How to make sure System Restore is set up properly

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One way PC problems can sometimes be fixed is by using the built-in function called System Restore. It’s not the answer for every situation, but in certain situations it can be the perfect solution. But in order for it to work, it has to be set up correctly ahead of time.

system restore

 

Here’s what happens. A client will bring me a computer and maybe some malware has wormed its way in or some unwanted software has gotten installed, something like that. The client knows that the problem happened within the last 24 hours. So in this case, we can probably use System Restore to take the computer back to an earlier date – meaning longer than 24 hours ago – and the problem is likely to go away.

But with System Restore, there are a couple of things that are needed in order for that to work.

First, System Restore has to be enabled and configured properly.

Second, you will need what’s called a “restore point” – which just means a date that the computer can be brought back to. For example, usually when Microsoft sends out a Windows Update, the first step in that process is that the update will first create a restore point – so that if there’s a problem with the update, System Restore can be used to take the computer back to that point (before the troublesome update).

So what happens sometimes is I’ll go to use System Restore, and the message that comes back is “No restore points found”. When there are no restore points, System Restore is useless.

So here are the two things you need to do in order to make sure System Restore is ready to use when you need it:

First, enable and configure System Restore:

Click in the search field in the bottom left and type: Create a restore point.  Then, in the search results, click on “Create a restore point”. This will open the System Restore window.

In that window, click once to highlight the C drive, and click on “Configure”.

In the next window, there are two things you need to do:

  1. Check the button that says “Turn on system protection”
  2. Slide the “Max usage” selector to something like 5gb or maybe 10gb, and click OK

system restore

 

Second, set a restore point:

After you click ok in the last step, you’re taken back to the main window. At the bottom of that window is a button named “Create”. Click that, and then give this system restore point a name. It can be as simple as today’s date.

restore point

 

Finally, click OK and you’re done.

It’s not a bad idea to just create a new restore point every once in a while, as long as your computer seems to be working well. Windows is supposed to set one automatically each time new Windows Updates come in, but that is not something I would rely on.

Some things you should know about System Restore:

  • In Windows 10, System Restore is NOT turned on by default. This is just another goof by Microsoft that just baffles me. So you have to be aware of this, and enable it yourself. If you buy a laptop from me, that’s already been done.
  • If you use System Restore to take the computer back to a previous date, it does not have any effect on your personal files such as Documents, Pictures, etc. That’s a good thing, since you can use it without worrying about losing anything important. But it’s a bad thing, because if you accidentally delete a document, you can’t use System Restore to get it back. System Restore does not negate the need for a backup.
  • System Restore is not something you should use all the time. I have a few clients who, at the first sign of any computer issue, immediately run System Restore and go back a day or a few days. Not a good idea. Resolving computer problems should be done strategically, giving consideration to all potential solutions, and the ramifications of each one.

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Marge Teilhaber
December 10th, 2018

Scott, you’re the greatest. Thanks for this!