Windows

How do I ... use System Restore in Windows Vista?

The Windows Vista System Restore applet is actually much easier to use than it was in Windows XP. Mark Kaelin shows you how to use it to create a restoration point and then return to that point when necessary.

Sometimes Microsoft Windows Vista gets corrupted to the point where the last option before wiping the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system is to try a system restore. The recent trouble we have seen stemming from the installation of Internet Explorer 8 is a prime example of a situation that may require a jump back to a point in time where Vista was working properly.

The Windows Vista System Restore applet is actually much easier to use than it was in Windows XP. Here is how you use it to create a restoration point and then return to that point when necessary.

Note: In an enterprise situation, this feature is often turned off. Network administrators in this situation often keep a pristine version of your PC handy for special situations.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Create a restoration point

To get to the System Restore dialog box, right-click the Computer icon on your desktop and click Properties or navigate to Control Panel | System to reach the System screen shown in Figure A.

Figure A

The Systems screen
Click the System Protection link on the left-hand side of the screen. Click Continue at the UAC prompt, and you will reach the tabbed dialog box shown in Figure B.

Figure B

System Properties

The middle of this screen indicates whether the System Restore is active and shows the most recent restoration point available. If you want to stop System Restore from working, uncheck the appropriate box.

To create a fresh restoration point, click the Create button. Creating a restore point manually is often useful just before you do a major upgrade of an application or other form of major system change. If things go wrong, as we know they often do, you will be able to return to a point just before you began the corrupting process.

When you click the Create button, you will be asked to give a description (Figure C). This is where you will want to describe what you are doing so you can find it later if something should go wrong.

Figure C

Adding a good description about your restore point

Return to a restoration point

To return to a restoration point, click the System Restore button on the screen shown in Figure B. The System Restore Wizard will open (Figure D) and suggest a restoration point.

Figure D

System Restore Wizard
If you have a different restoration point in mind, click the Choose a different restore point radio button and click Next to get to the screen shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Choosing a restoration point

Click Next when you are ready. Confirm your choice and click Finish. Note that you will have to go through a reboot to finish the process.

Restored

That is really all there is to it. As many have said in the TechRepublic Community Forums, this is not a foolproof process, but you should try it before you take the time to reinstall Windows Vista. Consider it the next-to-last step to take when the Windows operating system is corrupted.

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

11 comments
mustafacan
mustafacan

the default system restore is not allowing you to control it's required space easily. You will have to use the cmd promt and that's just crazy. I have used alternative such as Rollback Rx or Norton Goback in the past, but I choose Rollback for it's stability and more options.

lelerew
lelerew

In Fig B of the article, above the disk selection box, you are informed that you can create restore points "on" the following disks. Just before the "Create" button, it says you can create a restore point "for" the selected disk. Should this say "of" the selected disk?

CMB from Omaha
CMB from Omaha

Thanks, this was helpful (and timely). I just had to reinstall Vista b/c of horrible system instability. I'll be adding restore points religiously now that I know how!

basmith
basmith

What happens when System Restore does not function as it should???

kewilcoxUSA
kewilcoxUSA

Good article. I'd like to see a followup showing how to safely delete old restore points from the hard disk. It seems the more you have on your system the slower the application starts and runs.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

On occasion, I have used System Restore to get back to a working operating system. Driver troubleshooting was the usual suspect in those cases. But I haven't used System Restore in a long time. Do you have System Restore turned on? Why or why not?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

You can choose where to save and store a restore point. For example, you could save a restore point for your system on a second hard drive. The thing being restored is the Windows operating system - no matter what drive it may reside on.

melekali
melekali

...I have it turned on, but really don't pay much attention to it. Now I have a BCD problem and really don't have any alternative but to reformat. Perhaps I ought to manually create restore points every so often...

engine411
engine411

In XP, it's easy to make a vbs file that can be used in a scheduled task to automatically make a restore point. Is it do-able in Vista? Is the script the same as in XP?

john3347
john3347

I always keep system restore turned on and all too often have to use it as a quick fix for something that has gone sour. I also have another step between System Restore and a complete format and reload in my Windows Home Server. I can do a WHS restore if the individual computer restore function does not correct my problem. With WHS I can even restore to a previous operating system if desired or needed.

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