How to Mount an ISO image in Windows 7, 8, and 10

On Windows 8 and 10, Windows finally offers a built-in way to mount ISO disc image files. If you’re using Windows 7, you’ll need a third-party tool.

Mounting an ISO Image in Windows 8, 8.1 or 10

On Windows 8 and 10, Windows has the built-in ability to mount both ISO disc image and VHD virtual hard drive image files. You have three options. You can:

  • Double-click an ISO file to mount it. This won’t work if you have ISO files associated with another program on your system.
  • Right-click an ISO file and select the “Mount” option.
  • Select the file in File Explorer and and click the “Mount” button under the “Disk Image Tools” tab on the ribbon.

Once you’ve mounted the disc image, you’ll see it appear as a new drive under This PC. Right-click the drive and select “Eject” to unmount the ISO file when you’re done.

Mounting an ISO Image in Windows 7 or Vista

On older versions of Windows, you’ll need a third-party application to mount ISO image files. We like WinCDEmu, a simple and open-source disc mounting program. It supports ISO files and other disc image formats.
WinCDEmu is even useful on Windows 8 and 10, where it will allow you to mount the BIN/CUE, NRG, MDS/MDF, CCD, and IMG image files that Windows still doesn’t offer built-in support for.
Install WinCDEmu and give it permission to install the hardware driver it requires. After you do, just double-click a disc image file to mount it. You can also right-click a disc image file and click “Select drive letter & mount” in the context menu.

You’ll see a simple interface for choosing the drive letter and other basic options. Click “OK” and the mounted image will appear under Computer. To unmount the disc image when you’re done, right-click the virtual disc drive and select “Eject”.

How to Restore System Image Backups on Windows 7, 8, and 10

Windows can create “system image backups,” which are essentially complete images of your hard drive and all the files on it. Once you’ve got a system image backup, you can restore your system exactly as it was when you backed up, even if your installation is badly corrupted or completely gone.
Windows contains many different backup tools. Most people won’t want to use this feature at all, and should just back up files with File History or another file-backup tool. But enthusiasts or system administrators who want to create a complete image of a system at one point in time will appreciate and use system image backups.

Create a System Image Backup the Easy Way

Microsoft might include backup tools in Windows, but they only do the bare minimum and they are confusing. If you want to back up your entire computer the easy way, Acronis True Image 2016 is the way to go.
Acronis True Image 2016 can back up your entire computer, including your operating system, applications, and data, and then restore it to the existing computer, or even a completely separate computer.
And if you upgrade to Acronis True Image Cloud, you can optionally store a complete backup of your entire computer in the cloud as well as on a local drive.
Back Up Your PC or Mac the Easy Way with True Image

Your System Image Backup Can’t Be Restored On Another PC

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You can’t restore a Windows system image backup on a different PC. Your Windows installation is tied to your PC’s specific hardware, so this only works for restoring a computer to its previous state.
While you can’t restore a system image backup on another PC, you can extract individual files from a system image backup. Microsoft says it’s not possible to extract individual files from a system image backup, and they don’t provide an easy tool to do so — but they’re just standard VHD (virtual hard disk) image files that you can “mount” and copy files from using File Explorer or Windows Explorer.
Be sure to connect the drive containing the system image backups to your computer before continuing.

How to Create a System Image Backup

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Creating system image backups is still fairly simple. On Windows 7, it’s integrated with the normal backup tool. On Windows 8.1 and 10, just open the File History backup window in the control panel. You’ll see a “System Image Backup” link, which will open the “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)” tool. Click the “Create a system image” link to create a system image.
There’s a good chance your system image backup will be quite large, so you’ll want to have a large drive to put it on. An external USB hard drive is ideal.

How to Restore Your Backup from the Control Panel (Windows 7 Only)

If Windows is still working properly, you can do this right from the Windows desktop. However, this option only appears to be present on Windows 7. It was removed in Windows 8, 8.1, and 10.
To do this, open the Control Panel and locate the “Backup and Restore” panel. You can just search for “backup” in the Control Panel to find it. At the bottom of the window, click the “Recover system settings or your computer” link.  Click “Advanced Recovery Methods” in the window that appears and then click the “Use a system image you created earlier to recover your computer” link.

How to Restore Your Backup Through Windows’ Startup Options (7, 8, and 10)

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You can also restore your image from a special boot recovery menu. This is the easiest way to restore images on Windows 10 or 8.1, as the option to restore a system image is no longer available from the desktop.
On Windows 10 or 8.1, hold down the “Shift” key on your keyboard and click the “Restart” option in the Start menu or Start screen. If your computer isn’t booting properly, Windows will automatically boot to this menu after a failed boot. If it doesn’t, then even the startup options themselves are corrupted.
Your computer will boot to the special recovery menu. Click the “Troubleshoot” tile, click “Advanced Options,” and then click “System Image Recovery.”

On Windows 7, reboot the computer and press the “F8” key while it’s booting. Select the “Repair Your Computer” option and press Enter to boot into recovery mode.
Choose your keyboard layout when asked, and then select the “Restore your computer using a system image that you created earlier” option in the System Recovery Options window. Select a system image from a connected drive and go through the rest of the wizard to restore it.

How to Restore Your Backup with a Recovery Drive

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If you’ve created a recovery drive, you can boot from a recovery drive and restore your image from there, too. This is the only way to restore images when Windows can’t boot at all, or if Windows isn’t currently installed on the PC. If you haven’t created a recovery drive yet, you can create a recovery drive on another Windows PC that’s currently working properly and take it to your current PC.
Insert the recovery drive and boot from it. This may require changing the boot order in your computer’s BIOS or accessing a “boot devices” menu.
On Windows 10 or 8.1, you’ll see the same options you would in the boot options above. Just select Advanced Options > System Image Recovery. On Windows 7, select the “System Image Recovery” link.

How to Restore Your Backup from Windows Installation Media

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If you have a Windows installation disc or flash drive lying around, you can boot from it and restore a system image. This will work even if Windows isn’t currently installed on the PC. If you don’t have any installation media lying around, you can create a Windows installer USB drive or DVD on another Windows PC and take it to your current PC.
Boot from the Windows installation media like you would the recovery drive above. Just as if you were booting from a recovery drive, this may require changing the boot order in your computer’s BIOS or accessing a “boot devices” menu.
Whatever type of installation disc you’re using, go through the first few screens until you reach a screen with an “Install now” button. Ignore that button and click the “Repair your computer” link at the bottom-left corner of the window to access the same system repair tools you’d access from a recovery drive or from the boot-up menu above.


System images are a very useful way to restore your entire PC exactly as it was when you backed up, although they aren’t for everyone. They aren’t even for most Windows users — that’s why Microsoft even tried to remove this option back in the development versions of Windows 8.1 before succumbing to pressure from enthusiasts and restoring the feature.
Image Credit: daryl_mitchell on Flickr

How to Use the On-Screen Keyboard on Windows 7, 8, and 10

Windows offers an on-screen keyboard that lets you type even if you don’t have access to a physical keyboard. It’s particularly useful with a touch screen, but you can also use it to type with a mouse–or even to type with a game controller from your couch.
On Windows 10 and 8, there are actually two on-screen keyboards: the basic touch keyboard you can bring up from the taskbar, and a more advanced on-screen keyboard in the Ease of Access settings. We’ll show you how to open both.



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Windows 10

To quickly access the keyboard from the taskbar on Windows 10, right-click the taskbar and ensure the “Show touch keyboard button” option in the context menu is enabled.

You’ll see a keyboard icon appear near your system tray, or notification area. Click that icon or tap it with your finger to pull up the on-screen keyboard.

Once you’ve opened the on-screen keyboard you can tap or click the buttons to send keyboard input. It works just like a normal keyboard would: select a text field by clicking or tapping in it and then use the on-screen buttons with your finger or mouse.
The icons in the top-right corner allow you to move or enlarge the keyboard. The keyboard button at the bottom of the on-screen keyboard allows you to select different layouts.

RELATED ARTICLEHow to Manage Accessibility Features in Windows 10
There’s also a more advanced on-screen keyboard, which is part of the Ease of Access settings. To access it, open the Start menu and select “Settings.” Navigate to Ease of Access > Keyboard and activate the “On-Screen Keyboard” option at the top of the window.
This keyboard includes quite a few more keys, and functions more like a traditional, full PC keyboard than the touch keyboard does. It’s also a normal desktop window that you can resize and minimize, unlike the new touch keyboard. You’ll find some additional options you can use to configure it if you click the “Options” button near the bottom-right corner of the keyboard. You can pin it to your taskbar like you would any other program if you’d like to launch it more easily in the future.

You can also access this keyboard on Windows 10’s sign-in screen. Click the “Ease of Access” button at the bottom-right corner of the sign-in screen–to the left of the power button–and select “On-Screen Keyboard” in the menu that appears.

Windows 8 and 8.1

Windows 8 and 8.1 work similarly to Windows 10, but the toolbar option is in a slightly different place. To access it, right-click your toolbar, point to “Toolbars,” and ensure “Touch Keyboard” is checked.
You’ll then see a touch keyboard icon appear to the left of your system tray, or notification area. Click or tap it to open the touch keyboard.

You can also open the traditional on-screen keyboard on these versions of Windows, too. To do so, right-click the Start button on the taskbar on Windows 8.1, or right-click in the bottom-left corner of your screen on Windows 8. Select “Control Panel.” In the Control Panel window, click “Ease of Access,” click “Ease of Access Center,” and then click “Start On-Screen Keyboard.”
You can pin the keyboard to your taskbar to access it more easily in the future, if you like.

You can also access the on-screen keyboard on Windows 8’s sign-in screen. Click or tap the “Ease of Access” icon at the bottom-left corner of the sign-in screen and select “On-Screen Keyboard” in the menu that appears to open it.

Windows 7

On Windows 7, you can open the on-screen keyboard by clicking the Start button, selecting “All Programs,” and navigating to Accessories > Ease of Access > On-Screen Keyboard.
You’ll also find a “Start On-Screen Keyboard” button in the Control Panel’s Ease of Access Center, but that does the same thing as launching the keyboard directly.

For easier access in the future, you can right-click the “On-screen keyboard” icon on your taskbar and select “Pin this program to taskbar.”

It doesn’t look quite as slick as it does on Windows 8 and 10, but the on-screen keyboard works similarly. Select a text field and start typing with your mouse, finger, or whatever other input device you have.

To use the on-screen keyboard on Windows 7’s sign-in screen, click the “Ease of Access” button at the bottom-left corner of the screen and check the “Type without the keyboard (On-Screen Keyboard)” option in the list that appears.


The on-screen keyboard is for more than just typing text. Keyboard shortcuts work on it, too, just as they would on a physical keyboard. Click or tap a modifier key–like the Shift or Alt keys–and it’ll stay “pressed down” until you select the next key you want to type.

