Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Recovering a laptop with no CD drive or installation media is tricky, but not impossible. I explore several options to get that laptop up and running again.
I have ASUS UL20A laptop, Windows 7, with Intel Pentium and a 320 GB with no CD drive. Now, I've lost the recovery CD which I can't use anyway becausse I have no CD drive. But I want to format and completely restore my laptop to factory settings. But I'm scared that I will lose Windows 7. I cannot update my Windows on the Windows Update options. I've tried troubleshooting and manually downloading updates. But nothing works. It just gives me an error.
In this excerpt from Answercast #4, I'll walk through the problems and options available for reformatting and reinstalling a computer with no CD or installation media.
So offhand I'd say, yes, that's the right thing to do: reformat and reinstall. There are two problems here: one, the CD drive that you don't have: two, no recovery media.
My recommendation for most people who have a computer that has no optical drive (some laptops and many netbooks) is to go out and get an external USB CD/DVD drive. It's up to you if you want it to be just a reader or read/writer. But the important thing is that this drive will let you use recovery media, fresh installation media, whatever it is you happen to have.
The BIOS on your machine, I'm sure, will let you boot from a USB, an external USB drive. If that happens to be a CD drive, then you're as good as having had one internally. So that's the solution to the CD drive problem.
Losing your recovery media on the other hand is a tougher one to crack.
My recommendation there would be to start by contacting the manufacturer and see if they have a solution for you. Depending on the manufacturer (and unfortunately, I have no experience with ASUS so I can't tell you if they're one of the good guys here), they can often provide you with replacement recovery media once you've proven to them that you've got one of their machines.
The issue there is that, as I've discussed in other articles on the site, recovery media may or may not be enough depending on how the machine was configured.
Many machines will have a backup copy of Windows, if you will, on the hard disk and the recovery media will then simply access that. That's why you would need the recovery media. Others will not and, instead of recovery media, what they provide with the machine is actually reinstallation media. Which includes a complete copy of Windows.
That's actually my preferred approach, but it's not always available. So start by going to the computer manufacturer and seeing what kind of replacement options they have for recovery and reinstallation media after you've gotten an external CD drive.
If they do not, or they're unwilling to provide you with the media, the only solution that I'm aware of is to go out and purchase yourself a new retail copy of Windows 7. It will be more expensive, but if you want Windows 7, that's really the only approach that I'm aware of to get back to a working state.
If you're willing to, you can certainly investigate the free alternatives like Ubuntu Linux, but I'm assuming that Windows 7 is required for a reason and that's the only answer that I really have for you.
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