If there is one question that keeps coming up, it is how to get a disk to reinstall a Windows system. Since most OEM systems don’t come with a Windows installation disk, many people find themselves wanting to reinstall Windows but having no disk. There are ways to create an installation disk from an operating Windows system (see here and also here) but unfortunately many PC users neglect to do this. In the case of Windows 8.1, Microsoft has finally decided to make an installation disk readily available and here is how to get it.
The new Microsoft download site is at this link. The site provides for either saving the installation files to a USB flash drive or burning an ISO file to a DVD. You don’t have to use a Windows 8 system to do the downloading and I used a Windows 7 machine. The download is large and you will need at least 4 GB of space. I tried a standard 4 GB USB flash drive but, since its capacity was actually somewhat less than 4 GB, it wouldn’t work and I had to use an 8 GB drive. Note that any pre-existing files on the flash drive are deleted.
The instructions on the Microsoft page are pretty clear and the process is pretty straightforward, albeit tedious. You first have to download a small 1.26 MB setup file called mediacreationtool.exe. I placed the file on the USB flash drive I was going to use but it can go anywhere. Click this setup file and follow the instructions. I did not try burning to a DVD but I assume the process will work as long as you have DVD burning capability and a blank DVD with enough space. Even on a fast Internet connection, the download can take several hours but you can continue to use your PC in the meantime. After the download is complete, it takes another substantial period of time while the installation files are set up. The progress of the download and then of the disk creation are shown in a window. An example of the window display is shown below.
The installation disk is free but it does not come with a product key. You still have to pay for a license. It is, however, a great convenience for those who have to reinstall or repair an existing licensed Windows 8.1 system and don't have an installation disk.
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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.
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