Ask Leo: Why I don’t like System Restore

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By Leo Notenboom

I have Windows XP SP2. When I go into the System Restore application, it doesn’t give me the option to create a restore point; it only allows me to restore to an earlier point and it never creates restore points. Any ideas on what might be wrong or how to fix it?

I’ll be honest and tell you right off that I have no answer for your question.

There are many possibilities, the most likely being that there is not enough room allocated for restore points. But in my experience, increasing that may or may not resolve the issue.

System Restore is so difficult to diagnose and I hear of so many problems and misunderstandings with it that I avoid it completely.

I turn it off. Completely. It’s not worth it to me.

I’ll tell you what I do instead.

What System Restore Is

System Restore is best thought of as a registry backup. Yes, in reality, it backs up more than just the registry, but exactly what else it backs up gets complicated. Suffice it to say that System Restore does not back up everything.

And as a registry backup, it’s actually a pretty reasonable solution. When it works, it’s a fine way to take a snapshot of the registry and restore it after other changes have been made.

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This post is excerpted with Leo’s permission from his blog.

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7 thoughts on “Ask Leo: Why I don’t like System Restore

  1. I use RollBack program to bring my computer back to an earlier configuration. It works very well and allows me to create my own restore points if I choose. I’m legally blind and sometimes I do something I cannot get out of. RollBack gets me back to a place where that never happened. Also, if I get hacked, I can just “go back” to when that never happened. I depend on my RollBack program.

  2. As for me, the best registry and drivers backup tool with a little space cost is the standard windows backup utility. I do it using System state as saving objects.

  3. Most of the time system restore work very well. If it doesn't then one has already more deep-seated problems.

    Make a full backup of a machine where a client has requested that some changes are made or a new software package is installed? After the work is done all kind of other problems surface?
    System restore, every time before touching anything else! It has saved me hours of frustration and work for which I might not get paid.

  4. I DID A SYSTEM RESTORE ONE TIME AND IT BROKE ME FROM EVER DOING IT AGAIN, IT WIPED OUT SEVERAL HUNDRED PICTURES I HAD SAVED AND PUT THE SYSTEM BACK TO ORIGINAL, SOO, MAKE SURE YOU COPY ALL YOUR IMPORTANT YHINGS TO A CD OR ANOTHER DISK BEFORE DOING A SYSTEM RETORE!!!

    • @Avery: It sounds to me that maybe you did a System REINSTALL, not a System Restore.
      I think that some brands setup the their System Reinstall partitions and use System Restore terminology. Very confusing to the unsuspecting.
      One just restores your registry to an earlier date, the other wipes out everything on your computer and puts it back the same as it was on day one.
      Be careful and READ all the screens… If you’re not sure, STOP, and ask for help.

  5. you are far more knowegible than i am ,but somehow ,i stumble along and get by with my computers ,have several (keep spares ready) ,,anyhow system restore has saved my tail quite a few times ,so far every malware,virus, or high jacking ive gotten in 10 years ive removed with it ,,i realize one of these days ill get one that it wont ,,but each time im successful, i breath a sigh of relief. lately iit seems ive hhad to use it in safe mode,to get the job done and as far as restore points ,i dont worry about them ,just choose any dark heavy date number in past and restore to that. ill go back a day or week or even month or 2 if need be ,and remember ,it removes anything downloaded in that time ,,(new downloads ,,but doesnt touch mail other permanant files and things.if you ever shut it off ,when restarting you wont have any restore room till you run a few days and it will build up again.also is a place where you can choose how much space is alloted to it,though dont remember where that is . im reffering to windows xp home sp3

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