How to do a System Restore

System Restore is a valuable feature that helps Windows OS users retrieve their lost files and settings after a major system breakdown. It is mostly used to restore essential Windows files and settings – system files, drivers, registry keys and installed programs. You can also return previous versions and settings. It is very much like the button “back”. Usually System Restore is ran from System Tools program folder in Windows. In cases when Windows can’t even be started there is an option to run it from Safe Mode. This rule is valid for all Windows versions that support it ( Windows ME; XP; Vista; 7; 8).

It is up to a user when to create a restore point (a restore point – the time when system files are saved and stored for a recovery later on). Usually a restore point is created automatically and users can edit a System Restore configuration to set the desired time range for restore points to be done. Restore points can be set manually at any time as well. In order to save space on computer’s hard drive old restore points are automatically deleted. That being said restore points usually never get older than several weeks old – after that they are erased. In case a user is really worried about the free space on his hard drive he can choose not to save restore points at all. Users can also choose how much of a disk space restore points can occupy. If you are using Windows XP and some important files are stored in a directory which is not covered by the System Restore they can’t be backed up so make sure that everything that is significant for you is involved in System Restore cover range. It’s worth mentioning that Windows XP System Restore backs up files with particular extensions like .dll or .exe. In that manner you can lose files of other types. It all changed when Windows Vista came to a daylight – from that point, all files of any kind on a given module are being monitored and capable of being restored.

No restore points are permanent. If a user doesn’t notice an error on a system within a few days it can be too late to restore it. Usually it is caused by a small hard drive capacity so in case your computer is running low on memory, make sure that you check your system on a daily basis in order to avoid unwanted consequences.

For integrity purposes it is not allowed to make any changes in the directory where System Restore points are kept. If a computer is infected with viruses or some malware/adware software this also will be saved on restore points. That being said a System Restore will not protect a user’s PC from viruses or PUPs (potentially unwanted programs). If you clean your system with an anti-virus software and after that System Restore with an infected restore point is made, all unwanted viruses and software will be back. However, if you delete viruses from system and do not restore infected files – you will be free from viruses. It is worth mentioning that any anti-virus software is not able to delete infected files from System Restore so in that case to get rid of those files you need to completely disable System Restore which will result in loosing all previous restore points.

If you are running a dual OS on your PC, no changes done from other OS, for example Linux, will be monitored by the System Restore. It makes System Restore unusable in a dual-boot mode. If your OS can’t be even started because of a major error or similar reasons, use Safe Mode to do a System Restore. Here is our tutorial how to reboot Windows into Safe Mode.

Now when it’s clear what System Restore is all about, here is a plain tutorial how to perform a System Restore on Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8 operating systems.

Windows XP System Restore Tutorial

  1. Login to Windows as an Administrator. In order to perform a System Restore you need to be logged in as an administrator otherwise you will not be allowed to do the steps below.
  2. Navigate to System Restore. When Windows loads up, left-click on Start, point to All Programs> Accessories> System Tools> System Restore and left-click it again. All these actions can also be done by typing %systemroot%system32restorerstrui.exe in the Run box and pressing enter (Start>Run).
  3. Choose to Restore Computer. On the System Restore window check the option “Restore my computer to an earlier time” and click next.

    System restore

  4. Select the Date. On the Select a Restore Point page, choose a date to which preferences of your system will be restored. If your system encountered a problem, choose a date prior to the time of a problem beginning. If your problem is contagious and you are not sure when it really started, try to use an earlier or even earliest restore point. Simply just click on a bold date as shown in the picture. Note: there can be several restore points on the same day.
    Select a restore point
  5. Confirm your System Restore. On the Confirm Restore Point selection page, choose an option “next”. As soon as you click on it, the System Restore begins. System Restore restores all previous Windows XP preferences depending on the selected date. After that, your OS will be restarted automatically.
    Confirm System Restore

NOTE: If your Windows can not be started in a normal mode, you can perform a System Restore from Safe Mode or Safe Mode Command Prompt. Keep in mind that in this case an undo restore point will not be created!

How to Disable System Restore

First of all you need to be logged to your OS as an administrator. In order to disable your System Restore, go to Start>Control Panel. When the Control Panel window is open, double click on the System icon. If you can’t see the System icon, simply click link that states “Switch to classic view” and that icon should appear. On the System window click on the System Restore tab. If your System Restore is enabled, you will see a view like shown in the picture below. If in Status section (it’s marked green in the picture) it is already turned off, you don’t have to do anything else. In case if it is monitoring something as shown in the picture, you need to check “Turn off System Restore” checkbox. Just click “apply” afterwards and your System Restore will be disabled.

