How do I... Create and use System Restore in Windows Vista

No matter how careful you are, when it comes to installing drivers and applications in Windows Vista there are just going to be times when you need to perform a system restore. This brief step-by-step tutorial shows you how to create a restore point and then use it to return a working Vista configuration.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic download and as a TechRepublic gallery.

In many ways, Microsoft Windows Vista is more sophisticated then Windows XP and the other versions of Windows that came before. However, in many ways, Windows Vista is also very similar to the preceding versions of Microsoft's operating system. These similarities are particularly evident when you start working with drivers for peripherals.

On occasion (and many would say more often then it should) the Windows Vista operating system will get corrupted by a bad driver install or some other installation mishap. When this occurs, the best solution is often to restore the OS to a previous non-corrupted state. The easiest way to accomplish this is using the built-in System Restore feature of Windows Vista itself.

The procedures are similar to what they were in Windows XP, but there are some differences to consider.

Create a system restore point

One of the more useful features of Windows Vista is the several different ways you can navigate to screens and applets in the operating system. To reach the System screen in the Control Panel, you can type "system" into the desktop search box and select it from the list that is returned (See Figure A) or you can open the Control Panel and then click the System icon (See Figure B). Either way you should end up with the screen shown in Figure C. (Note, you could also right-click the Computer icon on the desktop and click properties on the resulting menu.)

Figure A

Desktop search

Figure B

Select System from Control Panel

Figure C

System information

Click the System protection link on this page (Figure C) to get to the System Protection Tab of the System Properties applet (Figure D).

Figure D

System Protection Tab

On this tab you basically have two options: Create a restore point or restore from a previously saved one. Click the Create button to get to Figure E. Type in a description so you can recognize this restore point later on and click OK. Depending on your system, this could take a few minutes to complete.

Figure E

Create a restore point

Perform a system restore

To restore system files and settings from a previously saved point you would click the System Restore button on the System Protection Tab on the System Properties applet (Figure D). This starts the System Restore wizard as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

System Restore wizard

Clicking the Next button takes you to a list of possible restore points (Figure G). Note that Windows Vista periodically creates system restore points as a normal part of its operation.

Figure G

A list of restore points

Choose on of these points and click Next. The next screen (Figure H) will confirm your choice and remind you to close programs and files.

Figure H

Last chance to cancel â€" be sure you are ready

This is your last chance to cancel the process. Once the restore process begins you will have to let it run its course, which can take several minutes. Your Vista PC will have to reboot to complete the process. When it is completed your PC will restart with system files restored to the condition they were in at your chosen restore point.


Creating a system restore point before you load new or beta drivers for one of your peripherals can save you time and headaches if that driver happens to crash the system to an unbootable state. Some misbehaving applications can cause the same problem. Although we would all love to see the day where establishing system restore points is not necessary, that day is not here yet. This system restore process is a basic safeguard you should take advantage of just in case something goes wrong.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox