Windows 8: How to free up disk space on Microsoft Surface tablets

Recovery partitions hog up to 7GB of user-available storage

One beef against Microsoft's Surface devices is that they have less usable disk space than the advertised disk size would indicate, but there is a relatively easy way to free up as much 7GB of disk space: Create a USB recovery drive and delete the Windows 8 recovery partition from the hard drive.

The issue comes up because the 32GB version of Surface RT has only 16GB of free disk space; the 64GB has 45GB. The story is worse with Surface Pro where the 64GB model has 29GB free, while the 128GB has 89GB free.

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Fortunately there's a simple way to regain some of that space by removing the recovery partition from the hard drive, liberating 3.5GB on Surface RT and 7GB on Surface Pro.

First, though, users must create a separate recovery drive they can use to resuscitate Windows 8 should it become corrupted.

NOTE: Once the recovery partition is removed from the hard disk, the USB recovery drive is the only way to recover, so the USB stick must be kept in a safe place.

Here's how to make the recovery drive using a built-in Windows 8 tool.

Plug in the machine and turn it on. Insert a USB drive with at least 4GB of space (Surface RT) or 7GB (Surface Pro) into the Surface device. Turning the USB drive into a recovery drive will reformat the memory stick, so make sure there's nothing important already on it.

Swipe in the Charms Bar from the right side of the screen, select Search and type in Recovery. Choose "Create a recovery drive" and choose "Yes" to open the recovery tool.

Check the checkbox for "Copy the recovery partition from the PC to the recovery drive" and choose Next. Select the USB drive to be used for the recovery disk. Choose Next. Choose Create. Wait 10-15 minutes for the partition to copy to the USB drive. "This is now your Surface recovery drive," Microsoft says, "so keep it in a safe place and do not use it to store other files or data."

When the transfer is complete, choose "Delete the recovery partition" and confirm by choosing Delete.

Again, it's essential that the recovery drive is kept safe. Microsoft issues this warning: "If you choose to delete your recovery partition, you will need your USB recovery drive to refresh or reset your Surface in the future."

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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