Will System Restore Cure Your PC Problem?

Category: Windows

Have you ever experienced a time when your computer suddenly starts to misbehave for reasons unknown? 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 latter option is 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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Most recent comments on "Will System Restore Cure Your PC Problem?"

Posted by:

01 Nov 2021

Sometimes, System Restore works like a magic wand. Other times it doesn't. It seems to work best when you've installed new software and it causes problems and won't uninstall completely. Then System Restore can quickly undo the changes made by the new software. But if something happened to seriously corrupt your Windows system files, then you might find that System Restore doesn't fix it. In that case, I recover my boot drive from a backup created by Acronis True Image. The catch is that you have to have already created the backup, preferably recently.

Posted by:

01 Nov 2021

There is a simple, one click, utility / app for creating a restore point. It is called "Quick Restore Maker". The app is available from "The Windows Club". https://www.thewindowsclub.com/create-a-system-restore-point-in-1-click-with-quick-restore-maker

Posted by:

Fat Fred
01 Nov 2021

How does system restore compare to backup?

Posted by:

01 Nov 2021

System Restore does not regularly create Restore points.
This article (or a follow up) could benefit from instructions on how to schedule a daily task for doing that just after login (so before the disaster). Also some discussion on managing the reserved disk-space and how much is required for a specified number of Restore points.

Posted by:

01 Nov 2021

Last time I used System Restore it crashed.
Even my boot disk didn't work! I had to do afresh windows install.

Posted by:

Bob K
01 Nov 2021

Regarding System Restore, I hope to never have to use it again. Most of the time it does not work.

Posted by:

01 Nov 2021

Fat Fred: System Restore (RS) is *not* a "Backup." Backup implies that user files are copied somewhere, that is precisely what RS does *not* do. RS does not touch user files, only system and settings.

RS works best if used soon after the event that caused you to ask for it. The longer and more changes that occur, the less likely it will work. Thankfully, when it doesn't, nothing is changed so no additional damage is incurred.*

And RS is also reversible, after RS the changes it did can be un-done if the results weren't what you wanted.

Walt: RS can also be run from a Windows Boot disk, though that's a Plan C or more. If a file backup is available, then indeed a fresh install is the best option.

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
02 Nov 2021

I was going to write a post here, but I found that I have a lot to say about creating a system backup, so I put my thoughts on my Google Blog. You can read it if you want to at https://ewilcox.blogspot.com/


Posted by:

Biino Mann
02 Nov 2021

The few times I used System Restore to jumpstart my computer because my computer failed at doing something or running correctly, SR worked at least 95% of the time.

Posted by:

Kate A
02 Nov 2021

I have successfully used System Restore a handful of times. I make sure I have a Restore Point before doing anything major.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2021

Well, for my 2 cents, every time I've used System Restore never have I had any kooky issues. Maybe I'm just lucky. :)
Reading Bob's emails keeps me running smooth on all of my computers.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2021

Have had SR not work, tell me it didn't work when it did, and sometimes work as expected. The penultimate act on my Dell XPS was to attempt to use SR to reversean update glitch. SR had always finished, work or fail, in 5-30 mins. This time though, it ran for hours. After the 4th hour passed of SR running I felt something was not right so gave up waiting and performed my final act on that machine- a hard shutdown. End of XPS.

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