Taking Your PC Back In Time

Have you ever wanted a do-over? Ever wished that you could just erase the day and pretend it never happened? Human time travel only exists in science fiction movies, but your Windows PC can do something similar right now with a built in program called System Restore.

In any number of situations, going back in time offers a simple and effective means of PC troubleshooting and repair. Perhaps you’ve inadvertently opened a dubious file attachment, and your PC starts acting funky. Or maybe you install the latest driver update for your Webcam, only to find that your wireless adapter no longer functions. In these situations and more, System Restore can return your Windows PC to proper working order.

What Is System Restore?
 
You can find System Restore under System Properties. System Restore is a feature in Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP that lets you roll back the system state to a previous point in time. It lets you undo changes to the Windows operating system without losing personal data including Word documents, e-mail settings and messages, and your Internet favorites list. System Restore won’t lose any data you have stored in the My Documents, My Pictures, or My Music folders either.

When System Restore is enabled it automatically creates restore points both regularly and prior to system-changing events, such as when you apply Windows updates or install new software. These restore points contain information about the Registry settings and other Windows system state information that existed at that point in time. You can also manually create restore points.

When you use System Restore to revert to a previous restore point, the operation undoes system changes such as new drivers and application installations, but documents, spreadsheets, e-mail messages, and other data files remain untouched. Personal data should survive the System Restore, but you’ll have to reinstall any programs that you installed after the chosen restore point. Conversely, you’ll have to re-uninstall software that you removed after the restore point.

Creating a Restore Point

Think of System Restore as your personal time machine. Since System Restore automatically creates restore points periodically, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding an available restore point from a point in time prior to when your problem began. System Restore generally creates restore points before installing new software or updates, but there is no guarantee that it will do so. If you’re concerned, simply create a restore point manually.

System Restore saves between one and three weeks’ worth of past restore points. The number of saved restore points depends on how you use your computer and how much hard-drive space is available for storing restore-point information.

To be safe, you can manually create a restore point to mark a specific point in time–for instance, to establish a known-good system state before making changes to the system or installing new software on your own.

If System Restore doesn’t fix the problem, you can undo the restore operation or try choosing a different restore point.

Important: System Restore is not a substitute for regularly backing up your data. System Restore comes into play when your computer becomes unstable, it can’t be used if your hard drive fails or is melted down in a fire because the information that System Restore uses is stored on the hard drive itself

How to use System Restore with Windows XP:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/306084

How to use System Restore with Windows Vista:
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/System-Restore-frequently-asked-questions

How to use System Restore with Windows 7:
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/What-is-System-Restore

For a more advanced walkthrough and troubleshooting steps, check out this link:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/helpandsupport/getstarted/ballew_03may19.mspx

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