Time Travel with System Restore
Help! I downloaded a program that was supposed to remove spyware from my computer. But now I'm getting even MORE popups and my system freezes at random intervals. I tried to uninstall but can't find a way to get rid of this thing. What do you recommend?
What is System Restore?
I feel your pain... unless you are very careful, you can download a new program or software update, then find that it makes your system unstable. Wouldn't it be nice if you could go back to a point in time when your computer was working? With System Restore, you can. (Note: the instructions in this article apply to Windows XP. If you are running Windows 7, please see System Restore For Windows 7)
Think of System Restore as the Undo command for Windows. While your computer is on, System Restore takes regular snapshots of your Windows configuration, settings, and program files. These snapshots (known as "restore points") are stored on your hard disk so you can revert back to that point in the event of a computer emergency. Restore points are automatically created when new software is installed, when Windows Update applies changes, on a daily basis, and when you request a manual restore point. If you can remember the most recent time when your computer was working correctly, System Restore will roll back all system changes to that point.
Will I Lose Personal Files?
So what exactly does System Restore do? Let's start with what it doesn't do... System Restore WILL NOT remove or modify any personal data files such as word processor documents, spreadsheets, music & photos, web favorites, emails, etc. More specifically, files in the My Documents folder will never be touched. If you are unsure as to whether a file will be affected by System Restore, keep it in that folder. System Restore WILL affect your Windows system files, settings, and recently installed software.
While System Restore can be a wonderful tool to get your computer back to a functioning state after a virus or spyware infestation, I strongly recommend that you use it only in such emergencies. If you have installed a program and suspect that it may be causing trouble, always try Add and Remove Programs in Control Panel first. I offer this caution because System Restore is a rather drastic measure. On the few occasions I've used it, System Restore did solve the problem at hand, but some minor things like fonts, wallpaper and desktop settings were altered. There's also a chance that you'll end up removing a program you've recently installed, which you do want to keep.
Running System Restore
If your computer seems to be unstable, first attempt to remove any suspected software packages through Control Panel, then do thorough anti-virus and anti-spyware scans. See my articles Free Anti-Virus Programs and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware for some excellent free software to help with those tasks.
If the problem persists, give System Restore a try. To roll back your computer settings to a previously saved restore point:
- Click the Start button, then select Programs / Accessories / System Tools
- Click System Restore.
- Choose "Restore my computer to an earlier time" then click Next.
- Select a day on the calendar, a restore point description, then click Next.
When System Restore begins, the computer will restart, the hands on your wall clock will spin backwards, and a groovy technicolor swirl will envelope the room. You may hear an audible moan and see smoke rising from your computer as the hard drive grinds. And with a bit of luck your system will be restored to normal functioning.
I have heard that some programs may interfere with the functioning of System Restore. If you have problems getting System Restore to start or complete, see my related article System Restore Not Working.
Do you have experience with System Restore that you'd like to share? Post your comments below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 22 Aug 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Time Travel with System Restore (Posted: 22 Aug 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved