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Windows XP System Restore Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is System Restore? How much disk space is used by System Restore?
How can I create a Restore Point? When are the Restore Points created?
If I restore to a point before a program was installed, will System Restore remove the program? When I use System Restore, what exactly is it restoring?
What is not restored when performing a System Restore? How can I enable or disable System Restore?
Can I program system restore not to monitor a particular drive? Can I control how much disk space System Restore uses?
Can I see how much disk space System restore has used? Can I delete the Restore Points that I don't need?
Why isn't System Restore creating automatic Restore Points? Why are my Restore Points missing?
Can I use System Restore in place of Windows Backup Utility? Will System Restore make my system run slower?
Why won't System Restore work on my machine? How do I perform a System Restore?
Can a virus be stored in a Restore Point? Is there a way to run System Restore from the Command Prompt?
Error message: Restoration Incomplete. Your computer cannot be restored. Can it hurt your system to use System Restore too much?

 

Use the information below at your own risk.  See "Terms of Use"

What is System Restore?

The purpose of the System Restore feature is to create a snapshot of the systems configuration so that the Administrator can easily return a system back to a known good configuration. Using the system restore feature will not cause a system to lose any personal data.

System Restore is designed to automatically create a restore point each time the system recognizes a significant change in the file or application structure. System Restore also has the flexibility to allow users to create their own restore points at any time.

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How much disk space is used by System Restore?

By default, drives that have 4GB or more of free space available will require approximately 12 percent of that drives space to store the necessary restore information. Drives that have less than 4GB of free space will only require approximately 400MB of space to be available for restore information. The amount of space on the drive that is used for restore information is based on the free space available on the drive. System Restore gives the flexibility of the user to control the amount of space that System Restore uses. See: How can I adjust System Restore disk space?

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How can I create a Restore Point?

1. Go to Start>> All Programs>> Accessories>> System Tools>> System Restore
2. Open System Restore and tick the Create a restore point radio box.
3. Click Next (see fig #1)
4. In the Restore point description text box, type the name of the restore point for future reference (eg: before graphics card driver update).
5. Click Create

Fig #1
System Restore

Windows will create your Restore Point. The Restore Point can be later identified by Date, Time or the Description that you've given it.

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When are the Restore Points created?
Users can manually create restore points at any time. See: How can I create restore Point?

Other times, Windows will automatically create a System Restore Point when the following situations should occur:
  • Installing an unsigned device driver.
  • When installing applications that use Windows Installer or Install Shield Pro version 7.0 or later.
  • When a user attempts to restore the system to an earlier time, a Restore Point is made in case the user would like to "Undo" the System Restore.
  • When Windows automatically updates the Operating System.
  • When a user restores data using the backup tool.
  • Windows will automatically create a Restore Point every 24 hours of operation since the last Restore Point.

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If I restore to a point before a program was installed, will System Restore remove the program?

No, System Restore does not make modifications to application installations.

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When I use System Restore, what exactly is it restoring?

According to Microsoft, the following features are restored when using System Restore:
  • Windows Registry
  • Local Profiles
  • COM+ DB
  • WFP.dll cache
  • WMI DB
  • IIS Metabase

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What is not restored when performing a System Restore?

According to Microsoft, the following is not restored when using the System Restore feature:
  • DRM settings
  • Passwords in the SAM hive
  • WPA settings (Windows authentication information is not restored)
  • Specific directories/files listed in the Monitored File Extensions list in the System Restore section of the Platform SDK e.g. 'My Documents' folder.
  • Any file types not monitored by System Restore like personal data files (e.g. .doc, .jpg, .txt etc.)
  • Items listed in both Filesnottobackup and KeysnottoRestore (HKLM\System\Controlset001\Control\Backuprestore\Filesnottobackup and Keysnottorestore) in the registry.
  • User-created data stored in the user profile
  • Contents of redirected folders

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How can I enable or disable System Restore?

  1. Go to Start>> Control Panel
  2. Double click the System icon
  3. Select the System Restore tab
  4. Place a checkmark in the box titled: Turn off System Restore on all drives. To turn the feature on, remove the checkmark from the aforementioned titled box (see Fig #1).
  5. Click OK

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Can I program system restore not to monitor a particular drive?

Yes, as long as it is not the system drive. But, you can turn off monitoring to other partitioned drives. Here's how:
  1. Start>> Control Panel
  2. Double click the System icon
  3. Click the System Restore tab
  4. On a single partitioned drive, it is only possible to turn off system restore all together by placing a checkmark in the box titled: Turn off system restore on all drives. But if you have a multi-partitioned system, you can isolate a certain drive from being monitored by simply selecting that particular drive (it will now be highlighted) and then click the "Settings" button (see fig.#1).
  5. Place a checkmark in the box titled: Turn off system restore on this drive.
  6. Click OK, then OK again
  7. Exit Control Panel

Fig #1
System Restore

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Can I control how much disk space System Restore uses?

Windows is set to use the maximum amount of disk space allocated to use by default. Learn more about how much is allocated here:

How much disk space is used by System Restore?

If you would like to make System Restore use less disk space, here's how:

  1. Go to Start>> Control Panel
  2. Double click the System icon
  3. Click the System Restore tab
  4. If you have a single partition, click the Settings button and reduce the disk space allocation by sliding the bar to the left. If you have multiple partitions, select the partition and then click the Settings button. Again, sliding the bar to the left reduces the disk allocation.
  5. When finished, click OK

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Can I see how much disk space System restore has used?

Yes. Here's how:
  1. Go to Start>> My Computer
  2. Go to Tools>> Folder Options>> View
  3. Under Advanced settings/Hidden files and folders, be sure that "Show hidden files and folders" entry is checked. Then, uncheck the entry titled: Hide protected operating systems files. When you receive a warning that being able to see these files is a bad thing, go ahead and click OK. Just be sure to go back in and change the setting back to what it was when you are done. When finished, click OK.
  4. Open your System drive (usually C: drive) and look for the "System Volume Information" folder.
  5. Double click the "System Volume Information" folder. If your computer is part of a domain, you may not be able to access this folder. You will need to right click the System Volume Information folder and select Properties. Then, select the Security tab. Here you will need to enter your user/group name that has access to this folder. If you don't have the information necessary to provide, you will not be able to access this folder.
  6. If you are now able to access the System Volume Information folder, you will find a "_restore" directory.
  7. Right click this directory and select Properties.
  8. You will notice a "Size on disk" value. This is the amount of space that System Restore is currently using for your Restore Points.

Note: Repeat the above procedure for any other partitioned drives you would like to check.

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Can I delete the Restore Points that I don't need?

You have two options here:
  • Delete all Restore Points except the latest one
  • Delete all Restore Points

<>To delete all but the latest Restore Point:

  1. Go to Start>> All Programs>> Accessories>> System Tools>> Disk Cleanup.
  2. Click on the More Options tab
  3. Click "Clean up" in the System Restore box.

<>To delete all Restore Points:

  1. Go to Start>> Control Panel>> System
  2. Click the System Restore tab
  3. Place a checkmark in the "Turn off system restore on all drives".
  4. Click Apply
  5. Now, uncheck the same entry (above) to enable System Restore.
  6. Click OK

Tip: You can lower the amount of Restore Points saved on your machine by reducing the space available to System Restore. However, by reducing the number of Restore Points, the smaller the safety net. If you would like to Reduce the space that System Restore uses, please see:

Can I control how much disk space System Restore uses?

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Why isn't System Restore creating automatic Restore Points?

It could be one of two reasons:

A service called "Task Scheduler" may be disabled on your machine. This service must be enabled in order for System Restore to create a Restore Point. To verify that the Task Scheduler is running:
  1. Go to Start>> Run. Type in: services.msc [Enter] or click OK.
  2. Scroll the alphabetical list until you find the Task Scheduler entry.
  3. Make sure the Service is set to "Automatic" and the status is "started".

Alternately:

  1. Go to Start>> Run. Type in: cmd [Enter] or click OK
  2. Type in the command prompt: net start [Enter]
  3. A list of services that are started will now appear. Scroll the list alphabetically to see if Task Scheduler appears.

Another reason could be that your system is running applications on a constant basis. If the system does not see any idle time, it will not create a Restore Point. This is because it is programmed to wait until it can get a good snapshot of your system. Try disabling programs that you see might be causing this issue. Once stopped, you should get regular Restore Points again.

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Why are my Restore Points missing?

It seems that the most common reason for this is because of the lack of disk space on the drive. When this happens, System Restore automatically starts purging the Restore Points in an effort to gain more disk space. You probably already know that you are running low on disk space as Windows would have already alerted you to this fact prior to this happening.

To learn much more about this issue, please visit the following link:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;301224 [Top]

Can I use System Restore in place of Windows Backup Utility?

System Restore only monitors certain system and application files. It will not backup any personal data such as pictures, personal document files, email...etc. Even though System Restore gives you the piece of mind that your critical system are backed up on a regular basis, the Restore Points are only kept for a 90 day period and then automatically deleted by default. Windows Backup Utility on the other hand is a much more permanent backup tool that backs up all of your system and personal files on your system. It gives you the flexibility to save this backup copy to a local disk or to a separate form of media where it can be drawn from at any time.

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Will System Restore make my system run slower?

No, you should not notice any loss in performance by having System Restore enabled on your machine. The process of creating a Restore Point only takes a few seconds and this process only occurs every 24 hours of system operation.

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Why won't System Restore work on my machine?

Here are some basic troubleshooting step to find why System Restore is not working.
  1. Verify that the System Restore service is running on your computer. Here's how:

A. Go to Start>> Run. Type in: cmd [Enter] or click OK.
B. At the command prompt, type in: net start [Enter]

Here you will see a list of the services that are enabled on your system. Scroll the list alphabetically until you find the System Restore Service entry see (fig.#1). If it is not found, then System Restore is not running. For instructions on how to enable System Restore, see:

How can I enable or disable System Restore?

