Windows

Five tips for using System Restore effectively

If a crash hoses your Windows system, System Restore can help you get things working again. Here are a few tips and precautions that will help you put this tool to work.

Windows 7 System Restore is a powerful tool that enables you to turn back the clock on Windows. This is quite handy when something goes awry. After a bad crash, or after a program or user has caused a serious issue with the operating system, System Restore can take that computer back to a time when it was working properly. System Restore is fairly simple to use, but it is powerful and should be used wisely. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you make best use of this tool.

1: Work with antivirus

System Restore works in conjunction with the installed antivirus by inducing a scan during the restoration. If, during the restoration, a file is determined to be infected, the antivirus will quarantine it as usual. This is effective -- unless the antivirus can't detect and quarantine the infection. If there is an infected restore point that must be used, temporarily disable the installed antivirus program, disconnect the computer from the network (to prevent further infection), and run the restore. Once the restore has completed, you can try to remove the infection. If all restore points are infected, I would recommend deleting them all and re-creating a new point once the infection has been removed and the computer is running as desired.

2: Don't rely on it for antivirus

In the same vein, the Windows System Restore tool should never be thought of as an antivirus tool. I have come across this a number of times, where a user (and even an administrator or two) assumed that restoring to a previous state would remove whatever virus is on the computer. The flaw in that logic is that System Restore does not modify user data, so any infected files won't be changed. Because of this, System Restore can't be used to turn back the clock to a previous point that was not infected.

3: Keep multiple GOOD restore points

System Restore allows for the retention of multiple restore points. Although Windows 7 will create automatic restore points (or when Windows is updated), I always recommend regularly creating your own so you know you have a working restore point that represents a particular moment when the machine was working properly. Say, for example, you are about to manually install a new service pack or an application that will make numerous changes to the Windows registry or to other critical settings. Make sure you create a new restore point prior to the upgrade or installation. To manually create a restore point click Start, right-click Computer, click on Properties, click on System Protection, and click the Create button. When prompted, give the restore point a name that makes it clear what restoring to this saved point will do (for example, Pre-Service Pack 1).

4: Always scan for affected programs and drivers

When doing the actual restore, make sure you have System Restore tool scan for affected programs. When doing this, you will get an immediate overview of what's going to be affected by the restore. This could be the final saving grace, should you catch a program or driver to be affected that you do not want to change. If this happens, attempt to restore a different save point or don't restore at all. This will also show any programs and/or drivers that have been added or deleted since the last restore and that are to be either added back or deleted from the current system. If you don't scan for affected programs and drivers, you jump into the restore blind -- which I do not recommend.

5: Use caution when dual-booting with XP

If you have a machine that dual-boots Windows 7 and Windows XP, every time you boot XP all but your most recent Windows 7 restore points will be lost. This means that your most recent Windows 7 restore point needs to be a valid point for restoration. Imagine this scenario: You install an application that wreaks havoc on your Windows 7 registry and in the process, a new restore point is created. You dual-boot into Windows XP and then back to Windows 7, only to find Windows 7 is hosed. Can you fix it with System Restore? No. All but that most recent restore point are now gone, so you could be in a bit of a bind.

To prevent that from happening, download this registry setting change, right-click the file, click Merge, and okay the installation. Once the settings in this file have been successfully merged with your Windows registry, those restore points won't be deleted when you boot Windows XP.

The System Restore tool is incredibly valuable. Not only will it restore a machine to a working state, it will save precious time in the process. Having to troubleshoot issues vs. restoring to a working state is often a no-brainer. But jumping into the restore process blindly could cost you time and dollars. These tips will help you approach the task ready to make the Windows 7 restore as effective as possible.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

20 comments
meronbar
meronbar

Can your explain them more detailed, please? They look a bit unclear for me. Are you switch OFFLine partition where is W7 located?

