Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Speculating about Windows 8 and how it might handle partitions is still a guess. Whatever it may do, backup software is still the best way to manage your restore partition.

Given that few people have Windows on a CD or disc anymore, what will happen when Windows 8 comes out? More to the point is that Windows 7 for me and many others resides on a partition of my main drive. The question is – will Windows 8 reset my computer and delete the partition making the computer a Windows 8 only machine? Even if the partition remains, then how can the partition be upgraded to Windows 8 or will I have to reinstall Windows 7 and then Windows 8 via upgrade every time I want to reset my computer? I understand that Windows 8 has the ability to reset to factory specs however, does that mean reset to the point I installed Windows 7 or will this be as if Windows 7 was never on and be as if the upgrade is really a complete version and not an upgrade? Thanks for your time and consideration.

In this excerpt from Answercast #38, I look at potential difficulties in installing Windows 8 on a system. What if you want to go back?

Waiting for Windows 8

I want to start by saying I honestly believe that a lot of thinking (or the questions and the worrying that I see about Windows 8) is premature. Windows 8 has not been released.

  • It won't be released until October.

  • I really don't think, for most people, that it needs to be an issue this soon;

  • And certainly, even perhaps, not for awhile after it actually has been released.

Windows 8 recovery partition

However, to your questions. (Of course, since Windows 8 has not been released, this is speculation... but it's a highly educated guess, is what I'll call it.)

So, when you install Windows 8, will it affect your recovery partition?

Probably not.

  • The chances are that the recovery partition was probably placed there by your computer manufacturer, since Windows 7 was pre-installed on your machine.

  • Chances are Windows 8 will simply install Windows 8 into the primary partition and not much else.

Now, if that's the case, then if you were to use the recovery partition, you would be recovering your machine back to its Windows 7 initial state.

Backup image

The way around that is actually fairly straightforward. After you setup Windows 8, make a backup image.

In fact, I think a backup image is a good thing, especially (as you say) since so many people don't have installation CDs to reset their operating system to its initial state. The best thing to do to recover from that is to simply make a system image as soon as you can after the operating system is installed.

  • Save that system image.

  • Because that is what you would restore your machine to should you ever need to restore it to its initial state.

You don't have the installation discs to be able to reinstall the operating system – but you have something better. You have an image of the operating system:

  • As it was installed;

  • Immediately after it was installed;

  • At its initial state.

Always backup your system

That works for Windows 8, for Windows 7, for Windows XP, I really don't care what version of operating system you're running.

If you install the operating system, or if you get a machine that doesn't (for whatever reason) come with installation media, then by all means:

  • Go out and get a good disk-imaging program.

I recommend Macrium Reflect. The free version will deal with this perfectly.

  • Image the hard drive.

  • Save that image somewhere safe.

So that if you ever need it, you have an opportunity to restore the machine back to its initial state that you saved a snapshot of.

Take control of your system

By using this initial image, that you create yourself, you actually take all the guesswork out of what Windows 8 might or might not do to your system.

  • You control what a system image contains;

  • You control when it is taken;

  • And you control what it means, then, to restore to that system image at any point in the future.

Article C5628 - July 27, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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July 27, 2012 5:26 AM

Couldn't agree more. Generally speaking, the recovery partition on a hard drive is hidden, and not referenced once the install partition has been selected in the initial stages of the installation. To eliminate all doubt, image the drive before you install Windows 8.

July 29, 2012 10:49 PM

Hello Leo,
To answer the original question, most PC's bought within the last 2 - 3 years have a "make restore disk" selection upon initial setup when first starting the machine for the first time, right after selecting a computer name, home group, etc... You just follow the prompts on the setup menu and record a boot disk (iso) of the factory settings.
The only problem with this setup is that you also copy all the "crapware" the machine came with.
If you've been running the machine without doing this first, you can still do it by accessing the manufacturer link/folder in the start menu and following the same steps. You can also purchase a copy of your restore disks from the computer manufacturer for between $10.00 - $20.00. I did it for my Acer laptop since it came with no OS or Driver disk(s). It was like $14.00 shipped.
If you download and install the "test" copy of W8 you will most likely wipe out the restore partition as well as all your files & folders, even though the directions say otherwise. It's why it's the "test" version, not the official release copy.
If you want to install W8, It's best to do it on a completely separate partition or hard drive, this way you won't have to worry about restore partitions and such.
I have yet to find a restore program that I completely trust, be it Leo's first suggestion from years back, Acronis or Macrium Reflect that he recommends now.
I have a licensed copy of W7 Ultimate, plus the Dell original OS Disk(s) & Acer original OS Disk for my Desk Top & Lap Top, plus a 500 gig external HD for the laptop and 2 - 500 gig hard drives in the desk top with all files from both machines and another 1 terabite external HD backed up manually weekly and kept off site in case of fire, flood, etc...
To me, nothing beats a drive that can be accessed in real time, manually, any time from any machine instead of relying on software with potential glitches, or operator error. Which most likely is my case with my backup programs (Acronis,Macrium) being unreliable.
There is no doubt in my mind about Leo's choice when it comes to what he recommends.
If I were you, I'd just install W8 on a separate Hard Drive and have fun! It's really no good unless you have a touch screen or do high quality/demand graphics anyhow.
It's mainly designed for touchscreen PC's or phones. Have fun messing around with it! It lost it's appeal for me after a few weeks since I don't have a touchscreen PC.


November 4, 2012 8:28 AM

good article. I downloaded macrium and It said it needed to download waif or something from Microsoft. it did that and after two hours it hadn't finished installing after it downloaded the thing. So I went back to the restore I had point I created and uninstalled it never to be seen again. Do you have any other recommendations for image programs?

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