How to Remove (or Change) Arrows on Shortcut Icons in Windows 7, 8, and 10

In Windows, icons for shortcuts have little arrows to remind you that what you’re looking at is a shortcut. Even though the arrows are smaller than in some previous versions of Windows, they aren’t terribly attractive. Fortunately, they’re pretty easy to remove.
Removing those little arrows requires a tweak to the Windows Registry, but there are a few different ways of going about it. These methods should work in Windows 7, 8, and 10.



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Edit the Registry Manually

While it isn’t the easiest way, you can edit the registry yourself without downloading or running any extra sofware. You can also use the Registry to bring back the oversized arrow from the Windows Vista days, just in case you like really ugly things.
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Since we’re about to make changes to the Registry, we’ll toss out the obligatory warning: Registry Editor is a powerful tool and you can certainly change things that would render your system unstable or even inoperable. This is a simple hack that anyone can do, as long as you stick to the instructions. If you’ve never worked with it before, consider reading about how to use the Registry Editor before you get started. And definitely back up the Registry (and your computer!) before making changes.
To get started, open the Registry Editor by hitting Start and typing “regedit.” Press Enter to open Registry Editor and give it permission to make changes to your PC. In the Registry Editor, use the left sidebar to navigate to the following key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer

Look through the Explorer key and see if there’s a subkey named Shell Icons. If there’s not, you’ll need to create it by right-clicking the Explorer folder icon, choosing New > Key, and naming it Shell Icons.

Next, you’re going to create a new value inside the Shell Icons key. Right-click the Shell Icons folder icon and choose New > String Value. Name the new value 29.

Now, you’re going to modify that value. Double-click the new 29 value and type (or copy and paste) the following into the “Value data” box to remove arrows from shortcut icons:
%windir%\System32\shell32.dll,-50

Click OK and exit Registry Editor. You’ll need to restart your computer (or log off and back on) to see the changes. If you want to bring the arrows back, just delete the 29 value you created. You can leave the Shell Icons key in place.
You also have another option, if you’re so inclined. You can replace the regular arrows with the super large, Vista-style arrows. They’re huge and kind of ugly, but there would be no mistaking which icons were shortcuts. Just use this string for the value on the 29 key you created:
%windir%\System32\shell32.dll,-16769

Then, once again, close Registry Editor and restart your computer to see the changes.

Download Our One-Click Registry Hack

RELATED ARTICLEHow to Make Your Own Windows Registry Hacks
If you don’t feel like diving into the Registry yourself, we’ve created some downloadable registry hacks you can use. One hack removes the arrows, one replaces them with large arrows, and one restores them to the default style. All three are included in the following ZIP file. Just double-click the one you want to use, click through the prompts, and then restart your computer (or log off and back on).
Windows Shortcut Arrow Hacks
These hacks are really just the Shell Icon key we described above, exported to a .REG file. Running the hack adds the key to the Registry. If you enjoy fiddling with the Registry, it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make your own Registry hacks.

Alter the Setting with Ultimate Windows Tweaker

The easiest way to remove shortcut arrows, if you’re willing to download extra software, is to use a third party tweaking utility. One of the best is Ultimate Windows Tweaker 4 for Windows 10. For Windows 8, you’ll need UWT 3. For Windows 7, you’ll need UWT 2.2.  It also happens to be free and it’s a portable tool, so there’s nothing to install. Just download it, run it, and start tweaking. Tools like this offer lots of tweaking options, so our advice is to go slow. Make a tweak or two at a time and see how they work, then come back for more. Ultimate Windows Tweaker automatically creates a system restore point for you when it starts, but if you’re concerned about a tweak go ahead and back up your computer first. You’re always taking a small risk when you use system tweaking tools like this.
To remove arrows from shortcut icons with Ultimate Windows Tweaker, choose the Customization section on the left, click the File Explorer tab, and then click “Remove Shortcut Arrows From Shortcut Icons.” To put them back, follow the same process. The button will now be named “Restore Shortcut Arrows To Shortcut Icons.”

That’s all it takes! No matter what method you use, you should be able to get exactly the icons you want with minimal fuss.

How to Use System Restore in Windows 7, 8, and 10

System Restore is a Windows feature that can help fix certain types of crashes and other computer problems. Here’s how it works, how to set it up, and how to use it when things go awry.
We’re going to be using Windows 10 in this article, but System Restore has been around a long time–and works pretty much the same way in each version of Windows. The instructions here are good for Windows 7, 8, and 10, and you’ll encounter only minor differences throughout the process.



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What Is System Restore?

When something goes wrong on your system as a result of a bad piece of software–maybe an app you installed, or a driver that broke something important–it can be hard to fix. System Restore lets you restore your Windows installation back to its last working state.
It does this by creating “restore points” every so often. Restore points are snapshots of your Windows system files, certain program files, registry settings, and hardware drivers. You can create a restore point at any time, though Windows automatically creates a restore point once per week. It also creates a restore point right before a major system event, like installing a new device driver, app, or running Windows update.

Then, if something goes wrong, you can run System Restore and point it to a recent restore point. It will reinstate those system settings, files, and drivers, returning your underlying Windows system to that earlier state.
This can be really useful when troubleshooting certain types of problems. For example, if you install a device driver that makes your computer unstable, you’ll want to uninstall that driver. However, in some cases, the driver may not uninstall properly, or it may damage system files when you uninstall it. If you use System Restore and select a restore point that was created before you installed the driver, this can restore your system files to the previous state before any problem occurred.
Windows Restore can also be really useful for undoing the damage caused by a misbehaving app or Windows update. Sometimes, apps and updates can cause problems with other apps or even system components and simply uninstalling the app might not reverse the damage. Restoring to a point before the app was installed, however, can often clear up the problem.

