Q. Why Can't I Boot From My Recovery Disk? Getty Images

Q. Why Can't I Boot From My Recovery Disk?

Q. I just built a new computer and decided to follow your advice about backups. “I made an image of the pristine Win10 installation, using its built-in image tool [Control Panel/System and Security/Backup and Restore (Windows 7)]. It went smoothly. I then made a recovery disc when prompted, which also went smoothly. However, when I tested the disc, the system wouldn’t boot from the CD. It said the disc was not bootable media.

I’ve tried this twice, but no option comes up asking to create a bootable disc. What's going on?

A. First let me congratulate you for actually testing your recovery discs. That’s rarely done by most Windows users!

It’s a smart practice; proactive testing can help ensure that your backups will work when you really need them. You don’t want to discover that you can’t restore your backups when you’re already neck-deep in a PC disaster.

Of course, if you discover a restore problem, you then have to solve it. 

In many PCs, especially those running Win8/10, the security and speed settings in the system’s UEFI/BIOS can prevent or complicate booting from any rescue disc or drive — so that’s the first thing to check.

If it’s not a UEFI/BIOS issue, then it’s likely to be a problem with the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) applet itself.

That tool was originally designed as a bridge between Win7’s monolithic images/backups and Win8/10’s two-component backup system (File History for user files and Reset for system files).

The app’s intent was to allow access to Win7 backups from within Win8/10; not for making reliable Win8/10 backups via the Win7 process.

Some of the backup/restore issues that can appear when using the Win7 system can be due to partition type (GPT, MBR, FAT, etc.), presence or absence of hidden but essential recovery/system/EFI partitions, BIOS or UEFI firmware capabilities and settings, boot file location and type, general drive format type, and hardware/software bittedness.

There’s also this: Win7 will reach end-of-life in 2020. I have my doubts that it makes sense to start a new backup regime based on the Win7 format, when Win7 itself will soon (in terms of backup longevity) become unsupported.

If the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) applet were somehow exceptional, it might still be worth some hassle. But there are numerous alternatives, both free and paid, that work nicely with Win10. Why struggle with what is at best a balky tool? Here’s some popular, third-party applications:

  • Macrium Reflect — free and paid (with free trial)
  • Paragon Backup & Recovery — 30-day demo and paid
  • Acronis True Image — paid with 30-day free trial
  • EaseUS Todo Backup — free and paid

No matter what tool you use, be sure to periodically test your backups. Once your backups/images pass the test, you’ll know — conclusively — that your data will be fully restorable when you need it!


Editor's note: We feature an abridged Q&A from Fred Langa's LANGALIST, a column available exclusively to paid subscribers of the Windows Secrets newsletter,. What you see here is just a small sampling of what Langa's writing for the newsletter — go here for more information on how to subscribe.

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