System Restore: Will it Cure Your PC Problem?

Category: Software , Windows

Your computer suddenly starts to misbehave for reasons unknown... what to do? You could spend hours tracking down the subtle change that caused the problem, or you could climb into your time machine and go back to an earlier date when everything worked perfectly. That may be possible with the System Restore feature in Windows. Here's how it works...

Fix Windows Problems With System Restore

Installing new applications, Windows updates, or drivers can sometimes cause Windows to behave unpredictably. If un-installing the new software doesn't cure the problem, or you're not sure which recently installed software is causing the problem, then System Restore can undo all of the changes made to your system up to a specific "restore point" in the past.

System Restore can also help if a virus or some other malware is causing you trouble. If your internet security software doesn't clean up the mess, a trip back in time with System Restore just might do the trick.

NOTE: On some Windows 10 and Windows 11 systems, System Restore isn’t turned on. Here's how to check if System Restore is enabled, and turn it on if not. Click the Start button and type, "create a restore point" in the Search box. Click the "create a restore point" link in the search results. The System Properties window will open with the System Protection tab selected. Under Protection Settings, you'll see a list of drives that qualify for System Restore. Click on your System drive (usually C:), then click the Configure button. In the next window click "Turn on system protection." For the Max Usage setting I recommend no more than 10 to 15% of your disk space. Click Apply, then OK. System Restore is now turned on for your system drive. Repeat the process if desired for any other drives.

System Restore Windows 10 or Windows 11

Managing Restore Points

Restore points are snapshots of your system's registry, installed software, drivers, and system information settings taken at various times. They are saved in date-stamped restore point files. When System Restore is active, Windows creates restore points automatically right before new software packages are installed using Windows Installer, when Windows Updates are installed, and about once every 24 hours of computer use. Also, users can manually create a restore point at any time. If you just turned on System Restore, that would be a good time to create your first restore point.

To create a restore point, click the Start button and type, "create a restore point" in the Search box. Click the "create a restore point" link in the search results and then click the "Create" button at the bottom of the System Protection tab that appears.

Restore point files are kept in a reserved area of your hard drive. The Configure button on the System Protection tab lets you configure how much System Restore can save and restore. You can control the amount of disk space reserved for restore points on this tab. As I mentioned above, my rule of thumb is to allocate a max of 10 to 15% of your hard drive space for restore points. When the reserved space starts to run out, the oldest restore points are deleted to make room for new ones. If you have hundreds of gigabytes of available hard drive storage, this may not even be an issue. If you're low on disk space, you can use the Delete button to delete all restore points for the selected drive.

Back on the System Protection tab, you can click the System Restore button to start restoring your system to an earlier time. The System Restore utility displays a list of system restore points available to you. I recommend that you click the "Show more restore points" checkbox to show all of the available restore points. Select one that you feel will restore your system to a state when it was working well. After selecting one, you may want to click that button that says, "scan for affected programs." These are programs that will be lost or restored to states prior to their last update during a System Restore.

It's important to remember that your personal files will NOT be lost during a System Restore operation. Documents, photos, spreadsheets, etc., created by application programs, and other files stored in the My Documents folder, are off-limits to System Restore.

If a System Restore attempt ends with an error, it might be due to a conflict with your anti-virus software. If that happens, try running System Restore in Safe Mode. To do so, click Start, then type "Change advanced startup options" and click the first result. Under Advanced startup, click "Restart now". When your computer restarts, click Troubleshoot, then Advanced options, then System Restore. Follow the prompts to continue.

System Restore is the "undo button" that can save you hours of trying to figure out which of many recent changes is causing Windows to misbehave. It's worth a try, especially since you can undo the System Restore!

Do you have something to say about using System Restore on Windows? Post your comment or question below...

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This article was posted by on 7 Aug 2023

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Most recent comments on "System Restore: Will it Cure Your PC Problem?"