How Does Using System Restore Affect My Personal Files?

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System Restore is different than making backups–it specifically works on the underlying Windows system, rather than everything on your hard drive. As such, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration. So don’t count on System Restore as working like a backup. That isn’t what it’s intended for. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.

How Does Using System Restore Affect My Apps?

When you restore your PC to an earlier restore point, any apps you installed after that point will get uninstalled. Apps that were installed when that restore point was created will still be in place. Apps that you uninstalled after making that restore point will get restored, but with a very big caveat. Since System Restore only restores certain types of files, programs that get restored often won’t work–or at least, work properly until you re-run their installers.
Windows does let you see exactly what programs will be affected when you go through the process, but it’s a good idea to restore to the most recent restore point possible to minimize problems with apps. It’s also a good idea to create manual restore points before you undertake big installations or settings changes so that you know you can revert to a very recent restore point if you need to.

Can System Restore Remove Viruses or Other Malware?

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System Restore is not a good solution for removing viruses or other malware. Since malicious software is typically buried within all kinds of places on a system, you can’t rely on System Restore being able to root out all parts of the malware. Instead, you should rely on a quality virus scanner that you keep up to date.

How to Enable System Restore

For many people, System Restore protection is turned on by default for your main system drive (C:) and not other drives on your PC. For others, System Restore is not enabled by default for any drives. Right now, there’s no consensus for why this happens. It does not appear related to whether Windows was installed fresh or upgraded, how much disk space you have available, what type of drives you have, or anything else we can figure out.
If you want to be protected by System Restore, you should absolutely turn it on for at least your system drive. In most cases, that’s all you need, since all the things System Restore protects tend to be located on the system drive anyway. If you want to turn on System Restore protection for other drives–say, for example, you install some programs to a different drive–you can do that too.
To make sure System Restore is turned on–and to enable it for specific drives–hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” Don’t worry. This doesn’t actually create a restore point; it just opens the dialog where you can get to all the System Restore options.

On the “System Protection” tab, in the “Protection Settings” section, you’ll see the available drives on your PC and whether protection is enabled for each drive. To turn on protection, select a drive on the list and click the “Configure” button.
(In our case, System Restore was already enabled for our C: drive. If it isn’t on your system, that’s the first drive you’ll probably want to enable it for.)

In the “System Protection” dialog that opens, click the “Turn on system protection” option, adjust the “Max Usage” slider to the amount of hard drive space you want System Restore to be able to use, and then click “OK.”

You can then click “OK” again to exit the System Properties dialog. Just be aware that when Windows creates a restore point (or you create one manually), System Restore will create a restore point on all the drives that have system protection enabled.

How to Create a Restore Point

As we mentioned earlier, System Restore automatically creates restore points on a week, and whenever a major event like an application or driver installation happens. You can also create a restore point yourself whenever you want. Hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” On the “System Protection” tab, click the “Create” button.

Type a description for your restore point that will help you remember why you created it and then click “Create.”

It can take 30 seconds or so to create a restore point, and System Restore will let you know when it’s done. Click “Close.”

How to Restore Your System to an Earlier Restore Point

Okay, so you have System Restore enabled, and you’ve been diligent about creating restore points whenever you mess with your system. Then, one fateful day, the inevitable happens–something goes wonky with your system, and you want to restore to an earlier restore point.
You’ll start the restore process from the same “System Protection” tab where you configure System Restore options. Hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” On the “System Protection” tab, click the “System Restore” button.

The welcome page of the System Restore wizard just gives you a brief description of the process. Click “Next” to go on.

The next page shows you the available restore points. By default, the only thing showing will probably be the automatic weekly restore point and any manual restore points you’ve created. Select the “Show more restore points” option to see any automatic restore points created before app or driver installations.
Select the restore point you want–remember, the most recent working restore point is ideal–and then click “Scan for affected programs” to have System Restore detect any programs that will be uninstalled during the process.

System Restore will present you with two lists. The top list shows you programs and drivers that will be deleted if you restore Windows to the selected restore point. The bottom list shows programs and drivers that might be restored by the process. Again, even programs and drivers that get restored might not function properly until you do a full reinstall.

When you’re ready to restore, click the restore point you want to use and then click Next. Note that you can skip the scanning step and just click Next anyway, but it’s always good to see what apps will be affected before you start the process.

Next, you’re asked to confirm the restoration. Make sure you’ve selected the right restore point and click “Finish.”

System Restore informs you that once it starts, the restore process cannot be interrupted. Click “Yes” to start.

Windows will restart your PC and begin the restore process. It can take a while for System Restore to reinstate all those files–plan for at least 15 minutes, possibly more–but when your PC comes back up, you’ll be running at your selected restore point. It’s now time to test whether it resolved whatever problems you were having. And remember that System Restore creates an additional restore point right before performing the restore process, so you can always undo your actions by performing this same process and selecting that new restore point.

Other Ways You Can Fix System Problems

If System Restore doesn’t solve your problem, there are other ways you can go about addressing some of the issues System Restore is designed to solve.
If the problem was caused by a recent update, you can look at uninstalling that Windows Update or reverting to a previous “build” of Windows 10. This should fix problems that might occur due to Windows Update and issues with your specific hardware and software.
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If you believe your system files are corrupted–or just want to check–you can try using the System File Checker to scan for and fix corrupt system files.
If you installed an update or hardware driver and the problem started after that, you can uninstall the driver or update and block them from being automatically installed again.
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If Windows isn’t booting properly so you can’t do any of this, you can boot into Safe Mode. You can also visit the “advanced startup options” screen — these will automatically appear if Windows 10 can’t boot normally — and use the options there.
Safe Mode is also useful if for some reason System Restore is unable to restore your PC to the selected restore point. You can boot into Safe Mode and try running System Restore again from there. One big caveat though, as reader Straspey was good enough to point out. When you revert to a restore point from Safe Mode, System Restore does not create a new restore point during the process, meaning that you don’t have a way to undo the restore.
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Windows 10 also has two recovery tools that you can use if all else fails. The “Reset Your PC” feature can restore Windows to its factory default condition, or perform a clean installation of Windows while keeping your personal files intact.


