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Poll: Has Windows System Restore ever saved your computer?

Windows Vista System Restore has saved many users from corrupt installs and botched updates. What about you? Take our quick poll and let us know.

In a recent TR Dojo video, I explain how Windows Vista's System Restore works and how the hidden VSSAdmin command-line tool can prevent it from filling up your hard drive. Although IT organizations often disable System Restore through Group Policy and manage backups through a separate process, System Restore has saved many home and small office users. What about you? Take our quick poll and let us know.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

78 comments
Oz_Media
Oz_Media

But I generally have it shut off and just create a manual restore point once in a while then delete all but the last one or two restore points. I find it just sucks up all the HD space otherwise and actually creates more problems as a result.

LeonBA
LeonBA

I've never repaired an XP installation with Windows System Restore. But in years past, I repaired several Windows 2000 machines using the ERD. Why Windows got away from an ERD-type system backup situation I don't understand.

ITOdeed
ITOdeed

Yes. After a failed dual boot attempt for Ubuntu and Vista, the computer had to boot Vista from Ubuntu from a recover point.

Randy P
Randy P

Many times for me. Many times for customers.

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paul_austine

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linuxiac38
linuxiac38

When we state "your computer", we must all face the fact that a majority of us are Tech Support, trying to save a client's system. I think I have tried to resurrect about a hundred Windows machines per year since 2000... I know tha 999 of them became Linux Boxen! I repeatedly tried the Restore sequence of futility, with an idealistic fervor that could summon Albert Einstein to mutter, "If you repeat the doomed experiment multiple times, and expect a different result each time, then you are truly crazy!". After 5 to 10 minutes of that insanity, I'll boot with a Linux LiveCD, save off the user files to another drive, CDs/ DVD, or USB device, and then click the Install Icon on the Linux desktop. Only one person, who used Microsoft Publisher, ever convinced me that they really, really wanted to do a reinstall of Microsoft. The initial install of Microsoft Windows might only take 45 minutes, but, finding and loading all the drivers, and then setting up, installing all the Service Packs, fixing all the broken stuff, deleting all that commercial ware, tweaking it to run on the Internet, installing the AVG, HiJackThis, Glary Utilities, and the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society CD of 100+ Free Open Source Softwares, usually winds up taking about 12 hours... No wonder PC Shops and Best Buy Geeks charge $180 plus tax! Basically, I like a true concurrent parallel processing OS, such as the hundreds of GNU/Linux Distros, or the 30+ BSDs, but, which excludes all forms of Microsoft, a consecutive processing, single process system. linuxmint.com has your free CD image. Wine is in the toolbar. Yep, it runs Win32 codec games, programs, etc. that comply with the Microsoft rules. And, they usually talk the rube into buying a new, un-needed, drive!

atchia
atchia

Not really. However it did help solve my problem and trouble most of the the time when using it.

ScienceMikey
ScienceMikey

I have used System Restore with some success, but it's often like swatting flies with a sledgehammer. 90% of the time the problem is the Windows Registry, so regular Registry backups with ERUNT is the better solution. For example, I recently has a problem PC with a blown-away Registry. Guess where the System Restore points are stored? You guessed it; fortunately, I had a recent backup via ERUNT and was able to boot from a Bart PE CD to restore the backup (a Windows install or repair CD works, too). All is fine now.

rayb
rayb

As a rule of thumb, It never seems to work when you need it.

ynotrepsac
ynotrepsac

Thank you soooooooo much for the information on Vssadmin. Wow! I have a 200gb laptop. My computer tab showed C drive using up 198.4 gb. I deleted all sorts of stuff but nothing helped. Now ofter applying the Vssadmin. I have 96.8GB free. You The Man.... Want to be a computer Geek like you. Thanks!

roy_p_23455
roy_p_23455

malware bypass when all else had failed and saved a lot of time

genemasondfw
genemasondfw

YES but ...... System should never fail in 1st place, software source has no confidence in reliab ility of his product. A summary of repair magnitude would be nice, maybe a boot to allow backup of data and applications would have been better, and a reformat and reload OS.

gford
gford

Yes, several times as a last resort before a complete rebuild.

wwgorman
wwgorman

Never has worked! Think this is GoBack Lite. Doesn't work in Vista or in XP. A waste of time. Another Microsoft Product "Innovation" that should be left to others.

barrpete
barrpete

many times, I won't say how many or the Geeks will laugh!