Posted by:

Malcolm Sparey
07 Aug 2023

Please be aware Restore Points automatically expire (and disappear) 90 days after they were created.

Posted by:

07 Aug 2023

System Restore always used to be a great solution. However, over the past few years I've noticed that Microsoft seems to be turning off the system restore feature during Microsoft updates. I've been forced to reinstall Windows on many occasions where a simple system restore should have solved the problem.

Posted by:

07 Aug 2023

I think windows used to give you the option of when to create a restore point periodically. Why did that go away?

Posted by:

07 Aug 2023

I've never trusted the "Restore Points" in Windows - I'm much more comfortable using the Macrium Reflect program that does FULL system backups on a set schedule. Mine runs at 1:30 AM on Sunday mornings. I have had reasons (several times) to restore everything from a full backup - usually for something that Microsoft update messed up.

Posted by:

Chris r
07 Aug 2023

Have had system restore fail on my on multiple times it's not that reliable

Posted by:

07 Aug 2023

Lately I've noticed the "show more restore points" is not available and the last restore point is usually the day before thus rendering it useless. However I have used system restore in the past and it saved me having to do a lot of work. Wish it still worked the way it use to.

Posted by:

07 Aug 2023

"... the last restore point is usually the day before..."
That's what I thought until I saw the box bottom left to 'show more restore points'. Not forgetting that you can create your own restore point whenever you wish.

Posted by:

David Lagesse
07 Aug 2023

I have used System Restore many times since the days of Windows 95... NOTHING was changed!
Just time wasted!

Posted by:

07 Aug 2023

I have System Restore enabled on my PC & I create a restore point the day before Windows Updates. Everytime I have tried to use Sytem Restore because of a problem there are never any restore points to choose from. I have the usage set at 20%.
Whats wrong?

Posted by:

07 Aug 2023

Wholeheartedly share the complaints about M*S*T debasing Restore. It used to work perfectly well. But for years, it loses restore points, does not succeed in restoring (and it's not just AV problems) and generally is a pain in the proverbial rather than the sensible and useful tool it should be.
Why do M*S*T want to make life more difficult for their users ? Do they want them all to decamp to other OS's >

Posted by:

Bob K
08 Aug 2023

System Restore is possibly the worst program that has ever been foisted on Microsoft clients.
System Restore is an oxymoron.

Posted by:

08 Aug 2023

Good reminder for using a potential helpful tool.
I have use System Restore many times though the years to restore mine and other user's computers to a working recover mode. I have also learned that when it doesn't work, it most often is because of an interfering app on the user's computer.

Posted by:

08 Aug 2023

I've never gotten satisfaction using SystemRestore for problems.
Windows11 built-in SystemRecovery features: Include 'troubleshooters', resetting the PC, AdvancedStartUp, and using a previously created USB recovery stick.
Best recovery plan is to use a disk imaging/archiving software (Acronis, AOMEI,EaseUS, et al). At least at 6 month intervals.
Bacon Savers!

Posted by:

Peter Oh
08 Aug 2023

Agree it's not reliable.
Neither is Bob's instruction on how to check if you have it or not.
My win 11 produced a list that did not contain any useful links..

Posted by:

08 Aug 2023

Yesterday I created a manual restore point. I checked today & get the message that no restore points have been created. What gives? System restore is useless if you can't create a restore point.

Posted by:

08 Aug 2023

Before Win10 I found restore points very useful, but now with a steady stream of updates, I have never used it. I went to use it a couple of weeks ago and clicked the tab to see what files would be impacted and there was a laundry list, so I past on the restore.
It DOES seem that some people have issues with disappearing restore points,here is some info:
"All I can say is that I made the following change about 4-5 weeks ago and all of the restore points I have created are still there – none seem to have been deleted.
Instructions can be found at Winaero and at the ElevenForum (works for Win 10 too).The location is:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SystemRestore

This value: “SystemRestorePointCreationFrequency” needs to be set to zero."

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