a recovery drive in Windows 10 with built-in tool - Recovery Drive, and then use it to restore or completely reinstall Winodws 10. Please prepare a USB drive with 16GB at least, otherwise this operation may fail because of insufficient disk space and throw you an error message, saying, "we can't create the recovery drive". And these steps also apply to Windows 11. Learn more below.
Create a Windows 10 recovery drive with built-in tool
Step 1. Connect the USB drive to your computer, and make sure it can be detected. Then, type Create a recovery drive in the search box and select it from the top result.
Step 2. Check the back up system files to the recovery drive option and hit Next. If not, you will not see Reset this PC and Recover from a drive in the system recovery environment.
Note: The Back up system files to the recovery drive gives you a chance to perform Windows 10 install when you cannot troubleshoot your computer with other recovery tools, such as, System Restore, Startup Repair, Command Prompt, etc.
Step 3. Select USB flash drive and hit Next.
Step 4. Click Create to start Windows 10 recovery USB creation.
Restore Windows 10 from a recovery drive
Here you will use the "System Restore" feature in the recovery environment to recover Windows 10, and It will keep all your files at the point you make a system restore point. This is also true for Windows 11.
Step 1. Boot from Windows 10 repair disk created earlier In the initial page, select keyboard layout and other preferences.
Step 2. In the Choose an option window, select Troubleshoot and then Recover from a drive.
Step 3. Select Just remove my files or Clean the drive fully, depending on what you want to keep.
Step 4. Click Recover to recover from a drive. It will take a while to finish this process and your PC will restart automatically.
Step 5. After that, you just need to set up your Windows 10 with the on-screen instructions.
Install Windows 10 from USB without losing data
Step 1. Boot from the Windows 10 recovery USB.
Step 2. In the Troubleshoot page, select Advanced options and then System Restore.
Step 3. In the Restore system files and settings window, click Next.
Step 4. Select a restore point to restore Windows 10 to an earlier working date and click Next.
Step 5. Confirm the info and click Finish to recover Windows 10.
The "Recovery Drive" feature is very useful if you created one when your computer works well. You can use it to repair or reinstall Windows 10 with the above steps. But it still has some limitations. The biggest one is that you can only use it on the current computer where you created it. For example, you cannot use a Windows 10 32-bit recovery drive to repair Windows 10 64-bit.
In this case, you can try Method 2. It breaks this limitation and allows you to create Windows 10 recovery USB for another PC.
Method 2: Reinstall Windows 10 but keep files
Except for Recovery Drive, you still can use the Media Creation Tool to create Windows 10 system repair USB and restore Windows 10 without losing files. Then, try the following steps:
Create installation USB for another PC with Media Creation Tool
Step 1. Download Windows 10 Media Creation tool from Microsoft and run it with administrator priority.
Step 2. Then, it will start to check the hard drive of your computer and get a few things ready. After that, you will be asked to read all the license terms and click Accept to agree with it.
Step 3. In the "What do you want to do?" page, select Create installation media for another PC to create a bootable USB drive and click Next.
and architecture (32-bit or 64-bit) for Windows 10.
Step 5. Select USB flash drive (at least 8GB required) and click Next. It will start to create Windows 10 reinstall USB, you just need to wait untill the process completes.
Install Windows 10 from USB drive
Step 1. Connect the installation USB drive to your computer and boot from it.
Step 2. In the initial Windows Setup window, select language, editions and other preferences. Then, click Next until you see Repair your computer option, select it.
Note: If your computer is brand-new, you can still clean install Windows 10 from USB by clicking Install Now option. Then, select Custom installation type and follow on-screen instructions to complete the installation process.
Step 3. Immediately afterwards, in the Choose an option window, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > System Restore.
Step 4. In the Restore system files and settings window, click Next and then follow the on-screen instructions to complete the System Restore process.
You may successfully install Windows 10 from USB created by Media Creation Tool as long as you download the correct installation ISO file. You can choose either 32-bit or 64-bit system according to your computer. It works fine on the same Windows version, but if you use the installation disc created on Windows 10 to Windows 11, it becomes useless. In this case, you can try Method 3.