jund1940
jund1940

Yes... Took the time to read many of the negative comments. It seems to be the case that when folks who purport to use a tool and it fails, it is the tool's fault - however when the tool works, the tool was not at all helpful. That is a serious ego problem. The best 'techs' use the right tool at the right time and in most cases the tool supports adequately - and best techs will tell you that. Of course restore has NOT always accomplished what I would like it to - but it has never failed to perform the way it was designed to perform and has saved my dumb butt many times. Respectfully submitted, John Underwood jund

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Though it has failed to do so several times, too.

reisen55
reisen55

Better 1. GHOST your critical systems and reimage. 2. Betcha nobody knew this one: you can run the command window off of the Windows XP CDRom and manually, MANUALLY THAT IS, dig into the restore points and one by one chuck them into the registry to restore a system.

john
john

I had a MS update KB969898 http://support.microsoft.com/kb/969898 - this decided to totally trashed my Excel spreadsheet that i used the mscomm32.ocx to allow me to pull in data from a weigh scale over the serial port. i used the system restore to roll back a week... fixed. just made sure the KB never installed in future!

kjs420
kjs420

By the time I notice something's wrong, the restore point, that would have worked is gone.

cschwarz
cschwarz

Absolutely. On two computers. When I installed a new piece of hardware which somehow disabled my internet access, and uninstalling the hardware did not solve the problem I was faced with the prospect of devoting many hours trying to repair thr damage. But I tried restoring using ths System Restore point taken before I attempted the install and everything worked just as before. I now take a 'check-point' prior to installing any hardware or software, and I feel secure knowing that I can get everything back to a previous working state.

timkaz
timkaz

It has saved my PC, however, for every time it works there are 10 times it has not worked. So the question is a bit on the simplistic side. re Tim

santeewelding
santeewelding

All other times it was thoroughly corrupted as well. Shot the horse dead.

adviceadvantage_2000
adviceadvantage_2000

System Restore has restored my computer to an earlier state, but no system restore point has EVER saved one of my systems from a complete reformat and a reinstall. I might add that I have never been able to replace a registry with a saved registry. Generally, the attempt to replace the registry has ultimately led to a computer crash.

ndgreen
ndgreen

The only times I have neede system restore, it did not work. I used to dutifully create a restore point prior to installing new software/Windows updates/various other changes. After the second or third time Windows reproted it could restore to my carefully saved restore point I gave up and now don't bother.

jkameleon
jkameleon

I decided to reconfigure RAID on my the then brand new box. I made complete backup on external drive, reconfigured RAID, and started restore. Windows installation program, in all its wisdom, somehow decided that external drive is a primary disk drive, and asked me whether I want to format it. I wasn't paying attention, and said yes. Ouch. Luckily, I still got all my important stuff on my old box, but it took me about a week to get everything back togehter.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

You needed one more choice: Yes, but more often than not it fails, refuses to consider previous restore points, etc.

gdutson
gdutson

My personal laptop has Vista Home Premium and on one occasion it was installing updates as part of a shutdown. Apparently the battery was too low because when I tried to start it the next day, no joy. I tried safe mode and a couple of other things, and finally did the restore. At that point I liked the feature. :)

Dr_T
Dr_T

For instance, every time I try to install updates for IEV8 and some related parts (spam filters), the NET infrastructure, or update the definitions of MS mallware protection, my machine CANNOT boot again! And I have to goto restore from checkpoint .... What I may be doing wrong ? Initially, I had as default to download and install all, then I just said download only to control which ones I want to install. I haven't installed any IEV8 updates for some time now, but anyways I am using FF. Any idea would be appreciated....

QA_In_Vegas
QA_In_Vegas

I was on my work PC no less, and it was lagging horribly behind. I was cleaning up some crap installations and accidentally confirmed to delete my extended video driver. ARGH! But I used System Restore to go back to the last save and PRESTO! It was perfect again!

swg_joe
swg_joe

I haven't been to lucky with System Restore at home or work, however backup Util for Windows bailed me out a few times as well Ghost :) My IT doesnt run backup on individual pc's but I feel they should they dont have the storage space for it ( someday maybe )

bkoury
bkoury

The restore is the biggest piece of crap I have ever seen! The backup stores the files in 200 mb zip files. The restore works fine UNLESS you refresh your hard drive. Once you do that, you are screwed. The restore will begin, you can select the backup you want to restore, it starts preparing the backup then suddenly quits saying it can't find the file. The Microsoft web site claims this is because the backup was moved to a different location which is not the case. Any file that got split in the 200mb limit can not be restored.

