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Diagnosing Issues in Windows Vista (part 2) - Using System Restore

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Using System Restore

The most common sources of system-related issues are stored in startup and configuration files and in the Windows Registry. Often, when problems occur, it is useful to revert these files to their previous state. For example, if the installation of a new hardware device causes system instability, the first step might be to try uninstalling the program. What if the uninstall operation is unsuccessful? It would be useful to be able to roll back the system configuration to a previous point in time.

Windows Vista provides an automatic method of backing up important system configuration data. The feature is called System Restore. The System Restore process is enabled by default within Windows Vista. It works by periodically creating new restore points on the system. By default, Windows Vista automatically creates restore points at specific times. For example, Windows Vista automatically creates a new restore point whenever you install new programs or device drivers. Because these types of operations are potentially risky from a system stability standpoint, automatically created restore points are created before the changes are made. You can also manually create System Restore points in Windows Vista, as described in the next section. In some cases, you might want to do this before making an operating system configuration change or performing other types of actions that you might need to roll back.

Although you can use restore points to roll back system configuration changes such as operating system settings and installed applications, they do not affect users’ data files (such as documents, photos, music, and videos). This makes the rollback process a safe and easy way to recover from many types of common problems caused by configuration changes or the installation of new drivers or software.

Configuring System Protection

The settings that define how and when restore points are created are called System Protection. You can configure these settings by clicking System Protection (which is described in the next section) in the System window of Control Panel. You can access these settings from the Start menu by right-clicking Computer and selecting Properties. Then, click System Protection in the Tasks section. Figure 4 shows the options that are available.

Figure 4. Configuring System Protection settings


The Automatic Restore Points section of the user interface specifies for which disks Windows Vista will create the system restore point. It is highly recommended that you configure Windows Vista to create restore points for at least the operating system volume. The utility also shows the date and time of the most recently created restore point.

You can also manually create restore points by clicking Create. You are prompted to provide a description of the restore point so that you can easily identify it later. You usually want to specify the purpose of creating the restore point (for example, “Before installing new scanner drivers”).

Restoring System Settings

The System Restore Wizard is designed for reverting the configuration of Windows Vista to an earlier point in time. You can launch the program by searching for System Restore in the Start menu. Figure 5 shows the Restore System Files And Settings page of the System Restore Wizard.

Figure 5. Using the System Restore Wizard

The default option is to choose to restore from the most recent restore point. The page shows the date and time at which the restore point was created, along with a description. In some cases, you might want to revert to an earlier restore point. For example, you might have made numerous sets of changes to the system, and reverting to the newest restore point might not resolve the problem. Figure 6 shows the options that are available when choosing to revert to an earlier configuration.

Figure 6. Choosing a specific restore point using the System Restore Wizard

After you select the appropriate restore point, you can click Finish to begin the restore process. Because System Restore must replace important system files, the computer is automatically restarted to complete the operation. Overall, the System Restore process provides a quick and easy method of resolving common configuration and installation problems.

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- Using Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore (part 2) - Performing a Complete PC Restore
- Using Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore (part 1) - Creating a Complete PC Backup
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- Using the Backup and Restore Center (part 3) - Restoring Files from a Backup
- Using the Backup and Restore Center (part 2) - Performing File Backups
- Using the Backup and Restore Center (part 1) - Planning for Backups
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