Method 3: Restore Windows 10 image from USB drive
Here you will restore system image from USB drive in Windows 10 for disaster recovery. Compared with "Recover from a drive" or "System Restore", using a Windows 10 system image will be a better choice. Because it will keep it as it is after restore, including the operating system, boot partitions, system files, installed programs, personal data, etc. And you can achieve this goal in the following 2 ways.
Way 1: Use System Image Recovery in the Advanced options. Both recovery disks created by Recovery Drive feature or Media Creation Tool are supported.
Way 2: Use a third-party backup and restore software.
Then, which way should you use? You can use the first way if have a recovery USB and system image backup created by the computer you want to restore. Also, you need a larger hard drive to receive the backup image, otherwise the restore process will fail. For detailed steps, please refer to restore Windows 10 system image to new hard drive.
If you don't have any of them, it's suggested to backup and restore system with free backup software like AOMEI Backupper Standard due to the following advantages:
- The created bootable USB is universal and can be used to boot any version of Windows system (both 32 bit or 64 bit), including Windows 7/8/8.1/10/11 and previous Windows XP and Vista.
- You can easily restore system image to smaller drive with secure boot if you want.
- You can restore Windows 10 image to new computer, even if it has different hardware. You need to make use of "Universal Restore" feature in the professional version of AOMEI Backupper.
Now, follow the steps below to restore Windows 10 image from USB recovery drive.
To create boot disk Windows 10, you need to download AOMEI Backupper Standard and install it on your computer. Then, launch it, click Tools > Create Bootable Media, select bootable disc type > bootable media (here is USB Boot Device) and click Next after each of them.
◑ The Windows 10 repair disk created by AOMEI Backupper Standard can be used on all branded computers. It can be used as HP Windows 10 recovery USB, Samsung Windows 10 repair disk, etc.
◑ Also, it can be used on different operating systems, such as, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Windows XP, etc. If you create Windows 11 bootable USB, it can be used on all the previous systems.
Tip: If you don't have USB or CD/DVD, you can directly create a recovery environment entry of AOMEI Backupper Professional. It allows you to boot your unbootable computer and then backup & restore or clone.
To create a backup image, select Backup >System Backup > destination path to save system, and finally click Start Backup to move on.
Tip: If your computer currently is running smoothly without any obstacles, it's suggested to schedule backup system, so the newly changed files and installed apps will be included in this image.
Now, you have already prepared a Windows 10 system repair USB and system image backup for your computer. Then, you can restore Windows 10 system image using the following steps. This also applies to Windows 11.
Step 1. Connect bootable USB and hard drive containing system image backup to your computer. Then restart your computer, press F2 or other specific keys to enter BIOS, and set boot priority for created Windows 10 repair disk. At last, save changes and reboot.
Step 2. After loading, you will see the interface of AOMEI Backupper Standard, click Restore > Select Image File to find and select your system image to be restored.
Step 3. Tick Restore this system backup and click Next.
Notes: The program automatically selects the original system drives as the destination partitions. If the original system drives are not detected, you may be asked to select a destination path manually. In this condition, you should select the first partition on the target disk, or the system could not boot from it.
Step 4. In the Operation Summary window, click Start Restore and it will start to reinstall Windows 10 from a system image. After the restoration process is done, your computer works again and it's exactly the same as before.
Note: If you are currently transferring OS from one computer to another with different hardware, such as, CPU or motherboard, it's suggested to use "Universal Restore" feature. But it is available at least on the Professional version. You should upgrade to AOMEI Backupper Professional to enjoy this feature.
The way forward
With the help of Recovery Drive or installation disc, you can effortlessly restore Windows 10 from USB with 3 different methods, namely using Recover from a drive, System Restore or System Image Recovery. But you are risk at losing your files or programs if you don't have a system image.
If you have one, you can easily restore system image to a larger drive with a recovery disk. If the destination disk is smaller, the system restore will fail. In this case, you'd better use a reliable backup and restore to recover. And its advanced version still allows you to restore system to different computer.