Creating and using a USB recovery drive for Surface

Applies to: Surface DevicesSurface

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.

Normally, your Surface comes with Windows recovery info that allows you to refresh it or reset it to its factory condition. But if your machine won't start in the first place, that's when you need the solutions below. 

Let's get started. Find the scenario that best fits your issue and then select the solution:

Scenario Solution
My Surface isn’t working well, and I need to download a factory recovery drive image

Download a recovery image for your Surface

I have already downloaded a recovery image or was sent one from Microsoft and need to use it to reset my Surface How to reset your Surface to factory conditions using a downloaded recovery image
My Surface is working great, and I would like to create a recovery drive now in case I ever need it later. Creating and using your own USB recovery drive
I am having trouble booting to the recovery drive If the USB recovery drive doesn’t work on your Surface

 

Download and create a factory recovery image for your Surface

A downloaded recovery drive image lets you reset your Surface to its factory settings and can help you troubleshoot and fix problems with your Surface device.

If your Surface is not working and you don't have another Windows 10 device that you can use to download the factory recovery image, it may be possible to have a USB recovery drive mailed to you. For more info, contact us.

If you're able to use your Surface or you have another Windows 10 device, visit our Download a recovery image for your Surface page. From there, select your Surface device, and download a recovery image .zip file for the device you selected, and then follow steps to create the recovery drive.

 

  1. Make sure your Surface is turned off and plugged in, and then insert the USB recovery drive into the USB port.(use a USB 3.0 drive if you can).

    The USB drive should be at least 16 GB. If you have a Surface RT or Surface 2, an 8 GB USB drive will work.
  2. In the search box on the taskbar, type recovery drive, and then select Create a recovery drive or Recovery Drive from the list of results. You might be asked to enter an admin password or confirm your choice.
  3. In the User Account Control box, select Yes.
  4. Make sure to clear the Back up system files to the recovery drive check box and then select Next.
  5. Select your USB drive, and then select Next > Create.  Some utilities need to be copied to the recovery drive, so this might take a few minutes.
  6. When the recovery drive is ready, select Finish.
  7. Double-click the recovery image .zip file that you previously downloaded to open it.
  8. Select all the files from the recovery image folder, copy them to the USB recovery drive you created, and then select Choose to replace the files in the destination.
  9. Once the files have finished copying, select the Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media icon on the taskbar, and remove your USB.

For info about how to use your new recovery drive, see the “How to reset your Surface to factory conditions ” in Recovery options in Windows 10

How to reset your Surface to factory conditions using a downloaded recovery image

Video: Recover your Surface Device

  1. Make sure your Surface is turned off and plugged in, and then insert the USB recovery drive into the USB port.
  2. Press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button.
  3. When the Microsoft or Surface logo appears, release the volume-down button.
  4. When prompted, select the language and keyboard layout you want.
  5. Select Troubleshoot , and then select Recover from a drive . If prompted for a recovery key, select Skip this drive at the bottom of the screen.

    The Choose an option screen to reset your Surface to factory conditions using a downloaded recovery image.

  6. 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.
  7. Select Recover.
    Surface restarts and displays the Surface logo while the reset process continues. This can take several minutes.

Creating and using your own USB recovery drive

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

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.

To find out how to use your own recovery drive, see the “Use a recovery drive to restore or reset your PC” section in Recovery options in Windows 10.

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 ensure that boot from USB is enabled or configure the boot order so the USB drive is the first option. For more info, see Boot Surface from a USB device.