  1. Verify that the task Scheduler is running on your computer.

See the instructions above. Instead, scroll the alphabetical list for the Task Scheduler service. If it is not running:

A. Go to Start>> Run. Type in: services.msc [Enter] or click OK.
B. Scroll the alphabetical list until you find the Task Scheduler entry.
C. Make sure the Service is set to "Automatic" and the status is "started".

  1. Make sure that you have enough disk space available. When your disk space falls below 200 MB, System Restore will not create Restore Points any longer. You will need to free up disk space for this feature to become available again.

Fig #1
System Restore

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How do I perform a System Restore?

  1. Go to Start>> All Programs>> Accessories>> System Tools>> System Restore.
  2. Select the option: Restore my computer to an earlier time.
  3. Select a restore point to restore back to.
  4. Click OK

The restore operation will now start. Restart Windows when completed.

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Can a virus be stored in a Restore Point?

Yes, many virus authors intentionally write viruses with the same extensions as Windows files that are monitored by System Restore. That being the case, it is common for people to have a virus, then run virus scans to remove the virus. But, once System Restore is used to recover their computer to an earlier date, it is very possible to introduce that same virus back in to the system.

When a virus is found on a system, System Restore should be completely disabled, all Restore Points should be deleted. Then scan the system with anti-virus software. After all parasites have been removed, re-enable System Restored and create a new Restore Point.

Related articles:

How do I perform a System Restore?
How can I create a Restore Point?
How can I enable or disable System Restore?

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Is there a way to run System Restore from the Command Prompt?

Yes, but you can only use the System Restore feature at a command prompt while in Safe Mode. Here's how:
  1. Restart your computer
  2. Boot your system in to Safe Mode by following the instructions below:

To boot in to Safe Mode:

  1. Go to Start>> Turn off computer>> Restart.
  2. When the message "Please select the operating system to start" appears, press F8.
  3. Using the arrow keys, highlight the option "Safe Mode with Command Prompt" , then press Enter.

Note: If your system is a dual-boot or multi-boot system, choose the appropriate installation using the arrow keys, then press Enter.

  1. Be sure to log on to the computer with the account that has administration privileges.
  2. Enter the following in to the command prompt:

%systemroot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe

  1. Press Enter on your keyboard.
  2. Follow the onscreen instructions to restore your computer to an earlier state.

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Error message: Restoration Incomplete. Your computer cannot be restored.

Many users have found that Norton 2006 and later, has been responsible for this error message. It seems there is a security feature in place that prevents outside programs from making system changes that would change Norton's files. To work around this issue, follow these instructions:

<>Temporarily shut down Norton:
  1. Start Norton
  2. Select Options>> Norton Anti-Virus
  3. Select Miscellaneous from the right pane
  4. Scroll down the right pane and locate "How to protect my product"
  5. Uncheck the box titled: Turn protection on for my Symantec product
  6. Click OK

<>Run System Restore:

  1. Go to Start>> All Programs>> Accessories>> System Tools>> System Restore.
  2. Select the option: Restore my computer to an earlier time.
  3. Select a restore point to restore back to.
  4. Click OK

The restore operation will now start. Restart Windows when completed.

<>Turn Norton back on:

  1. Start Norton
  2. Select Options>> Norton Anti-Virus
  3. Select Miscellaneous from the right pane
  4. Scroll down the right pane and locate "How to protect my product"
  5. Check the box titled: Turn protection on for my Symantec product
  6. Click OK

If you do not have Norton installed on your system and you receive the subject message, your Restore Points may have become corrupt. You will need to delete all previous restore points and create a new one. Here's how:

Note: Using this method will remove any possibilities of restoring your system to a previous time. You will need to find a solution to your original problem manually.

  1. Go to Start>> All Programs>> Accessories>> System Tools>> System Restore
  2. Select System Restore Settings from the left
  3. Place a checkmark in the checkbox titled: "Turn Off System Restore". By turning off system restore, you are deleting ALL restore points.
  4. Go back to System Restore and select the option "Create a Restore Point".

System Restore should function normally at this point.

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Can it hurt your system to use System Restore too much?

It really doesn't hurt your system by using System Restore too much because all you are doing by using it is returning your system to a snap shot of a previous days configuration. But, as with any software, they are not perfect. So, to tell you that you will never have any problems as a result from using it would be a false statement.

System Restore should only be used as a last resort to return your system to a previously known "good" state. It was designed to be used for specific purposes and should not be used as a "cleanup" tool or a replacement for troubleshooting. It is always best to find what the problem is and use all other methods to fix the issue. If all else should fail, then a System Restore can be of great assistance.

I often receive questions from people who attempt to use System Restore for many purposes. As an example, a common use for System Restore for users who just don't know any better is to use it to uninstall a program. They will install a program, dislike it and use System Restore to attempt to uninstall it. The best method, obviously, would be to use the programs built-in uninstall feature. Or, use Add/Remove programs if the program doesn't have an uninstallation method.

Another common misconception is that it will restore deleted data. System Restore does not monitor changes to data files nor will it restore any data files. So, don't try to use System Restore as a backup tool.

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