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

shut it off and disable it and do the following: - don't store user files on C:\ - use a real backup / restore solution (eg. Symantec BESR, or Acronis True Image etc.) the toy that MS invented is just as useless today as when it first appeared in WinMe .

akwad
akwad

Yes. it is quite possible that after system restore, you might loose your data.Before system restore is carried on, you need to make sure you backup your data properly, expecially your emails. As for the antivirus, it very possible that when your antivirus itself is corrupt, you loose your profile, not that your profile are gone forevert, but they had been assined another name entirely, so you need to browse through your document and settings to retrieve the renamed profiles. hope this help?

pdxmatthew
pdxmatthew

Is that to be merged into the XP registry, or the W7? I would guess XP, since that is the source of the problem.

grandan
grandan

With regards to this download as I'm unable to find any restore points in Win 7 (now I know why), as I dual boot XP & Win7. I guess that this program/utility is installed within XP, am I correct? My problem is: I can start/load Win 7, go as far as log in screen, put in my access code, then all I have is the light blue screen with flowerstem and the timer circle spinning, then it just hangs at that point. However I'm able to get to the desktop in 'Safe Mode', but not normally. Any suggestions? Thankyou.

dhays
dhays

My daughter's computer with W7 died, BECAUSE of the AV (an update that crashed many computers). My son and I offloaded her data to a external HDD and then he reformatted the C:\ drive partition and using the restore portion of the HDD reinstalled W7 and then we reloaded her data. So you can't always rely on your AV program to be of help.

gmfredooreo
gmfredooreo

Ox80042308 is a number that comes up when restore point cannot be created Pleasae help me get this fixed Gary

dave
dave

Curious, but I did a system restore on my sons malware infected netbook this morning to a restore point about a month ago and he lost all his pictures and documents. A restore forward to the newest restore point and they were back. Of course, so was the malware, but I wonder about the claim of system restore not modifying user data.

kandries
kandries

Can you tell me why it is often not possible to restore the system to a given restore point ? I create restore points (Windows XP SP3)often, usually before installing something. I had a problem lately, but I couldn't get my system restored to any of the latest (let's say 15) restore points, not even the ones created by the system itself. In those cases Windows tells me that the system could not be restored to that point. Luckilly for me, the problem was then solved by restoring a registry backup (created by ERUNT). Any idea ?

D
D

could be a problem with your shell setting HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon Shell value should be Explorer.exe To test, at blank screen after login, ctrl-alt-del one time and select Start Task Manager then File - New Task(Run...) Open: Explorer.exe

paradismarc
paradismarc

When I tried to restore my netbook. I am going to try to turn off my antivirus software and see if that helps at all.

janitorman
janitorman

be there, but hidden. I've had that happen. If you search diligently you might find it under an alternate username, for example. Say Janitorman05162011 instead of just Janitorman. Quite possible if a registry revision is at fault, pointing to what now is "bad" data. Easiest way to do solve that, turn on hidden and system files before the search, if it's there but the shortcuts are in the wrong place... say "My documents" instead of your "Janitorman's documents" (as I have it) simply migrate the data to the location desired, OR use an administrator tool to redirect the default folder to the "new" location.

dan
dan

To the best of my knowledge, I have never lost a document or photo with restore point. Could you supply more details please?

ReadThis
ReadThis

Thank you Dave, I've found the same situation. Can someone tell us just exactly what System Restore does? because what we have been told is just NOT true!

janitorman
janitorman

the problem might be with the registry. Do a registry backup SEPARATELY (most windows versions through regedit) when you do a manual restore point. Save it where you can find it. When you do a system restore, also do a backup registry merge.

neil.bandt
neil.bandt

This will happen if you have any version of Norton antivirus products, at least Internet Security for sure. You must uncheck a setting, run system restore, then recheck the setting. Can't duplicate it here from work. Google it or go to Norton.

Greenknight_z
Greenknight_z

I don't know why it happens either, but that's one reason not to rely too much on System Restore. Another reason: if registry corruption makes the OS unbootable, System Restore is not accessible. Congratulations on having the foresight to install ERUNT, which I recommend to every Windows user. No only is ERUNT a more reliable way to back up the registry, but you can restore a backup from the Recovery Console or a Bart PE (if your ERUNT backups are in the default location) - fast and easy, and saves you having to resort to restoring a disk image (but you should make periodic disk images, anyway). System Restore can be useful, and it backs up a lot more than just the registry; but it's just not that dependable. You need a lot better backup than that!

paradismarc
paradismarc

despite throwing the error. I'm now trying to catch up on windows, BIOS and AV updates

dave
dave

After a couple of days I looked at the files I had backed up to a USB key and indeed the hidden attribute was on. I had set "Show Hidden Files and Folders" to begin with for troubleshooting so I could see the files at that time. Restoring to an older restore point probably returned that setting to off which led me to believe they had disappeared. My bad. Tricky of the malware to do this.

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