Michael.Ross
Michael.Ross

A friend of mine used to run a DJ business. Doing mostly weddings, he took on a job that both of us agree may have been more than he could handle. He had signed-on to do a company's Christmas Party, which would include a night of karaoke amongst the company's 500+ guests. This sort of event comes with plenty of stress as there is a lot of equipment to setup in order to fill a room of that size with light and sound with only two of us to set it all up. Then, about 30 minutes before we're supposed to get started, the video on his karaoke software wouldn't work. Text was not appearing on the stage monitor. With a cross of the fingers, a quick Windows System Restore to a restore point the previous week when he knew everything was working properly got us out of the jam.

john3347
john3347

My experience parallels Palmetto's experience. It is a quick and easy thing to try first, but success rate leaves something to be desired. I have much better luck with Windows Home Server restore function. Now, that has saved my butt a number of times.

dsshapiro
dsshapiro

Restore has restored worms and viruses more frequently thasn it has saved anything. In addition, I have found that Restore has been turned off at times when I did not deactivate it myself. And don't start with accusations of my being a novice or ignorant user, as I am an MCSE, and have taught 31 IT classes in IT security at 4 colleges, and do take proper pprecautions to pretect my system with antimalware, firewall, and antivirus applications.

davidt
davidt

I've used it at home when the kids messed up some settings badly, but at work I just reimage and return-to-user. Strangely, it's worth the extra trouble at work because there is usually more junk, malware, and malfeasance on those computers than the ones at home.

Capt_Skippy
Capt_Skippy

I've had some luck with the XP system restore. Would I swear by it and depend on it for an emergency, probably not. But it has proven itself to be a very effective way of combatting things like spyware and malware.

jacobus57
jacobus57

No, but it has completely fubared computers belonging to my clients, to the point of making recovery of damaged files impossible. Maybe I have just been lucky NOT having ever been forced to try it, but after what I have seen in the wild, it would not be my tool of first resort.

David Stratton
David Stratton

It's save my computer many, many times, particularly after problematic driver upgrades.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It doesn't take long and is easy to use. I have around a 50% success rate with it; higher if the user remembers when the problem / infection started.

jck
jck

I don't need a restore point everytime Windows updates Windows Defender...which is actually disabled in my system :^0

N4AOF
N4AOF

I'm not sure which is more amazing: 1) that some people have had some success with System Restore OR 2) that so many people claim (or admit) to having had reasons to use System Restore "many" times.

chaz15
chaz15

Next time you have to reinstall, set up a separate partition for the OS (about 15Gb) Keriver Image 4.1 is great for copying OS partitions. Do so when Windows is working! Thanks for the tip about manually restoring from the command window, sounds REALLY useful. Biggest gripe against Microsoft is that system restore points should be created as READ ONLY, to make it more difficult for viruses and malware to attack them.

rpbert4
rpbert4

Recently, I inadvertently deleted a program (and a year's worth of related data). As a last try at recovery, I used System Restore. My last Restore point was earlier the same day. It worked like a charm, program and all data was rstored.

Jeremy Barker
Jeremy Barker

Most of my experience is with XP but I have tried to use it with Vista too. The main problems I have encountered are first that too many restore points simply do not work, second that because restore points are thrown away in a FIFO basis and you can't tag some restore points as persistent. But my biggest complaint is that when you do a System Restore it claims to be undoable but I have not been able to undo a restore successfully when I wanted to.

SKDTech
SKDTech

Depends on the AV. Some interfere more than others and some I have never had a problem with. It would be the first thing I would check. Conflicts with other installed programs and corrupt updates in the past could also be factors. I have had updates that would not install at all that have been fixed by reimaging the machine to a fresh install state and either force updating or applying the standalone Service Packs and force all remaining updates afterward. Try disconnecting your machine from the network, disabling the AV and then applying the already downloaded update.

santeewelding
santeewelding

I have a handle on this discussion, you have to come out of right field with your wake-up. Righteous observation.

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

Yes I have used it a few times it worked fine. Would not think of restore a comp. in work environment; image it again and go on the way. Work is work and home is mostly play! I much prefer system image back up at home on a daily or multiple days in a week. There is nothing like a drive that has no junk left over even if you are depositing yesterday's junk again on it. Being careful seems to work best unless an update or new driver fouls things up. I keep 7 days on an external drive at home if seperate back up are made, incremenals can get messy sometimes. Call me paranoid, but it works for me.