- If you are a Windows 10 user, you may have occasionally run into problems on your PC from time to time, which pose a hindrance to its functionality and render it unusable.
- Microsoft’s System Restore helps you in this regard by offering restore points, which you can restore your system to, to undo the damage and fix the onboard problems.
- System Restore comes on all Windows operating systems, so no matter what version of Windows your PC runs, you can use it to fix your broken PC quickly.
If you have been using the Windows operating system for a while, you may have occasionally run into problems on your PC from time to time. Most of these problems, albeit not pertaining directly to system issues, sometimes pose the risk of data loss, and in a few cases, require you to reinstall the operating system on your computer.
Fortunately, Microsoft has a built-in tool on the Windows operating system (Windows 7, 8, and 10) called System Restore that provides restore points to help you revert your PC to the previous functional system state and fix most of its problems that may arise due to various system issues.
The following is a guide detailing what System Restore is, how it functions, and how to use it to fix your computer problems.
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What is System Restore?
System Restore is a built-in tool on Microsoft’s Windows operating system that allows you to restore your computer to its last functional state such that it is free of any existing onboard problems or system malfunctions.
It comes in handy at times when, say, there is a problem on your computer — system-related or otherwise — that interferes with its normal functioning. As in this case, System Restore already has a restore point of the last functional state of your system, where it did not have any such issues, that you can restore on your computer to fix its problems.
A restore point, for the uninitiated, is basically a snapshot of various system components such as the Windows Registry, system files, and hardware drivers, which System Restore takes at periodic intervals, or when any of the following triggers take place:
- Software installation (including Windows update)
- Hardware driver updation
- New driver installation
However, if you want, you can create manual restore points of your system too before carrying out any major system operations on your PC so that you have a restore point to revert to if anything goes wrong on the system.
What You Need to Know About System Restore
Apart from the general idea of its purpose, there are a few points about System Restore you need to know to use it effectively.
- System Restore is responsible for taking a snapshot of all the rudimentary system components. It is not to be confused with backup, which follows the idea of creating a copy of everything (including personal files) on your drive and saving it such that you can restore it at a later time.
- If there are any apps/programs on your computer that you delete after a restore point is created, there are very slim chances that they will work after you restore your system to that restore point. This is because System Restore can take a snapshot of only a few selected file types and programs, and configuration/installer files are not one of them.
- System Restore does not allow you to create a permanent restore point of your system since all restore points are automatically deleted after a specified period of time. This time is specified in the Windows Registry files and can be altered. However, we do not recommend doing so unless you are sure of your actions.
- To protect the data integrity of your restore points, System Restore does not allow other apps and users on your system to modify or delete files in the directory that stores your restore points.
- System Restore can sometimes archive malware as part of its restore points. As a result, it can end up harming your system (and not fixing your system’s issue in the first place as you intended) and instead require you to delete the restore point and restore your computer to some other restore point that does not have malware.
How to Use System Restore on Windows 10
Using System Restore involves a few different steps: you need to enable System Restore first, after which you can either set it up to create restore points automatically or dive in and create a restore point manually.
In this guide, we will list down the steps for Windows 10, but these steps will more or less be the same for Windows 8 and Windows 7 as well.
1. Enabling System Restore
System Restore comes pre-enabled for the System (C:) drive on most Windows 10 systems. In case, however, it is not enabled for you, follow the steps below to enable it:
- Press the Start button and search for “restore point”.
- Click on Create a restore point from the returned search results.
- In the System Protection tab, under the Protection Settings, select your computer’s System (C:) drive and click Configure.
- On the next screen, select the Turn on system protection radio button.
- Use the Max Usage slider to adjust the maximum disk space you want to use for system protection.
- Hit Apply to apply your changes and click OK to exit System Protection.
Once you enable System Restore, Windows will automatically create a restore point for the selected drive once per week or when any of its conditions — ones mentioned earlier — are met.
Do note that since you have selected the System drive to enable System Restore in the above steps, it will only protect you when something goes wrong on that particular drive. While this should protect your system from almost all major problems, if, for some reason, you want to protect other drives as well, you can follow the same steps to enable System Restore on those drives.
2. Creating a Restore Point Manually
Although System Restore creates restore points every week or when any major events occur on the system, you also have the option to create system restore points manually. This can be useful when you want to take the latest snapshot of your working system before performing any major operation on it.
For instance, if you are updating the operating system or installing a program/hardware driver that you think might cause incompatibility issues or hamper the functioning of other system components, you can create a manual restore point before performing such actions.
Follow the steps below to manually create a system restore point on Windows 10:
- Head over to the System Properties on your computer (follow steps 1-2 above).
- Go to the System Protection tab in the System Properties dialog box.
- Click on the Create button. Note that, by default, the system would create a manual restore point for the drive that has the System Protection turned on. So, if it is enabled on multiple drives, select one, and then click on the Create button.
- Give a description for your restore point such that it is easier to remember at the time of picking a restore point for restoring your PC.
- Click Create.
System Restore will now create a manual restore point for your selected drive. It can take anywhere from 30 seconds up to 1 minute for this process to finish. Once it is done, click Close.
3. Restoring Your System to a Restore Point
Now that you have enabled System Restore on your system and have restore point(s) — created automatically or manually — if your system ever runs into problems, you can restore it to the latest restore point where it was in a healthy state.
Following are the steps you need to follow to restore your system to a restore point.
- Go to the System Properties on your computer (follow steps 1-2 from Enabling System Restore).
- Make sure you are on the System Protection tab and click the System Restore button.
- On the System Restore dialog box that appears, click Next.
- Select a restore point you want to restore on your PC and hit Next. You also have the option to identify the programs on your system that will be uninstalled during the restore. To do this, click on the Scan for affected programs button.
- Assuming you opt to identify affected programs, you will see two sections: Programs and drivers that will be deleted and Programs and drivers that might be restored. The names for both categories here are pretty self-explanatory: the programs listed under the former will be deleted while those under the latter will be restored on the system upon reverting to a restore point.
- Click Close to go back to the restore point selection page and select the restore point to restore on your computer.
- Hit Next and confirm your restore point by pressing Finish on the next screen.
- On the final dialog box, click Yes.
If you followed all the steps correctly up to this point, Windows should now start the restoration process on your computer. Depending on how much data is in your restore point, the system will take time to revert to it accordingly.
Fixing Windows 10 with System Restore
With the help of System Restore, you should be able to fix most of your system issues on Windows 10 where the system is unresponsive, malfunctioning, or facing other problems that are hindering its overall performance. Assuming you have System Restore enabled for the System drive on your PC, the entire process of creating restore points should happen seamlessly, without requiring you to create restore points manually at different points in time.
That said, though, you should note about System Restore that the restore points it creates do not help restore deleted programs or files on your system: they only restore the system functionality by resetting the system components to their last functional state.
If you are looking for a solution to recover deleted items on your computer, you should check out Microsoft’s Windows File Recovery or some third-party data recovery software.