Windows Vista Features that I Like, Part 3 – System Restore

This is part 3 in the series. For the other parts, click below:

System Restore was first introduced in Windows XP and has now been carried forward into Vista. Essentially, System Restore helps you “roll back” your system to an earlier point in time, without affecting your data files (i.e. documents, pictures, etc.).

System Restore is turned “on” by default and automatically creates restore points on your computer. Restore points contain information about registry settings and other system information that Windows uses. System Restore creates restore points every day, and whenever you install a new hotfix, service pack and even (most) applications.

Here are some of the things that I have used System Restore for:

  • Removing corrupted registry entries caused by a virus on a co-worker’s computer
  • Removing all traces of a buggy beta version of a program
  • Eliminating annoying error messages caused by a printer install using an XP driver (on Vista)

System Restore is so easy to use and effective that I often walk people through the process over the phone, rather than trying to troubleshoot the problem directly (i.e. removing spyware, viruses, faulty programs, etc.).

Here are some of the things that System Restore CANNOT be used for:

  • Recovering deleted files (Previous Versions might help you here)
  • Recovering deleted emails
  • Removing a program completely (use the Program Manager)
  • BACKUPS … System Restore is not an alternative for making a backup of your system

You can start System Restore by typing System Restore in your Search box or using the shortcut icon in your Start Menu (within Accessories). You can also use the command rstrui.exe.

Running System Restore in Windows Vista

This screen is the main System Restore screen that you will see. Simply choose a restore point that is before the problem occured and click Next. You will click Finish on the next screen and the System Restore process will start.

It doesn’t take long … roughly 5 minutes and a reboot later and your system will be restored.

Windows Vista System Restore

If you are about to install a program or make another change that you want to be able to back out of, you can create a manual system restore point. Vista will usually do this for you automatically, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe.

To do this, right click Computer, click Properties and then click on System Protection.

Manual Restore Points in Windows Vista

This will then take you to this screen, where you can manually create restore points and also select the partitions that you want System Restore enabled on.

Manual System Restore Points in Windows Vista

That wraps it up! System Restore in Windows Vista is simple to use but very helpful.

Remember, DO NOT substitute System Restore for backups; it will not backup your data! Check back (or subscribe to our feed), I will be posting more Vista features I like soon.

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