What is System Restore and How Can it Help You?

by Baba

System restore is an incredibly useful tool that is provided with Windows operating systems, but only when it is used properly. It can give you the perfect and easiest way to correct things that have gone wrong, and to return your computer to a previously working condition.

There are many ways in which your system can be afflicted by minor problems. Software installations and viruses are two of the most common, with the removal of software or major changes to the system configurations being another. When this happens, it can be nice to just roll back the changes as though they never happened.

Installing software isn’t always as straight forward as it might seem. From time to time, installing a new piece of software may cause a clash with other software on the computer, or maybe with the operating system or hardware drivers. When this happens the computer may become unstable, may start to hang or crash or become completely unusable. If this happens, restoring to an earlier known safe configuration on the computer can help, by removing any recent changes that you have made to the computer.

System restore settings are accessed through the control panel, under the ‘System’ menu. The ‘System Restore’ tab allows you to decide how much storage will be dedicated to saving system restore points. You can choose to restore to an earlier restore point by going to ‘Start’ → ‘Accessories’ → ‘System Tools’ and then choosing the restore point that you want. You can restore to an earlier time in safe mode if your system has become unstable.

Using a system restore point won’t cause the loss of files or data such as photographs or documents. However it will remove any software changes that you have recently made to your computer, and that means that you will lose any programs that you have recently installed. It may be that you find that your computer is simply not capable of running that software and that you have to abandon it completely, or that the original install of that piece of software failed for an unknown reason and trying again with a fresh install can allow a successful installation that works appropriately in the future.

Unfortunately there is a downside to having system restore turned on as well. There are times when certain viruses may hide a file in a system restore point, that allows itself to self replicate-that is to reinstall itself any time it is removed from the system. However this is a minor consideration for most people compared to the convenience of having the system active, and is normally overcome by simply having good anti-virus software always running.

A system restore can only ever be successful when it is used correctly. If no restore points are set then there will be nothing to roll back to if something goes wrong, so it is important to set restore points regularly. A weekly restore point is useful, but the most important thing is to make sure that you always set a restore point before making any changes to the system. This includes before you install new software or new hardware drivers.

When system restore fails you may have no choice but to call in someone who is more familiar with computers, but this at least gives you a chance to fix things when they go wrong.

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