System Restore isn’t a cure-all, but it can fix a surprising number of problems and unfortunately has been downplayed somewhat in recent years amidst all of Windows’ other recovery tools. System Restore is almost always worth trying before you result to more drastic measures, though.

How to Find Your Missing USB Drive in Windows 7, 8, and 10

USB drives should automatically appear in Windows Explorer when you connect them to your computer. Follow these troubleshooting steps if Windows doesn’t show a connected drive.



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Diagnosing the Problem

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If you connected a USB drive and Windows doesn’t show up in the file manager, you should first check the Disk Management window.
To open Disk Management on Windows 8 or 10, right-click the Start button and select “Disk Management”. On Windows 7, press Windows+R to open the Run dialog, type diskmgmt.msc into it, and press Enter.

Examine the list of disks in the disk management window and look for your external drive. Even if it doesn’t show up in Windows Explorer, it should appear here. Look for a disk that matches the size of your flash drive. Sometimes, it’ll also be marked as “Removable”, but not always.
In the screenshot below, we’ve spotted our removable drive at “Disk 3”. If you see yours, move onto the next section.

If you don’t see the drive in the Disk Management window at all, try these troubleshooting steps:

  • Power On the Drive, if Necessary: Some external hard drives have their own power switches or separate power cables. If you’re using a larger drive, ensure it doesn’t have its own power switch or power cable you need to connect.
  • Plug It Into a Different USB Port: Try unplugging the external drive and plugging it into a different USB port on your computer. It’s possible that one particular USB port on the computer is dead.
  • Avoid USB Hubs: If you’re plugging the USB drive into a USB hub, try plugging it directly into one of your computer’s USB ports instead. It’s possible the USB hub doesn’t supply enough power.
  • Try a Different Computer: Try plugging the USB drive into a different computer and see if the other computer detects it. If no computers see the drive when you connect it–even in the Disk Management window–the USB drive itself is likely dead.

Hopefully, one of these will solve your problem. If not, move onto the fixes outlined below.

Fixing the Problem

Once you’ve performed the above steps, you’re in a better place to fix the problem. Here are a few possible solutions based on what you found when searching for the drive in Disk Management.

If Windows Asks You to Format the Partition When You Insert It

If Windows can see the drive but can’t read it, it’s possible the drive was formatted with a file system Windows doesn’t normally support. For example, this can occur if you format a drive with the HFS+ file system on a Mac or with the ext4 file system on a Linux PC.
If you connect a drive with a foreign file system, Windows will tell you it needs format the drive before it can use it. Don’t format the disk yet! This will erase any files on the disk. If you don’t need the files on the disk, you can agree to format it–but be sure the drive doesn’t have any important files on it before you do.

To read a drive like this one, you can either connect it to the Mac or Linux PC it was made on, and copy your files off of it onto another drive. Alternatively, you can use software that lets you read Mac or Linux file systems in Windows. After you copy the files off the drive, you can agree to let Windows format (erase) the disk. It will appear as an empty drive that is now compatible with Windows.
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If Other Windows PCs Can See the Drive, But Your Current One Can’t

If other computers detect the drive when you plug it in, but your current computer doesn’t, it’s possible there’s a driver problem in Windows.
To check for this, open the Device Manager. On Windows 8 or 10, right-click the Start button and select “Device Manager”. On Windows 7, press Windows+R, type devmgmt.msc into the Run dialog, and press Enter.
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Expand the “Disk Drives” and “USB Serial Bus controllers” sections and look for any devices with a yellow exclamation mark on their icon. If you see a device with an error icon, right-click it and select “Properties”. You’ll see an error message with more information. Search the web for this error message to find more information.

To fix driver problems, you may want to right-click the device, choose Properties, and head to the Driver tab. Use the “Update Driver” button to attempt to install an updated driver, click “Roll Back Driver” to roll back the driver to a previous one if it just stopped working, or use the “Uninstall” button to uninstall the driver and hope Windows automatically reinstalls one that will work.

If You See the Drive in Disk Management, and It Has Partitions

If the drive appears in Disk Management and you see one or more partitions on the drive–with a blue bar along the top–it may not be appearing in Windows Explorer because it needs to be assigned drive letters.
To do this, right-click the partition on the drive in Disk Management and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths”. If you can’t click “Change Drive Letter and Paths”, that’s because Windows doesn’t support the file system on the partition–see below for more information.

You may see that the partition has no drive letter assigned to it. Assign a driver letter and it should just work.
To assign a drive letter, click the “Add” button and assign a drive letter of your choice to the drive. Click “OK’ and it will appear in File Explorer or Windows Explorer with that drive letter.

If You See the Drive in Disk Management, But It’s Empty

If you see the drive in Disk Management, but it’s “Unallocated”, with a black bar along the top, this means that the drive is completely empty and unformatted. To format it, so Windows can use it, just right-click the unallocated space in Disk Management and select “New Simple Volume”.
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Choose the maximum possible size for the partition and assign a drive letter–you can let Windows automatically choose a drive letter. If you want the drive to be compatible with as many other operating system and devices as possible, format it with the exFAT file system when Windows asks. Otherwise, if you’re only using it on Windows machines, NTFS is fine. After it’s done, the drive should be usable.

