Best kept Windows secret

One of the most under appreciated tools in Windows is the System Restore tool. Microsoft introduced this tool in the much hated Windows ME release.

It's helpful for removing viruses, resetting a machine after a coworker changes things, or fixing things that I screw up while experimenting with applications, drivers, and settings.

Periodically, the tool takes a "snapshot" of critical Windows system files, like the registry. It stores a certain number of these snapshots (depending on how much disk space you allow) and lets you reset Windows to an earlier point in time when you need to. It takes these snapshots on a time schedule, or when Windows updates, and some sometimes when new applications are added.

The user can also tell the system to create a snapshot whenever they like. This is a good thing to do before making system changes.

When someone tells me their system suddenly started acting weird, one of the first things I'll do (after other basic troubleshooting steps) is run a System Restore to get the machine back into the condition it was a week or a month earlier. This usually fixes the problem.

Unlike reinstalling Windows, System Restore affects only Windows files. It will not make changes to or damage your data.

After you run System Restore, you may need to reinstall applications you had installed after the machine took the snapshot you just restored to. But it's possible those applications were causing problems anyway.

In Windows XP, you can get to the tool by going to Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System Restore.

In Vista or Windows 7, just hit the Start button, and then type "System Restore" in the search box.

Familiarize yourself with the tool if it's new to you. You may find it quite useful one day.


RE Ausetkmt said...

ooohhh good one. very good.
I use this before any changes and repairs. when anybody tells me their machine is acting up, I direct them to it immediately.

you are golden, for this.

Joyuna said...

System Restore is a GREAT tool that more people really should know about. It's good that you posted this article about it, maybe you will enlighten some people and save them some trouble in the future :)

A Valdese Blogger said...

It's helped me out a couple of times....

flit said...

I have used System Restore SO many times... on my own computer and also on others

Which reminds me - I have 2 computers here that need fixing this week. *sigh* Like I didn't have enough to do on my to do list

pcmemoirs said...

I also use it regularly when I try to fix problems. If an antivirus/antispyware programs isn't helping, the next step is usually system restore :)

In most cases, it solves the problem.

Mike said...

I had my laptop crash just this weekend, learned the hard way to start using that function more often to "snapshot" my computer

Cromely said...

@RE Ausetkmt. Thanks. I appreciate that.

@Joy: Thanks. I hope this helps someone out.

@A Valdese Blogger: Glad to hear it.

@fit: Well, there's what, about 30 hours in a day? That may help.

@PC Memoirs: Spybot and AVG usually keep me from having to use it, but it's always nice to know it's there.

@Mike: As long as you've go plenty of hard drive space, I like to extend the auto section.