System Restore comes embedded with Windows operating systems. It was first introduced with Windows ME and has been available with all the succeeding versions of the Windows OS (Operating System).
Upon execution, Windows System Restore reverts the system configuration to a previous state as chosen by the user. As a result, it resolves a number of issues that occur when one or more system-level components fail or malfunction.
System Restore Functionality
System malfunction can be caused by unauthorized or unwanted changes in system settings or registry files or by installing incompatible programs/drivers that can create inconsistencies in system configuration. Even minor alteration to these system components can cause the computer to behave unexpectedly.
Windows System Restore attempts to resolve such issues by restoring critical elements of system configuration. To do so, it saves records of critical system files at regular intervals to use them later as reference for restoration. These records are called Restore Points. In Windows 10 and Windows 8, a Restore Point is created once in every seven days by default. Additionally, a Restore Point is created prior to major changes like installing new applications, updating drivers, and upgrading the OS. The maximum number of Restore Points that can be saved depends upon the memory allocated to System Restore and can be adjusted by users per their requirement.
Windows System Restore is especially handy when a device starts behaving abnormally after a system-level change (user-induced or automatic). It could be a minor glitch like system slowdown or a specific feature not functioning as expected, or a major malfunction after installing/updating a driver/program. In such instances, you can execute System Restore to revert the device back to an optimally functioning state.
Enabling System Restore
Windows System Restore is not always enabled by default. Considering the usefulness of this inbuilt program, you should enable it when you set up your new computer. In addition to the default C drive, where system files are stored, you can also include other drives in the scope of System Restore. Below are the steps to enable Windows System Restore:
On Windows 10
- Open Start menu and type ‘System Restore’ in the Search box.
- Look for the ‘Create a restore point’ option in the search results. Click on it. It will take you to the ‘System Protection’ tab on the ‘System Properties’ window.
- Look for ‘Protection Settings’ section towards the middle of this window. Available Drives and Protection Status are listed within a box. From here you can select the drives for which you want to enable System Restore.
- Click on a drive. When the option is highlighted, click the ‘Configure’ button. It will open a new ‘System Protection’ window.
- Under the ‘Restore Settings’ section, check on the ‘Turn on system protection’ option.
- Under the ‘Disk Space Usage’ section of the same window, use the slider to define the memory limit for Windows System Restore.
- Click ‘Apply’ to save the settings, and click ‘OK’ to exit this window.
On Windows 8
- Similar to the above steps, Open Start menu and type ‘Restore Point’ in the Search box.
- Open ‘Create a restore point’ option in the search results and follow step 2 and onwards as listed for Windows 10.
Creating Restore Points
In addition to the automatically created Restore Points, you can create Restore Points manually per your requirements by simply performing the following steps:
Windows 10 Restore Point
- Click on the Start button and type ‘System Restore’ in the Search box.
- Locate the ‘Create a restore point’ option and click on it. It will take you to the ‘System Protection’ tab on the ‘System Properties’ window.
- Click the ‘Create’ button towards the bottom-right of the window. It will take you to the ‘System Protection’ window.
- In the text box, enter a description for the Restore Point so that you can recall when you need to execute System Restore. Click the ‘Create’ button at the bottom to confirm and create the Restore Point.
- Click the ‘Close’ button on the System Protection confirmation box.
Windows 8 Restore Point
The process of creating a Restore Point manually on Windows 8 is same as on Windows 10. Just type ‘Restore Point’ in the Search box and follow step 2 and onwards as listed for Windows 10.
Performing System Restore in Windows 10 and Windows 8
With Windows System Restore enabled for all the necessary drives, you have the liberty to revert the system configuration to any Restore Point in the event of a malfunction. You can perform the following simple steps to perform System Restore:
Restore Windows 10
- Open Start menu and search ‘System Restore’. Open ‘Create a restore point’ option from the search results. This will open the ‘System Protection’ tab on the ‘System Properties’ window.
- Click ‘System Restore’ button. It will take you to the ‘System Restore’ window.
