In my quest to unlock a Windows 8.1 laptop whose password had grown legs recently, I ran up against a problem that’s disturbingly common. Windows 8.1 has a great factory reset feature that can nuke all traces of an old user in one. The problem is that halfway through it’ll ask you to “Insert your Windows installation or recovery media to continue” – and who keeps hold of those, really?

Thankfully, I discovered this incredibly handy tool: it’s a way to create “reset and refresh media”, which in everyday terms means a Windows installation disc.

It’s directly from Microsoft, too, so it’s entirely legitimate. You will still need your own Windows serial key to actually install Windows, but if you’ve lost your disc this is a brilliant – and incredibly easy – way to replace it.

The beauty of the solution is that it’s just so simple. All you need is a USB drive bigger than 4GB or a blank DVD, and to click a single button on a website. Specifically, this website.

That loads an applet that then does everything for you – it formats the USB drive, downloads the installation files, creates the .ISO image of the operating system and makes the disc or drive bootable.

Screenshot (862)

All you have to do is watch, and when it’s all done to insert your chosen media into your PC, reboot, and follow the prompts. Very easy.

So, in case you missed it, here are the steps:

  • Find or buy an 8GB or larger USB drive (4GB drives don’t work for some reason). A blank DVD works, too.
  • Insert it into your PC.
  • Go to this web page.
  • Click Create Media.
  • Choose your operating system and language. It must be identical to the version of Windows your serial key is for.
  • Wait for the download to complete.
  • Choose the correct drive, wait for the media-creation process to complete. Follow any prompts that come up.

And you’re done! You can now perform repairs and refreshes of Windows installations on PCs running the same version of Windows you’ve just created “refresh and reset” media for.

You can also use your newly-created boot drive/DVD to install Windows on any PC. As long as you have a genuine serial key, of course.

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.