If You See the Drive in Disk Management, But You Can’t Format It

In some cases, the drive may have a very messy partition scheme. You may even see “protected” partitions that you can’t delete from within Disk Management. Or, the partition on the drive may be too small because the drive has protected partitions wasting space on it.
You can “clean” the drive to clean up that mess, wiping all the files and partition information from the drive and making it usable once more. First, back up any important data on the drive if the drive has important data on it. The cleaning process will wipe the drive.
RELATED ARTICLEHow to “Clean” a Flash Drive, SD Card, or Internal Drive to Fix Partition and Capacity Problems
To clean the drive, you’ll need to open a Command Prompt window as Administrator and use the diskpart command to “clean” the appropriate drive. Follow our step-by-step instructions to cleaning a drive in Windows for more information. You can then create partitions on the empty drive.

With any luck, after following these steps, your drive will be in good working condition again.

How to Use System Restore in Windows 7, 8, and 10

System Restore is a Windows feature that can help fix certain types of crashes and other computer problems. Here’s how it works, how to set it up, and how to use it when things go awry.
We’re going to be using Windows 10 in this article, but System Restore has been around a long time–and works pretty much the same way in each version of Windows. The instructions here are good for Windows 7, 8, and 10, and you’ll encounter only minor differences throughout the process.



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What Is System Restore?

When something goes wrong on your system as a result of a bad piece of software–maybe an app you installed, or a driver that broke something important–it can be hard to fix. System Restore lets you restore your Windows installation back to its last working state.
It does this by creating “restore points” every so often. Restore points are snapshots of your Windows system files, certain program files, registry settings, and hardware drivers. You can create a restore point at any time, though Windows automatically creates a restore point once per week. It also creates a restore point right before a major system event, like installing a new device driver, app, or running Windows update.

Then, if something goes wrong, you can run System Restore and point it to a recent restore point. It will reinstate those system settings, files, and drivers, returning your underlying Windows system to that earlier state.
This can be really useful when troubleshooting certain types of problems. For example, if you install a device driver that makes your computer unstable, you’ll want to uninstall that driver. However, in some cases, the driver may not uninstall properly, or it may damage system files when you uninstall it. If you use System Restore and select a restore point that was created before you installed the driver, this can restore your system files to the previous state before any problem occurred.
Windows Restore can also be really useful for undoing the damage caused by a misbehaving app or Windows update. Sometimes, apps and updates can cause problems with other apps or even system components and simply uninstalling the app might not reverse the damage. Restoring to a point before the app was installed, however, can often clear up the problem.

How Does Using System Restore Affect My Personal Files?

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System Restore is different than making backups–it specifically works on the underlying Windows system, rather than everything on your hard drive. As such, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration. So don’t count on System Restore as working like a backup. That isn’t what it’s intended for. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.

How Does Using System Restore Affect My Apps?

When you restore your PC to an earlier restore point, any apps you installed after that point will get uninstalled. Apps that were installed when that restore point was created will still be in place. Apps that you uninstalled after making that restore point will get restored, but with a very big caveat. Since System Restore only restores certain types of files, programs that get restored often won’t work–or at least, work properly until you re-run their installers.
Windows does let you see exactly what programs will be affected when you go through the process, but it’s a good idea to restore to the most recent restore point possible to minimize problems with apps. It’s also a good idea to create manual restore points before you undertake big installations or settings changes so that you know you can revert to a very recent restore point if you need to.

Can System Restore Remove Viruses or Other Malware?

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System Restore is not a good solution for removing viruses or other malware. Since malicious software is typically buried within all kinds of places on a system, you can’t rely on System Restore being able to root out all parts of the malware. Instead, you should rely on a quality virus scanner that you keep up to date.

How to Enable System Restore

For many people, System Restore protection is turned on by default for your main system drive (C:) and not other drives on your PC. For others, System Restore is not enabled by default for any drives. Right now, there’s no consensus for why this happens. It does not appear related to whether Windows was installed fresh or upgraded, how much disk space you have available, what type of drives you have, or anything else we can figure out.
If you want to be protected by System Restore, you should absolutely turn it on for at least your system drive. In most cases, that’s all you need, since all the things System Restore protects tend to be located on the system drive anyway. If you want to turn on System Restore protection for other drives–say, for example, you install some programs to a different drive–you can do that too.
To make sure System Restore is turned on–and to enable it for specific drives–hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” Don’t worry. This doesn’t actually create a restore point; it just opens the dialog where you can get to all the System Restore options.

On the “System Protection” tab, in the “Protection Settings” section, you’ll see the available drives on your PC and whether protection is enabled for each drive. To turn on protection, select a drive on the list and click the “Configure” button.
(In our case, System Restore was already enabled for our C: drive. If it isn’t on your system, that’s the first drive you’ll probably want to enable it for.)

In the “System Protection” dialog that opens, click the “Turn on system protection” option, adjust the “Max Usage” slider to the amount of hard drive space you want System Restore to be able to use, and then click “OK.”

You can then click “OK” again to exit the System Properties dialog. Just be aware that when Windows creates a restore point (or you create one manually), System Restore will create a restore point on all the drives that have system protection enabled.

How to Create a Restore Point

As we mentioned earlier, System Restore automatically creates restore points on a week, and whenever a major event like an application or driver installation happens. You can also create a restore point yourself whenever you want. Hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” On the “System Protection” tab, click the “Create” button.