- Click ‘Next’ to proceed. You will reach the page showing list of available Restore Points.
- Click on the desired Restore Point.’’
- Click “Scan for affected programs” button. It will list down the drivers and programs that will be erased and those that will be restored after the process completes. You can simply take a look at the list or note it down for reference.
- Click the ‘Close’ button to go back to the ‘System Restore’ window.
- Make sure that the desired Restore Point is highlighted. Click the ‘Next’ button at the bottom. The ‘System Restore’ window will ask for confirmation.
- Click the ‘Finish’ button after you’ve checked the details. An alert dialog box will appear.
- Click the ‘Yes’ button to begin restoration. Leave the computer for Windows System Restore to take its due course. When restoration completes, Windows will automatically restart for the changes to take effect.
Restore Windows 8
The process of performing a System Restore manually on Windows 8 is same as on Windows 10. Just type ‘Restore Point’ in the Search box and follow step 2 and onwards as listed for Windows 10.
If the issue persists, you can execute Windows System Restore again by selecting another Restore Point. If even several attempts fail to resolve the issue, then the problem may be beyond the scope of System Restore functionality. In that case, you have to explore other ways to resolve the issue.
The scope of Windows System Restore
Before executing Windows System Restore, it is critical to understand how this inbuilt restoration program affects your computer:
Keeps personal files: System Restore does not affect personal files downloaded, imported, or generated by users. Therefore, you do not have back up your documents, photos, videos, and other files before executing the program. System Restore affects only those files that impact the system similar data. Hence, all your personal files remain unaffected irrespective of the date and time when the selected Restore Point was created.
Does not restore deleted personal files: As System Restore does not affect personal files, it cannot restore the deleted ones either. Suppose, you erased specific files permanently from your device. Then you execute System Restore using a Restore Point that was generated when those files were still present on your computer. When the process completes, the system files will be restored but not the deleted personal files. In other words, Windows System Restore should not be considered as a file recovery or backup tool.
Removes as well as restores applications: Applications installed by users are removed or restored as a result of System Restore. Suppose, you want to revert the configuration to a Restore Point generated a couple of weeks ago. Doing so will permanently remove the applications installed after that Restore Point was created. Similarly, the applications you deleted in those 15 days will be restored if they were present when that Restore Point was created. Besides, once System Restore is completed, the Windows and driver updates that were installed during this period will also be uninstalled. However, the deleted applications that get restored as a result of executing Windows System Restore may be dysfunctional at times. They will either not function properly, or may require the executable (.exe) file to be run again.
Does not clean malware: Virus and other malicious programs are quite elusive and stealthy. Malware can hide anywhere in the system depending upon its build and purpose. Therefore, Windows System Restore may not be able to resolve issues that arise due to malicious infiltrations.
Other Troubleshooting Options
Users can use ‘Refresh your PC’ in Windows 8 or ‘Reset > Keep my files’ option in Windows 10 to resolve system issues. This option is apt for those wanting to reinstall Windows without backing up their personal data.
Resetting the device to its factory defaults is the ultimate step that you can take when all other means of troubleshooting fail to resolve an issue. ‘Reset your PC’ in Windows 8 or ‘Reset > Remove everything’ option in Windows 10 will reinstall Windows while deleting all personal files and applications installed by the user. Only the applications that were originally shipped with the device are retained. Hence, irrespective of the problem and what caused it, Reset resolves the issue by reverting the system to its default factory configuration.
Reboot to Restore Technology
The Reboot to Restore technology is a more suitable alternative to Reset. When a reboot to restore software is deployed, it saves the user-defined pristine configuration of the system as the baseline state. When the device is restarted, the Reboot to Restore technology loads the saved configuration and discards all the data generated during user sessions. As a result, the pristine system configuration remains immune to the effects of undesired elements, be it malicious infiltrations or unwanted user-made changes. The technology, however, allows you to set which system partitions or drives should be included or excluded from its fold. Hence, you can use your computer as usual and yet maintain and restore the desired system configuration with just a restart.