Friday, October 12, 2012

How To Make Sure Windows System Restore Works When You Need It


Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:


via MakeUseOf by Ryan Dube on 10/12/12

So, you've just discovered that your computer is infected with some virus that automatically reboots your computer every time it starts up. Your local IT guy tells you to just boot the computer into safe mode and run System Restore.

You race home with the little scrap of paper upon which you've scribbled his set of system restore instructions, and proceed to boot your computer and launch a restore. Confident that you've discovered the solution, and that this nightmare of an infected computer will soon be over, you finally make your way into the system restore utility and discover to your great dismay that your computer has absolutely no system restore points to choose from.

How could this happen? How could you have gone for so long without realizing that your computer wasn't bothering to take automatic restore points? It's actually easier than you think, and happens far more often than people realize.

System restore is not an automatic feature in Windows 7. Usually it is enabled when you've purchased a new system, but after running updates, installing system tools or running any other list of tasks that might turn it off – you could very well be running your computer without any restore protections whatsoever.

So, how can you be absolutely certain that your Windows system restore utility is working as intended? Read on.

How to Verify and Configure Windows System Restore

Checking whether System Restore is active sounds like a simple thing – and for the most part it is – but there are a lot of different ways to check whether it's doing what you think it's doing. Maybe it's installed and running, but taking system restore points at intervals that are much further apart than you realized?

The first thing to do, right off the bat, is take a look at System Restore in the Control Panel.

Just click on the Start button and go to All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> System Restore.

It will look like you are entering into the utility to take a system restore point, but just click next so that you can get into the utility to see a history of all past system restore points.

On the next screen, you'll see a list of date/time combinations of recent restore points. What you want to see is a frequent entry with a Description of "Automatic Restore Point". Scroll down and see how often these Automatic Restore Points are taken. Does it seem to be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or none at all? Make sure that the frequency of restore points is what you expect so that you're not left with a nasty surprise later on when you really need to restore your computer.

Click on Cancel – you don't need to go through with a restore point now (unless you want to, of course).

Is the frequency not at all what you expect? Are you seeing no restore points at all? The first thing to do is check to make sure that system restore is turned on for your computer. To do this, open up Windows Explorer, right click on My Computer and select Properties.

In the system properties box that opens up,  click on the System protection link in the left navigation bar.

Make sure that "Protection" is "On" for the Local Disk (typically the C drive).

If protection is off, make sure to click on the drive and then click the "Configure" button. This will allow you to enable system restore. The standard option is to have each system restore include all system settings and the previous versions of files at the point that the system restore was taken.

If you want to take frequent restore points, then make sure that you adjust the maximum disk space used for system protection to a higher maximum usage. The last thing you want is for system restore to fail because you didn't allocate enough memory for those restore points.

So, is system restore enabled, but you're unsure how frequent the restore points are being taken? You can check that in the Task Schedule. Go to Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Task Scheduler.


In the task scheduler, look through running tasks for one named "SR". When you open this task, you should see that the location points to Windows\SystemRestore\

Click on the "Triggers" tag to see the what triggers the task. This should include a timed frequency. In my case I have system restore running both daily and whenever the system boots. This may actually be overkill – a daily restore point should be more than enough, and even weekly would be fine in most cases.

Another way to see the frequency of past restores is by clicking on the History tab for this task. In here, you'll see all the past executions. This is actually a good place to go to troubleshoot any failed restores or to see that your regularly scheduled restore points are being taken as you think they are.

By the way, while you're at it, why not manually take a system restore point now just to be safe? To do this, right click on My Computer, click Properties, and click on System Protections. The "Create" button on that window will pop up the following window, where you can create a restore point right now.

Take a manual restore point before any major software install or system update, so that you can rest assure that if anything goes horribly wrong, you always have that lifeline to fall back on. It's simply the right thing to do. And if you've followed this guide and finally know that your restore points are being taken as well as their frequency, you can sleep at night knowing that if your computer crashes and you need to look back for those restore points – they're going to be there when you need them the most.

Do you have any system restore horror stories? Did you follow this guide and discover your system isn't taking restore points? Share your feedback and thoughts in the comments section below!

Image Credits: The computer, a laptop, a site via Shutterstock


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