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How to Boot into a Recovery Partition in Windows

Knowing how to boot into a Recovery Partition will help you to rebuild, restore, re-create, or just troubleshoot Windows problems. PC manufacturers now often partition a computer’s primary hard drive into two volumes. Drive C is the computer’s main hard drive, the one on which Windows is installed. A second, smaller drive — drive D — is created on the same physical hard drive.

Here is an illustration of a typical Computer window found in Windows Vista. You see two hard drives: C and D. Drive D is labeled Recovery. To use this drive for starting the computer and troubleshooting, you access the computer’s Boot menu.


A prompt describing which key to press to access the Boot menu appears when the computer first starts. On some computers, it’s the F10 key, though on my Dell computer, it’s F12.

When the Boot menu appears, notice that one of the options presented is to boot into the recovery volume. Choose that option to start and use the recovery volume.

What happens when you start the recovery partition depends on the computer manufacturer. You may see a custom operating system loosely based on Windows but geared toward troubleshooting and maintenance. Sometimes you see the System Recovery Options window. The tools you find available can be used to help fix the main Windows volume (drive C), access special utilities, or even restore the PC from a backup.

  • Another way to use the recovery partition is to choose the Repair Your Computer option from the F8 boot menu.

  • Some computers may feature a special button, such as the ThinkVantage button on Lenovo laptops, that boots the computer into the recovery volume.

  • Not every PC has a recovery volume. In a case like this, it’s recommended that you use a recovery disc.

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