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I created a Windows 8 recover drive on a USB stick. I can boot from it and get to the options to refresh/reset my installation. However, after I select either option it prompts me to "insert my installation media". It's an ultrabook with no optical drive. Windows 8 was already installed on it. I have no installation media to insert...

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For refresh/reset to work you need an active Win8 recovery partition on your PC. Otherwise you need the Win8 installation media to proceed. – Karan Jun 7 '13 at 4:21
I see a recovery partition in device management: – Chev Jun 7 '13 at 4:34
Then perhaps it's corrupted or files are missing... – Karan Jun 7 '13 at 4:37
Hmmm. Does installing Windows 8 fresh create a proper recovery partition? – Chev Jun 7 '13 at 4:38
Nope, Win8 Setup does not create a reset recovery image, nor does it prepare a recovery image partition. That's entirely your laptop manufacturer's doing. – Karan Jun 7 '13 at 4:49

You can create a Windows 8 installation USB stick, that's the installation media. The Windows 8 upgrade software will let you create one:

If you already have the Windows 8 ISO file, you can also create the bootable USB stick by using the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool (Works with Windows 8)

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