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Some products might not be available in your country or region.
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.
- 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.
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.
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
- Make sure your Surface is turned off and plugged in, and then insert your USB recovery drive into the USB port on your Surface.
- Press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button on your Surface.
- When the Microsoft or Surface logo appears, release the volume button.
You can also boot from the recovery drive through Windows. To do this:
Insert the USB recovery drive into the USB port and then go to Start, select Settings > Update & security > Recovery.
Under Advanced startup, select Restart Now.
On the Choose an option screen, select Use a device > USB Storage.
- Follow the on-screen instructions, such as selecting the language and keyboard layout, to enter the recovery tools menu.
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
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.
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.
- Make sure your Surface is turned off and plugged in, and then insert the USB recovery drive into the USB port.
- Press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button.
- When the Surface logo appears, release the volume button.
- When prompted, select the language and keyboard layout you want.
- Select Troubleshoot > Recover from a drive. If prompted for a recovery key, select Skip this drive at the bottom of the screen.
- Select the target operating system you need to reset. (This refers to the current operating system installed on your Surface.)
- 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.
- 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 Laptop, new Surface Pro, Surface Studio, Surface Book, and Surface Pro 4.
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.
If you currently have a Windows Insider build installed, you may need to first disable and then reenable Secure Boot for the recovery drive to be recognized. For more info on how to change Secure Boot, see How do I use the BIOS/UEFI? and Using Surface UEFI on Surface Laptop, new Surface Pro, Surface Studio, Surface Book, and Surface Pro 4.