Type a description for your restore point that will help you remember why you created it and then click “Create.”

It can take 30 seconds or so to create a restore point, and System Restore will let you know when it’s done. Click “Close.”

How to Restore Your System to an Earlier Restore Point

Okay, so you have System Restore enabled, and you’ve been diligent about creating restore points whenever you mess with your system. Then, one fateful day, the inevitable happens–something goes wonky with your system, and you want to restore to an earlier restore point.
You’ll start the restore process from the same “System Protection” tab where you configure System Restore options. Hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” On the “System Protection” tab, click the “System Restore” button.

The welcome page of the System Restore wizard just gives you a brief description of the process. Click “Next” to go on.

The next page shows you the available restore points. By default, the only thing showing will probably be the automatic weekly restore point and any manual restore points you’ve created. Select the “Show more restore points” option to see any automatic restore points created before app or driver installations.
Select the restore point you want–remember, the most recent working restore point is ideal–and then click “Scan for affected programs” to have System Restore detect any programs that will be uninstalled during the process.

System Restore will present you with two lists. The top list shows you programs and drivers that will be deleted if you restore Windows to the selected restore point. The bottom list shows programs and drivers that might be restored by the process. Again, even programs and drivers that get restored might not function properly until you do a full reinstall.

When you’re ready to restore, click the restore point you want to use and then click Next. Note that you can skip the scanning step and just click Next anyway, but it’s always good to see what apps will be affected before you start the process.

Next, you’re asked to confirm the restoration. Make sure you’ve selected the right restore point and click “Finish.”

System Restore informs you that once it starts, the restore process cannot be interrupted. Click “Yes” to start.

Windows will restart your PC and begin the restore process. It can take a while for System Restore to reinstate all those files–plan for at least 15 minutes, possibly more–but when your PC comes back up, you’ll be running at your selected restore point. It’s now time to test whether it resolved whatever problems you were having. And remember that System Restore creates an additional restore point right before performing the restore process, so you can always undo your actions by performing this same process and selecting that new restore point.

Other Ways You Can Fix System Problems

If System Restore doesn’t solve your problem, there are other ways you can go about addressing some of the issues System Restore is designed to solve.
If the problem was caused by a recent update, you can look at uninstalling that Windows Update or reverting to a previous “build” of Windows 10. This should fix problems that might occur due to Windows Update and issues with your specific hardware and software.
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If you believe your system files are corrupted–or just want to check–you can try using the System File Checker to scan for and fix corrupt system files.
If you installed an update or hardware driver and the problem started after that, you can uninstall the driver or update and block them from being automatically installed again.
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If Windows isn’t booting properly so you can’t do any of this, you can boot into Safe Mode. You can also visit the “advanced startup options” screen — these will automatically appear if Windows 10 can’t boot normally — and use the options there.
Safe Mode is also useful if for some reason System Restore is unable to restore your PC to the selected restore point. You can boot into Safe Mode and try running System Restore again from there. One big caveat though, as reader Straspey was good enough to point out. When you revert to a restore point from Safe Mode, System Restore does not create a new restore point during the process, meaning that you don’t have a way to undo the restore.
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Windows 10 also has two recovery tools that you can use if all else fails. The “Reset Your PC” feature can restore Windows to its factory default condition, or perform a clean installation of Windows while keeping your personal files intact.


System Restore isn’t a cure-all, but it can fix a surprising number of problems and unfortunately has been downplayed somewhat in recent years amidst all of Windows’ other recovery tools. System Restore is almost always worth trying before you result to more drastic measures, though.

How to Fix Hard Drive Problems with Chkdsk in Windows 7, 8, and 10

Any time you have hard drive errors—or even strange behavior you might not at first associate with a hard drive—Check Disk can be a lifesaver. Here’s a full guide to using the Check Disk tool that comes with every version of Windows.



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What Chkdsk Does (and When to Use It)

The Check Disk utility, also known as chkdsk (since that’s the command you use to run it) scans through your entire hard drive to find and fix problems. It’s not a terribly exciting tool—and running it can take some time—but it can really help prevent bigger problems and loss of data in the long run. Chkdsk performs a couple of functions, depending on how it’s run:

  • Chkdsk’s basic function is to scan the integrity of the file system and file system metadata on a disk volume and fix any logical file system errors that it finds. Such errors might include corrupt entries in a volume’s master file table (MFT), bad security descriptors associated with files, or even misaligned time stamp or file size information about individual files.
  • Chkdsk can also optionally scan every sector on a disk volume looking for bad sectors. Bad sectors come in two forms: soft bad sectors, that can occur when data is written badly, and hard bad sectors that can occur because of physical damage to the disk. Chkdsk attempts to fix these problems by repairing soft bad sectors, and marking hard bad sectors so they won’t be used again.

That may all sound very technical, but don’t worry: you don’t need to understand the ins and outs of how it works to know when you should run it.
We recommend running chkdsk every few months as part of routine maintenance along with using a S.M.A.R.T. tool for drives that support it. You should also consider running it any time Windows has shut down abnormally—such as after a power loss or system crash. Sometimes Windows will automatically run a scan during startup, but most often you’ll have to do it yourself. Even if you’re just having strange problems with apps not loading or crashing that you haven’t been able to resolve another way, you might consider checking the disk.
For example: I once had a problem where Outlook suddenly started crashing on me shortly after loading. After a lot of troubleshooting, a chkdsk scan revealed I had bad sectors where my Outlook data file was stored. Fortunately, chkdsk was able to recover the sectors in my case, and everything went back to normal afterward.
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If chkdsk does encounter problems—especially hard bad sectors—that it can’t repair, data can become unusable. It’s not very likely, but it can happen. For that reason, you should always make sure you have a good backup routine in place and back up your PC before running chkdsk.
The chkdsk tool works pretty much the same in all versions of Windows. We’ll be working with Windows 10 in this article, so the screens may look slightly different if you’re using Windows 7 or 8, but chkdsk performs the same, and we’ll point out where any procedures differ. We’ll also talk about running it from the Command Prompt, in cases where you can’t even boot into Windows.

