System Restore: frequently asked questions


Here are answers to some common questions about System Restore.

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How does System Restore work?

System Restore uses restore points to return your system files and settings to an earlier point in time without affecting personal files. Restore points are created automatically every week, and just before significant system events, such as the installation of a program or device driver. You can also create a restore point manually. For more information about System Restore, see What is System Restore?

To open System Restore

Before you start System Restore, save any open files and close all programs. Once you confirm your restore point, System Restore restarts your computer.

  • Open System Restore by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type System Restore, and then, in the list of results, click System Restore. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Can I undo the changes System Restore makes?

Yes. Every time you use System Restore, a restore point is created before proceeding, so you can undo the changes if they don't fix your problem. If you use System Restore when the computer is in safe mode or using the System Recovery Options, you cannot undo the restore operation. However, you can run System Restore again and choose a different restore point, if one exists.

To undo the changes System Restore makes

  1. Open System Restore by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type System Restore, and then, in the list of results, click System Restore. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Click Undo System Restore, and then click Next.

  3. Review your choices, and then click Finish.

What files are changed during a system restore?

System Restore affects Windows system files, programs, and registry settings. It can also make changes to scripts, batch files, and other types of executable files created under any user account on your computer. System Restore does not affect personal files, such as e-mail, documents, or photos, so it cannot help you restore a deleted file. If you have backups of your files, you can restore the files from a backup.

How do I choose a restore point?

System Restore automatically recommends the most recent restore point created before a significant change, such as installing a program. You can also choose from a list of restore points. Try using restore points created just before the date and time you started noticing problems. The descriptions of the restore points that are created automatically correspond with the name of an event, such as Windows Update installing an update. System Restore returns your computer to the state that it was in before the restore point that you chose.

How long are restore points saved?

Restore points are saved until the disk space System Restore reserves is filled up. As new restore points are created, old ones are deleted. If you turn off system protection (the feature that creates restore points) on a disk, all restore points are deleted from that disk. When you turn system protection back on, new restore points are created. For more information about system protection, see What is system protection?

What if System Restore doesn't fix the problem?

If System Restore doesn't fix the problem, you can undo the restore operation or try choosing a different restore point. If System Restore doesn't display any restore points to choose from, make sure you have system protection turned on and that you have at least 300 MB of free space left on your hard disk if it is 500 MB or larger, or have at least 50 MB of free space if your hard disk is smaller than 300 MB. If System Restore doesn't fix the problem, you can also try an advanced recovery method. For more information, see Choosing an advanced recovery method.