System Restore Not Working

Category: Windows

I tried to run System Restore and got this error message: 'System Restore did not complete successfully. Your computer's files and settings were not changed.' Uggh. Why does this happen, and what can I do about it?

System Restore not working

Why Does System Restore Fail?

You've done the prudent thing: enabled System Restore to automatically save snapshots of your Windows system settings and files at critical times, so that you can restore your system to a previous, working state if something goes wrong. But when you need to do such a System Restore, it fails. It won't complete, and it leaves your system in its current, messed-up state. What went wrong?

More importantly, what can you do about it? Several things can cause a System Restore to fail. Let's take a look at some common System Restore problems, and their solutions:

  • Antivirus programs are probably the most common reason for System Restore not working. Norton and Kapersky antivirus software, to name two, are known to interfere with the restoration process, although they do not interfere with the saving of Restore Point files from which restorations are made. It actually makes sense that an antivirus program could put a snag in a restore operation. If a file being restored is infected, your antivirus program is correct in blocking it. Antivirus programs may also be sensitive to important system files being replaced, which happens in bulk during a system restore operation. In both cases, it would be much better for System Restore and the antivirus program to be aware of each other, and work together. But since that doesn't always happen, try running System Restore in Windows Safe Mode to turn off antivirus protection during restoration.
  • ZoneAlarm, a firewall and broad PC protection program, has been known to interfere with System Restore. If running System Restore in Safe Mode doesn't work, uninstall ZoneAlarm while doing a System Restore. You can always re-install it later. If you have some other third-party firewall software, the same applies.
  • Generally, any program which automatically connects to the Internet and updates itself can interfere with the saving of a Restore Point if both events occur simultaneously. Turn off automatic updates of individual programs, manually take a System Restore Point snapshot, and then enable updates again.
  • RealPlayer has been reported to interfere with System Restore. Update Realplayer to the latest version and the problem may go away.
  • System Restore relies upon the Task Scheduler service built into Windows. Check to make sure that Task Scheduler, System Restore Service, and Remote Procedure Call service are running: Open Start and in the Run box type services.msc and hit Enter. A list of all available services appears. Look for the three named above and make sure their status is "running". Set their Startup Type to "automatic" if necessary. On Vista and Win7 machines, System Restore Service does not appear in the Services list. Instead, use Start / Control Panel / Backup and Restore to manage System Restore settings.
  • Many computers are preset at the factory to save their own form of Restore Points to Recovery Partitions. Do not let Windows System Restore monitor and take snapshots of such partitions. Just uncheck the partition in System Restore's settings dialogue.

No Restore Points Are Available

If the latest Restore Point doesn't work, try an earlier one. The further back in time you go, the more changes to your system you will lose. At least you may get to a point that can be restored. But what if you can't even get that far?

Several people have written to me saying "I tried to run System Restore but there were no restore points available." If System Restore is active, but there are no restore points available, the reason could be low disk space. If your free disk space is less than 50 MB, Windows will stop making snapshots and will purge existing restore points to free up space. One possible solution to the "no restore points" problem is to reload your system from a complete backup image. (For related reading, see my companion articles Hard Drive Backup Image and Free Backup Solutions.)

Even if that doesn't fix the problem that made you want to run System Restore, it might bring back some restore points you can work with. But be aware... certain backup/restore software may not back up Restore Point files. IBM Rescue and Recovery With Rapid Restore reportedly had such a fault. Using backup software that specifically says it saves Restore Point files is a good idea.

If you're very low on disk space, dump some files; run a disk defragmentation; and free up space so that System Restore can run properly in the future.

Got questions or comments about System Restore not working properly? Post your thoughts below...

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Most recent comments on "System Restore Not Working"

Posted by:

Tony C
29 Sep 2009

I was dutifully saving my restore points until one day I needed to do a restore. On ALL my restore points I got the message: 'System Restore did not complete successfully. Your computer's files and settings were not changed.'

Apparently what had happened was that I added a second hard drive. Apparently this completely messed up the restore function. I had to turn off system restore, eliminating all the old restore points and then turn it back on. It seems to work fine now. The moral is: DO A TEST RESTORE OCCASIONALLY TO SEE IF IT IS WORKING. I never got any error messages when saving all those restore points that could not be restored

Posted by:

Ken Gash
01 Oct 2009

My System Restore on Vista Premium works partly. It creates restore points when new software is installed but it does not create regular restore points when system is restarted each day. Taskscheduler is on auto and started BUT the service for System Restore does not even appear on the list. Apparently this is needed to fix my problem but I don't know how to get it back.

Posted by:

Dan K Hacker
05 Oct 2009

I checked for the service "System Restore Service," but not only did I not find it working, I didn't even find that service. This was on a laptop running Vista Home Premium SP1.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry, on Vista and Win7 machines, System Restore Service does not appear in the Services list. Instead, use Start / Control Panel / Backup and Restore to manage System Restore settings.

Posted by:

12 Oct 2009

my restore died totally. heres the fix that worked after searching google. nothing else i tried worked.

go to My Computer> rt. click> properties>system restore. turn off> apply>ok and reboot. then go back and do it over and turn on> apply> ok and reboot again. it should be ok again. mine is and i hope it does for u too.

Posted by:

19 Oct 2009

Use Erunt, and turn off system restore.
It's free, and it works.



Posted by:

Pinak Patra
18 Dec 2009

I can not create a restore point manully in Windows 7 Home premium.There is an error message when I click the system protection tab in property page of My computer.Error code 0x81000203.Also, how to turn on/off system restore in win 7.I am a novice

Posted by:

26 May 2010

when i open system protection tab in property page then shows that there is an unexpected error in property page. error code 0x81000203. i m using win7 ultimate please give me solution

Posted by:

27 Dec 2010

Paul's method worked like magic for me yesterday.
Believe it or not this was the only site which could offer a non complicated fix.

Posted by:

22 Aug 2011

I agree with Larry above, using ERUNT, it is fast. With it you back up the registry as often as you like or at least before any major change. If problems arise just run the saved ERUNT dated registry to restore it back. It`s as easy as that, bin using it for years never had a problem with it. From time to time delete the older registry backups to save space.

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