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Sep 14, 2021 • Filed to: Windows Computer Solutions • Proven solutions

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While using a Windows PC, there are instances where you might stumble upon an error message that says ‘Insert your Windows installation or recovery media’. When this happens, your obvious reaction would be to search for a Windows installation disc. However, unfortunately, the DVDs are now getting obsolete as most of the times, especially on laptop computers, the operating system is preinstalled. If something goes wrong with the OS, Windows is either updated, upgraded, or reset using the new files that are either automatically downloaded or obtained from the local backup during the process.

That said, the following sections explain how to fix the abovesaid issue, and what other alternatives do you have to extract your important files if none of the suggestions helps, and your Windows PC becomes non-bootable.

An Overview of 'Insert your Windows installation or recovery media’ Error

 system information

The first thing that you may want to understand is what causes the issue to come up. A couple of possible reasons include:

When you use Windows and continuously install and uninstall several apps on the OS, the system files may get corrupted over time, especially if any program brings some malicious scripts or viruses along with it.

This mostly happens when you use a hard disk drive. If your Windows computer is turned off abruptly due to the power failure or some faulty outlet, the HDD may develop inconsistent or bad clusters. As the result, Windows fails to access the bootable files and shows the error message saying that the operating system needs to be repaired.

If Windows updated recently and the device drivers became obsolete that resulted in startup failure, you may see the above error message where the OS asks you to use a recovery or installation media to get the PC back up and running.

IMPORTANT

It is extremely important to understand that reinstalling Windows from the scratch is not the first solution as many local vendors may suggest, and neither is it the only solution to get the issue fixed. In fact, Windows reinstallation must be considered the last resort, and must be used only when all the other methods fail to repair the operating system.


The Solutions to Fix ‘Insert your Windows installation or recovery media’ Error

Depending on the reason the issue came up in the first place, there could be different solutions. Some of the easiest and most helpful ones are suggested below:

Solution 1: Run the SFC (System File Checker) Command

The SFC command works as a ‘master key’ for almost all the Windows and system files related issues that your PC may experience. When you run SFC, the command scans all your mission-critical files, and detects and fixes any problems or inconsistencies that they may have. The SFC command is integrated into the operating system itself, and is extremely easy to use. The process is given below:

Step 1: Open Command Prompt with Administrator Privileges

Type CMD in the Cortana search box present in the taskbar, and click Run as administrator from the results box that appears. On the User Account Control confirmation box, click Yes to give your consent to access the elevated Command Prompt window.

run cmd as administrator

Step 2: Run the System File Checker Command
In the Command window, type SFC /SCANNOW, and hit Enter to execute the command. Wait while the System File Checker utility scans your system files and fixes their issues.

run sfc command

Step 3: Restart Windows (Optional but Strongly Recommended)

Although Windows 10 is smart and capable enough to gulp all the changes you have made to the system files and other important configurations without rebooting, it is strongly recommended to restart the PC to allow all the changes to effect.

Solution 2: Run the DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) Tool

The DISM tool works almost identically to SFC but with a different set of commands. When you run DISM, the utility checks for inconsistent or corrupt files, and takes necessary actions like repairing or replacing them with new ones. The process of using DISM is given below:

Step 1: Open Command Prompt

Use the method explained earlier to open the Command Prompt window with administrator rights.

Step 2: Run the DISM Utility

Type DISM /online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth and press Enter. Wait while the command executes. Once done, type DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth and press Enter again. Wait while the command executes successfully.

Note: The execution process may take a considerable amount of time that would majorly depend on the processor, RAM, and other hardware configuration that your PC has.

run dism command

run dism command

Step 3: Restart Windows

As explained in the previous section, although this step is optional, you should restart Windows to allow all the changes to take effect properly.

Solution 3: Reset Windows to Factory Defaults

If the above two solutions don’t work, you can reset Windows to its factory defaults with or without removing your personal files. When you reset Windows, all the custom preferences are reverted back to their default settings, and the third-party apps are removed from the PC, thus making the operating system appear fresh and newly installed. You can learn how to reset Windows 10 by following the steps given below:

WARNING

Although Microsoft advocates this process as a permanent remedy for all the issues related to the operating system, on practical grounds many users have reported that Windows doesn’t function as smoothly as expected. Therefore, you should go for this solution with caution and only when it is extremely necessary.

Step 1: Get to the Advanced Recovery Mode

Power on your PC, and as Windows appears to boot, press the reset button to restart. Repeat this process two more times, until you see a message saying that Windows is preparing for automatic repair. If the issue is fixed at this stage, Windows will boot normally. If it doesn’t, and you see a screen suggested that your computer failed to start properly, you can move on to the next step.

enter automatic repair mode

Step 2: Get to the Troubleshoot Screen

Click Advanced options on the Automatic repair screen, and when the Choose an option window comes up, click Troubleshoot.

click advanced options

click troubleshoot

Step 3: Reset Windows 10

Click Reset this PC on the Troubleshoot screen, and click Keep my files or Remove everything to tell Windows if it should save your personal data or remove all your files during the reset process respectively. On the next screen, click Cloud download or Local install to download new files from Microsoft’s official website while reinstalling Windows or use those that are stored locally (might end up having old files post reinstallation) respectively. Follow the on-screen instructions from this point onward to reset Windows 10 to factory defaults to fix the issue, and getting rid of the error message.

initiate pc reset process

select file handling option

select new files source

begin pc reset process


Tips to Avoid the Issue

Although the above solutions can help you troubleshoot the problem, the tips suggested below would be useful in preventing the issue from arising in the first place:

Make sure to shut down or restart Windows properly using the correct method, i.e., by clicking Start > Power > Shut down, or Start > Power > Restart. This not only allows Windows to save all the systems files before powering off and eliminate the chances of getting corrupted, but it also prevents the hard disk drive from developing any bad clusters and/or bad sectors in the long run.

Ensure that the latest updates are installed on your instance of Windows 10. You can do so manually by going to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and then clicking Check for updates from the right window. This keeps the operating system from crashing randomly and from generating unwanted issues.

Regularly check for and install the latest device drivers. Although Windows automatically does this, you can do so manually by right-clicking Start, going to Device Manager, expanding the category tree of the device that you want to update the driver of, right-clicking the device, clicking Update driver from the context menu, and following the on-screen instructions from there.

Windows has another built-in utility called Disk Checker that enables you to check and fix the issues related to the HDD/SSD automatically. You can use this tool by opening the Command Prompt window with admin rights as explained earlier, and then typing the following command:

CHKDSK C: /R


Additional Tip: Recover Data from Unbootable Windows with Recoverit

If none of the above solutions work, and your Windows 10 PC fails to boot, you can use an efficient third-party application called Wondershare Recoverit to recover the important files so your work doesn’t get affected due to the unavailability of the computer. You can follow the steps given below to get this done:

Step 1: Connect the HDD/SSD to a Working PC

Disconnect the hard disk drive or SSD from the faulty computer, and use your preferred method to connect it to a working Windows 10 PC. Make sure to download and install the latest version of Wondershare Recoverit on this computer.

Step 2: Identify and Select the Volume with Files

Launch Wondershare Recoverit. On the main interface, identify the disk that you connected, and click to select the volume with the important files that you want to recover. Note: Depending on the method you used to connect the drive to the working computer, the volumes may show either under the Hard Disk Drives or External Devices section.

start scanning

Step 3: Scan and Recover the Files

Click Start from the bottom-right corner. When the scanning process completes, from the center pane of the next window, check the boxes representing the files that you want to get back.

select files to recover

And click Recover from the bottom-right corner. On the next screen, choose a destination where you want to save the recovered files, and click Recover again. Note: Make sure to select the target folder for recovery other than the source volume.

After the process is complete, click Open the file path on the next box to go to the target location to access the recovered files.

open destination folder


The Bottom Line

You may see the error message saying ‘Insert your Windows installation or recovery media’ when your Windows files get corrupted, or the physical disk develops some bad clusters or sectors that prevent the operating system from accessing the system files. To fix the problem, you can use any of the solutions suggested above. If Windows is still unable to boot, you can use Wondershare Recoverit to recover the important data files to a different PC.

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