System Restore is a very old Windows system recovery tool that you’ll want to know how to use when your Windows computer or device starts to malfunction. It can save you from a lot of trouble by reverting your computer to a working state, in just a couple of minutes. In this guide we will explain what System Restore is, why it is useful, how to access it and how to create a system restore point by yourself, so that you can use it when the going gets tough. There’s plenty of ground to cover so let’s get started:
What is System Restore?
System Restore is a system recovery tool that allows you to reverse the changes that were made to your Windows operating system. It works like an Undo button but for changes that were made to system files and settings like drivers, registry keys, installed apps and so on. System Restore does not backup and restore documents, pictures and other personal files on your system. If you want to make a backup of your important files, you should use File History or a cloud storage service like OneDrive or Dropbox. If you need some help setting up a backup system for your personal files, with File History, read this guide: How To Backup Data With File History In Windows 8.1 & Windows 10.
On older versions of Windows, like Windows 7, System Restore is turned on by default. However, on newer operating systems like Windows 10 or Windows 8.1, this is not always the case and you should make sure that it is turned on and working.
When this feature is enabled, it makes periodic snapshots of your system drive (usually once a week) or each time you make any significant changes to the system such as the installation of a new driver or software. These snapshots are called restore points. You can also create restore points manually, when you consider necessary.
If you encounter issues with Windows, you can easily revert back to any of the existing restore points and continue to use Windows as if the recent system changes had never happened.
System Restore is very useful when you encounter faulty drivers that destabilize your system, after installing dodgy desktop apps that have a negative effect on your computing experience or after installing faulty Windows Updates that crash your computer. Restoring your computer to a previous state with System Restore can often clear up your problems in just a couple of minutes.
What happens when you restore your Windows computer with System Restore?
When you restore your Windows computer to a previous state with System Restore, the following things happen:
- All your system settings are restored to what they were when the restore point was made
- All the apps that were installed since the restore point was made will get uninstalled
- All the drivers that were installed since the restore point was made will get uninstalled
- All the Windows Updates that were installed since the restore point was made will get uninstalled
- Your personal files that are stored in user folders (Documents, Pictures, Music and so on) or on partitions other than the C: drive, will remain untouched
How to access System Restore in Windows?
If you want to launch the System Restore tool and create manual restore points or edit its settings, you need to log in as an administrator and open the Control Panel. If you need some help with that, read these guides:
- 8 Ways To Start The Control Panel In Windows 10
- Introducing Windows 8.1: 9 Ways to Access the Control Panel
There, go to System and Security and click or tap System.
In the System window, click or tap the “System protection” link on the left. If your user account is not an administrator, at this point, Windows will ask you to enter the administrator password.
The System Properties window is opened. Here you can see the drives on your computer and whether System Restore is turned on for each of them. If you want to configure the way it works, read and follow this guide: How to Configure The Way System Restore Works. To create a manual system restore point, click or tap the Create button.
The System Protection wizard starts, which will help you create a restore point for the drives where System Restore is turned on. Type a meaningful description for the restore point, to help you figure out why you created it. Then, click or tap Create.
The System Protection wizard takes a while to create the restore point. On a modern computer, it takes 30 to 50 seconds to create one.
You are informed when the restore point was created. Press Close.
Then, close the System Properties window and you are done.
When is it a good idea to create a manual restore point?
A great time to create a restore point is immediately after you have installed Windows on your computer or device. Then, go ahead and install your apps, drivers, change your settings and so on. When you are done, if everything works correctly, it is a good idea to make another restore point, so that you can use it later, if you encounter problems in the future.
Another good time to create manual restore points is before installing apps from untrusted sources (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway), that might cause issues.
How to restore your Windows computer to an earlier state with System Restore?
The answer is explained in detail, in this guide: How to Restore your Windows PC with System Restore. If you can’t log into Windows and you need help to start System Restore and recover your computer, read this guide: How to Start System Restore When You Can No Longer Log Into Windows.
System Restore is a safe way to backup and restore your computer's settings and applications so that you can quickly fix problems that may arise in the future. It is highly recommended that you keep it turned on. For more details about working with the System Restore and other system recovery tools, don't hesitate to read the articles recommended below.