Why does my computer not come with a Windows CD or DVD?

Updated: 04/26/2017 by Computer Hope

Windows 7 DVDIn the past, it was common to receive either a Windows installation CD or a set of restore CDs with a new computer. These CDs would allow you to install Windows again or completely restore the computer back to how it was at the time of purchase.

Since Windows XP, computer manufacturers no longer include a Windows installation or restore CDs with new computers. Instead, the restore CDs were "built-in" to the computer.

Hidden partition

On the computer's hard drive, a small section (partition) was reserved for the files needed to restore the computer back to its original software configuration. This section on the hard drive was called the restore partition. This restore partition and the restore functionality was accessible by pressing a particular key on the keyboard as the computer was starting up.

The most common keys used to access the restore partition are F8, F10 and F11. F11 was the most common of those three keys, used by many manufacturers as the standard method of accessing the restore partition. When accessed, the user can initiate the restore process and restore the computer to how it was when the first purchased the computer.

Tool to create restore disc

Computer manufacturers also provide a feature within Windows that allows the user to create a set of restore CDs (or DVDs). This recovery disc creation program was accessible through the Windows Start Menu and usually involved creating up to as many as seven CDs, or several DVDs. Depending on the speed of the CD-Rewritable or DVD-Writer drive, the process could take up to an hour or two to complete.

It is strongly recommended that computer owners create a set of recovery discs shortly after setting up the computer. If the hard drive fails and a new hard drive is needed, the recovery discs are the only way to restore the computer back to its original software configuration.

Tip: Any Windows computer can still use a Microsoft Windows install CD to install Windows. However, any software and drivers that were included with the computer will not be installed. When using a Windows CD instead of the restore partition you'll need to install the drivers individually after Windows has been installed.

Additional information

  • See our hidden partition definition for further information and related links.