How to Check a Disk from Windows

Running the Check Disk tool from the Windows desktop is easy. In File Explorer, right-click the drive you want to check, and then choose “Properties.”

In the properties window, switch to the “Tools” tab and then click the “Check” button. In Windows 7, the button is named “Check now.”

In Windows 8 and 10, Windows may inform you that it hasn’t found any errors on the drive. You can still perform a manual scan by clicking “Scan drive.” This will first perform a scan without attempting any repairs, so it will not restart your PC at this point. If the quick disk scan reveals any problems, Windows will present that option to you. If you want to force it, though, you’ll have to use the command prompt to run chkdsk—something we’ll be covering a bit later in the article.

After Windows scans your drive, if no errors were found, you can just click “Close.”

In Windows 7, when you click the “Check now” button, you’ll see a dialog that lets you choose a couple of extra options—namely whether you also want to automatically fix file system errors and scan for bad sectors. If you want to perform the most thorough disk check, go ahead and select both options and then click “Start.” Just be aware that if you add a sector scan to the mix, checking the disk can take quite a while. It may be something you want to do when you don’t need your computer for a few hours.

If you elect to fix file system errors or scan for bad sectors, Windows won’t be able to perform a scan while the disk is in use. If that happens, you’ll have the option to cancel the scan or schedule a disk check to happen the next time you restart Windows.

How to Check Up On or Cancel a Scheduled Disk Check

If you’re not sure whether a disk check is scheduled for your next restart, it’s easy enough to check at the Command Prompt. You’ll need to run Command Prompt with administrative privileges. Press Start and then type “command prompt.” Right-click the result and then choose “Run as administrator.”

At the prompt, type the following command—substituting the drive letter if necessary.
chkntfs c:

If you have scheduled a manual check of the drive, you’ll see a message to that effect.

If Windows has scheduled an automatic check of the drive, you’ll see a message letting you know that the volume is dirty, which just means it’s been flagged with potential errors. This serves as indication that Windows will run a check the next time it starts. If no automatic scan is scheduled, you’ll just see a message letting you know that the volume is not dirty.

If a disk check is scheduled for the next time you start Windows, but have decided you don’t want the check to happen, you can cancel the check by typing the following command:
chkntfs /x c:

You won’t get any kind of feedback that the scan has been cancelled, but it will have been. This command actually excludes the drive from the chkdsk command for the next start. If you do restart to find that a scan has been scheduled, Windows is also kind enough to provide you with about ten seconds to skip the scan if you want to.

How to Use the ChkDsk Command at the Command Prompt

If you’re willing to use the Command Prompt (or you have to because Windows won’t boot properly), you can exert a little more control over the disk checking process. Plus, if you’re using Windows 8 or 10, it’s the only way to force automatic fixing or bad sector scanning into the mix. Open up the Command Prompt with administrative privileges by hitting Windows+X and selecting “Command Prompt (Admin).” You’ll be using the chkdsk command. The command supports a number of optional switches, but we’re mostly concerned with two of them: /f and /r .
If you just use the chkdsk command by itself, it will scan your drive in read-only mode, reporting errors but not attempting to repair them. For this reason, it can usually run without having to restart your PC.

If you want chkdsk to attempt to repair logical file system errors during the scan, add the /f switch. Note that if the drive has files that are in use (and it probably will), you’ll be asked to schedule a scan for the next restart.
chkdsk /f c:

If you want chkdsk to scan for bad sectors as well, you’ll use the /r switch. When you use the /r switch, the /f switch is implied, meaning that chkdsk will scan for both logical errors and bad sectors. But while it’s not really necessary, it also won’t hurt anything if you throw both the /r and /f switches on the command at the same time.
chkdsk /r c:

Running chkdsk /r gives you the most thorough scan you can perform on a volume, and if you have some time to spare for the sector check, we highly recommend running it at least periodically.
There are, of course, other parameters you can use with chkdsk . So, for the sake of completeness—and your geeky enjoyment—here they are:
C:\>chkdsk /?
Checks a disk and displays a status report.

CHKDSK [volume[[path]filename]]] [/F] [/V] [/R] [/X] [/I] [/C] [/L[:size]] [/B]

volume Specifies the drive letter (followed by a colon),
mount point, or volume name.
filename FAT/FAT32 only: Specifies the files to check for fragmentation.
/F Fixes errors on the disk.
/V On FAT/FAT32: Displays the full path and name of every file
on the disk.
On NTFS: Displays cleanup messages if any.
/R Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information
(implies /F).
/L:size NTFS only: Changes the log file size to the specified number
of kilobytes. If size is not specified, displays current
size.
/X Forces the volume to dismount first if necessary.
All opened handles to the volume would then be invalid
(implies /F).
/I NTFS only: Performs a less vigorous check of index entries.
/C NTFS only: Skips checking of cycles within the folder
structure.
/B NTFS only: Re-evaluates bad clusters on the volume
(implies /R)

The /I or /C switch reduces the amount of time required to run Chkdsk by
skipping certain checks of the volume.

Hopefully, Chkdsk will fix whatever hard drive problems you may have, and you can go back to using your computer normally.