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For 12 months I was surprisingly productive using a Microsoft Surface Pro. Except that 128 GB of storage is not nearly enough to run all the apps required to get work done and the couple of strategy games needed to relax. With limited onboard storage and maxed out cloud storage, I decided to delete the recovery partition.
As useful as this can be in unlocking an extra 10 GB of storage (it might be more on your computer, or less), when it comes to having to refresh Windows 8, the lack of a recovery partition – and in many cases with Windows 8 computers, a lack of installation media – makes this impossible. Did your Windows 8 device come without recovery discs, or a printed serial number? Then the solution explained in this post is aimed at you.
Let’s get the recovery partition back again!
Deleting the Recovery Partition for Extra Space on a Windows 8 Computer
Deleting the recovery partition is a quick and easy way to gain extra space on your Windows 8 tablet or ultrabook (or even, if you’re greedy for storage space, your laptop or desktop!). It isn’t advised, however, unless you have the installation media to hand or have made a baseline image of your Windows 8/8.1 setup. Failing those things, then at the very least make sure you have made a recovery drive that can be used to restore a failing installation. This will save you from having to recreate the recovery partition.
Once you’re happy, the recovery partition can be removed from Windows 8 by opening Disk Management. This can be done by typing Disk Man on the Start screen, or opening File Explorer, right-clicking This PC and selecting Manage, then expanding Storage.
From here, right-click the recovery partition and select Delete Volume. You will then be able to use that space for storage, although be aware that Windows may not allow you to use the Extend Volume command. Rather, you’ll have to keep using it as a separate volume of limited size. This is, however, quite useful for mirroring data from your preferred cloud storage service.
Attempting to Refresh or Reset Windows 8 With No Recovery Partition
What happens when you attempt to refresh, or reset Windows 8.1 when there is no recovery partition on, or connected to, your computer?
The procedure is to open the Charms menu, select Settings > Change PC Settings, tap Update and Recovery, and then select Refresh your PC without affecting your files or Remove everything and reinstall Windows.
Without a recovery partition or drive, neither of these options will work.
What we’re going to do now is create a new recovery partition, use it to reset Windows, enabling secure deletion of your data, and then put you in a position to reset or recover Windows 8 in the usual manner.
Create a New Recovery Partition in Windows 8
With no recovery partition, no refresh or reset can take place. This is something that can be resolved, however, and without too much messing around.
You need to start with a Windows ISO, either burned to DVD or saved to your HDD. One way to get this is to download your Windows 8 ISO directly from Microsoft, which will require your product key to install. In many cases this is included with your Windows 8 computer, but if not, don’t worry. Some devices (such as the Microsoft Surface Pro and laptops from other manufacturers) don’t include the key.
To get your hands on a legal copy of Windows 8 that you can use on your computer, use Microsoft’s tool to create installation media for Windows 8.1. This shouldn’t take too long to work through, although the download can take a while depending on the speed of your connection. While this is happening, open a new tab and download WinReducer’s Wim Converter tool, which you’ll need shortly.
When Windows has downloaded browse the ISO (which can be mounted in Windows 8 by double clicking the file) or the physical disc, and search for a specific file which can be used to create a new recovery partition. You’re looking for the Sources folder, where you’ll find install.esd. This is the recovery partition, basically, but in its current state it is useless. To make it work for us we need to first move it from the ISO or DVD to a location on your hard disk. From there, we convert it from install.esd to install.wim, and this is possible with the WimConverter tool, downloaded earlier.
Extract the winreducerwimconverter.zip file and run it, updating as requested. You’ll then be able to use the Open button to browse for the install.esd file, and use the Convert button in the top left corner to begin. When all is converted, you should now have a file called install.wim, which you should copy to a new folder on your C:\ drive, labelled C:\Win81-Recovery. The next stage is to register the file so that Windows knows it is there and can create a recovery drive.
On the desktop, right-click the Windows Start screen button and select Command Prompt (Admin). In the command line, enter:
REAGENTC /SetOSImage /Path C:\Win81-Recovery\INSTALL.WIM /Index 1
This will register the INSTALL.WIM file as your PC’s recovery image.
To confirm this has worked, enter:
With a recovered, working recovery partition, you can now proceed with the standard steps to begin refreshing your computer, or resetting the system to its factory settings.
Alternatively, if you need to rush the recovery or if you’re having issues with the WIM conversion, you might consider heading to the Microsoft TechNet site and downloading the Windows 8.1 Enterprise evaluation kit. This is an ISO file of around 3.5 GB, and you will need to make sure that you have chosen the correct version for your hardware. However, this will lead to problems later on, namely a reset PC that requires activation, so we suggest you stick to the steps above.
Recovery Back in Place: You’re Ready to Reset!
With your recovery partition now replaced and registered, you’ll be able to reset Windows 8.
As described, you’ll need to head to Settings > Change PC Settings, tap Update and Recovery, and make a decision between the two options. Note that if you take the Remove everything… option, Windows will then ask you to confirm which drives you want to be wiped. Windows 8 has a secure wipe feature here, which should remove anything sensitive or embarrassing from your computer’s hard disk drive.
If it doesn’t do the job, other secure wipe utilities are available.
Any questions? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: hand picking up Via Shutterstock