Installing sketchy software? Create a restore point first

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No matter how careful you normally are with your computer, there are probably some times when you kind of push the limits of “safe” usage.  I do this sometimes too.  I’m talking specifically about installing software that you aren’t 100% sure is safe.  This could mean a program that you discovered on a Google search (almost always a bad idea) to clicking to install an apparent update that popped up on your computer (only sometimes a bad idea).

System Restore


Sometimes I have to install software that I have never used before, and without knowing very much about it.  Of course I check it out as much as I can, and try to find what other people have said about it (that means legitimate reviews – not fake reviews that were actually written by the software creator or someone trying to sell it).

But before I install any software, I do two things:

  1. Back up my files and folders (you should already be doing this anyway)
  2. Create a restore point (that’s what I’ll show you today)

A restore point basically means that your computer will take a “snapshot” of the software installed and the registry settings at a particular point in time.  So, if the program you are about to install also brings in a virus or some other type of malware as part of the installation, you can tell the computer to go back to that restore point you just created and there is a good chance you will have solved the problem.

At least that’s the idea.  I definitely cannot say that if you set a restore point it’s fine to go and download whatever crazy and free junkware you want, and you’ll just be able to click back to a certain date and everything will be fine.  A restore point is just one factor that should be part of an overall strategy to keep your computer safe.

Here’s how to create a restore point in Windows 7:

1. Click the Start button, then right-click on “Computer” and choose “Properties”

2. In the new window, click on “System Protection” in the top left corner

3. In the next window, click on “Create:

System Restore

4. The next window will ask you what you want to call this restore point.  I usually just give it a name that I will understand, like “before ABC program” or something similar.

System Restore

5. Then just click Create, wait for the notice that the restore point was created successfully, and click OK to close the previous window.

And that’s it.  You can create a restore point as often as you want.  Depending on how much space you have allocated for restore points, when you reach the limit the oldest ones will be eliminated to make room for the newer ones.

If you’re using Windows 8, move the cursor to the top right corner of the screen and then click on the Search icon when it appears on the right side.  Search on “restore point” (without the quotes) and in the search results click on “Create a restore point”.  From that point just follow the process described above, starting with Step 3.

Some words of caution:

1. As mentioned above, a restore point is not a magic pill that fixes all your computer problems.  Don’t get into the habit of “computer repair through restore point” because in some cases it won’t work.  Some viruses are programmed such that part of what they do is delete all your restore points.

2. Taking your computer back to an earlier date does not affect your documents.  So if you created a Word document yesterday and saved it to your computer, and then you take your computer back to a restore point from a week ago, yesterday’s document will still be there.

3. Restore points are reversible.  When the computer finishes the process of going back to an earlier date, you will have the option of undoing that restore if you want to.

So be careful, and hope that you never need to use a restore point, but know how to create one just in case!

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