In the past when you purchased a new computer, you were provided with a set of recovery discs- CDs or DVDs that could be used to restore your machine to its factory condition. These discs are essential for repairing a computer. Most of the work I do is either to remove malware, or to replace a failed hard disk. Without the recovery discs it is often very hard (or impossible) to legally get your computer back to its working condition.
Nowadays, I've seen a trend with newer computers- manufacturers no longer include these recovery discs for you; instead, they want you to burn your own disc sets.
The problem with this is that spending 1-2 hours burning a set of recovery discs is often the last thing on a person's mind when they open up that shiny new computer. Some of the computers will post alerts, reminding you to burn the discs, but the alerts can be disabled (and often are) - and then it is forgotten about. That is, forgotten about till the computer is brought in to me for repair.
If you have not burned your recovery discs, not all is lost- if the computer is a recent one, chances are the discs can be ordered directly from the manufacturer. In fact, if the computer is still under the factory warranty, they will often provide them for free or for a small shipping/ handling fee.
The best thing to do is to go ahead and burn your recovery disc set, and keep it in a safe place. The process is time consuming, but pretty simple. Often you have the choice of creating your recovery media on CDs, DVDs, dual-layer DVDs, or on newer systems even on a USB Flash Drive (thumb drive). Generally, I use regular old DVDs because they are cheap and reliable.
Regardless of the method you choose, you will want to keep your recovery set in a safe location. Especially since, now some of the manufacturers will only "allow" you to burn a single set of recovery media. Why would they put this restriction in place? I honestly don't know, but it really does upset me. What happens if the owner loses the original recovery disc set? Or the discs get scratched or cracked?
Because of this, what I've started to do for newer computers is to create an image set of the recovery discs and save it on the C: drive of the computer. (I create a folder called "Recovery Discs" and save the image files to there). The really awesome (and free) program ImgBurn is a great tool to do this. Once I've burned the recovery disc set to DVDs, I then use ImgBurn to create image files (ISOs) of each disc. That way, if I need to burn an additional set in the future, they are there and waiting for me.
This is, of course, a lot of extra work, but may save someone $30-$40 later on in life (vs. having to purchase a set of recovery discs), and may save the life of a computer that may not have been able to be repaired otherwise.
In conclusion, it is very important to make sure you have a working set of recovery discs for your computer. It only takes 1-2 hours to do (most of which is waiting) and a few dollars worth of blank discs (or a cheap thumb drive), but could save you lots of money (and peace of mind!) in the future. Creating recovery discs is part of what I do for new computer setups, which I generally charge $30 for. So if you are not comfortable doing this, feel free to send some business my way :-) (in addition to the recovery discs, I do a lot of optimization, install security software, etc).
Thanks for reading! any questions feel free to post in the comments and I'll do my best to answer.