System Restore Can Roll Back Computer to Before You Made a Big Mistake

Anyone who has ever used a computer of any kind, Mac or Windows, has run into a situation where they really wished they hadn’t done something truly dumb. This often occurs immediately after they open a virus-laden file attachment, run a utility for which they ignored all the warnings in the documentation, or performed a Registry hack without following directions to backup their Windows Registry files. Once they’ve taken that fateful misstep, they find that the system no longer runs as it should. A restart may find them looking at a black screen – or a blue screen of death – rather than returning them to their familiar desktop.

Users of recent versions of Windows have a failsafe tool they can use to try to turn the clock back to a time just before that not-smooth move. The tool is called System Restore and it appears in Windows Millennium (Me) and Windows XP. But to fall back on its recovery capabilities, you need to be sure the tool is turned on and that you have at least one restore point created before your system headed south.

If you have Windows XP with Service Pack 2 installed, then System Restore is turned on by default. You just need to be sure you or someone who shares your PC has not disabled the tool.

If you aren’t sure if you have Windows XP Service Pack 2, follow these steps to check:

1) Click Start.
2) Right-click My Computer and select Properties.
3) The System Properties window appears. Look on the General tab where the operating system version is listed.

Now to see whether System Restore is turned on, do this:

1) Still from the System Properties window, click the System Restore tab.
2) Look to see if the option Turn Off System Restore on All Drives is checked; if it is, click to uncheck it. But if the option is not checked, System Restore is running even as you read.

To create a restore point, here’s how:

1) Click Start>>All Programs>>Accessories>>System Tools>>System Restore.
2) When System Restore opens, click Create a new restore point.
3) Type a unique but identifiable label for the restore point, one that will help you recognize it at a later time (it will automatically display the time and date the restore point was recorded).

Then, once you run into a situation where you really need to go back in time and use that restore point, just follow these steps:

1) Click Start>>All Programs>>Accessories>>System Tools>>System Restore.
2) When System Restore opens, click Restore my computer from an earlier time.
3) Follow on-screen instructions to choose the best restore point to use (later is usually better but you want to avoid any recorded after you spotted the issue keeping Windows in hot water).
4) As the restore point is applied, you may be asked if you want to keep the restored setup or revert back or use another restore point. Choose wisely.

You may need to restart your PC when all is done, but again, follow on-screen directions. Finally, there is one more thing to know.

If the problem you encounter is so severe that you cannot get into Windows normally, you may be able to use Windows’ special diagnostic mode, Safe Mode, to start the system from which you can then run System Restore to restore a previous restore point. To start in Safe Mode:

1) Restart your PC.
2) As soon as you see the BIOS/CMOS screen as the system first starts, press and briefly hold your F8 key.
3) You will see a Startup menu, the content of which changes based on whether you have another operating system installed. Select Start Windows in Safe Mode.
4) Once Windows loads in Safe Mode, you may be automatically prompted if you want to restore. If not, Click Start>>All Programs>>Accessories>>System Tools>>System Restore.
5) When System Restore opens, click Restore my computer from an earlier time.
6) Follow instructions.

Of course, just because you have a failsafe mechanism doesn’t mean you have a license to be careless with your system. There are things System Restore can’t fix for you, such as if you panic and reformat the hard disk which immediately wipes out the contents of that drive, including all your recorded restore points.

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