Disable System Restore

How to Enable System Restore

The same way as for it to be disabled, to be able to enable System Restore you need to be logged in as an administrator. If it is your first time working with this particular system, System Restore will be probably enabled as this is a default setting. However, if your System Restore is disabled, simply go to Control Panel and double click on System icon. In an opened window go to System Restore tab. If System Restore is disabled you should see something similar to the picture below. If it states that System restore is enabled you do not need to do anything further. Otherwise, check the check box “Turn off System Restore”. After that you need to choose how much of a disk space you want to allow to use. Usually it is about 12 percent of your entire hard disk space. After that click “OK” and your System Restore will be enabled. A new restore point will be created at the same moment.

Enable System Restore

How to Create a Restore Point Manually

You can create a restore point whenever you want by using a System Restore utility. Why would you need to do that? Well, for example, you feel like your computer is running  just perfectly at the moment and you want to maintain that level of performance for as long as you can so you just create a Restore Point at that particular moment and in case something wrong happens in the future you can restore it to have the same great performance.

In order to open the utility, press Start and go to the System Tools group. Then click on the System Restore icon. You should see something similar to the picture below. To create a Restore Point, check selection “Create a restore point” (highlighted in blue) and click next.

Create System Restore point

At the next Window you will need to type in a name of your Restore Point. A current time and date will be automatically added to your Restore Point name. Then just click “Create” and OS will create a Restore Point. After that you will get a confirmation, like shown in a picture below. Now it’s done and you can close the System Restore utility window.

Restore point description


New Restore Point

Windows Vista and Windows 7 System Restore

System Restore for Windows Vista and Windows 7 are done almost the same way. Keep in mind that it works best when ran in safe mode. In this tutorial you will be shown how to do it step-by-step.

  1. Start the System Restore Window. There are two ways how this can be done. You can just open Start menu search bar and type in “restore”. Other method is to type “rstrui”. It is up to you. Immediately after that you should see a System Restore link – click it. Open System Restore
  2. Choose a restore point. On the opened window you will be able to choose which restore point fits you best. Most of the time it’s best to choose recommended restore but you always have an option to opt out to a custom restore point. If you choose so you will see a list of available Restore Points.  Choose Restore Point
    Choose Restore Point date
  3. Final steps. After you choose your Restore Point just confirm that you want your system to be restored. After that, you’ll get a confirmation message. Restore Point confirmation

Windows 8 System Restore

Before beginning to restore your Windows 8 OS make sure that every document that you will need is saved first. You will not be able to use your computer during this process (usually takes up to a few minutes).

Since Windows 8 is optimised to a touchscreen usage, there are a few different ways how it all can be done.

  1. Open a Recovery Window. If you are using a touch screen, simply swipe from the right edge of the screen to the left and if you use mouse, point to the top right corner of the screen and move the pointer down. Now you should see a “Search” option – click it and type in “Recovery”. Then click or tap the “Settings” bar and “Recovery” afterwards. The next thing you need to do is select “Open System Restore”. Open System Restore
  2. Choose a Restore Point. You will be shown the most recent Restore Point. Also you will get a description what changes have been made on the last Restore Point. If you agree to restore to this point, click “Next” and then “Finnish” and if you want to choose another Restore Point, click on “Show more restore points” and select one of those. Now your system will restart and restore. Be patient and wait several minutes.

Choose System Restore

How to Create a Restore Point Manually

Repeat steps mentioned above until you get to the Windows 8 search bar. Then type in “Restore” and select “Settings”. Choose a “Create a restore point” option and mark all preferred settings. Don’t forget to give the name to your Restore Point. After all these steps are done, click “Create”.

Create System Restore Point

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4 responses to “How to do a System Restore

  1. What happens when you get a message saying “system restore was not successful”.

  2. There are couple possible issues. Try restoring from older restore point, try doing system restore from safe mode or you will have to clean up issues in system registry (with anti-malware program or registry cleaner depending on situation) and then try to restore again.

  3. System Restore is not the goal on itself. In many cases I would try to clean malware by other ways ( e.g. alternate Os Scanners). After that I would look for options on creating new System Restore points and checking if restore works.

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