Use System Restore for Maintenance on Microsoft Windows PCs

So you’ve just downloaded a new program from the internet. Installed it onto your computer. All of a sudden, your computer isn’t working properly. You can’t open up the program you’ve just installed, and everything seems to be acting screwy. You manage to uninstall the program, but the computer is still acting up. How can you fix it?

While it is an unfortunate truth that programs you attempt to install can damage your computer’s system and keep it from working properly, if you use either Windows Millenium Edition (Windows ME) or Windows XP, there is a program that can assist you in getting your computer working back to normal quickly and easily: System Restore.

What is System Restore?

If you’ve ever played a game like Solitaire or FreeCell on your computer, you are most likely aware of the “Undo” function on these games. Basically, if you make a mistake, the undo command removes the last move, and puts your game back to where you want it to be.

System Restore does basically the same thing. It is a maintenance program designed to help you keep your system from becoming corrupted by providing uncorrupt versions of your operating system backed up. At periodic times, the System Restore program takes snapshots of your system’s settings, and keeps these snapshots stored in a special location on your computer. You can also take snapshots of your own.

If something goes wrong with your computer’s system, you can simply open up your System Restore program, and return the system back to a state where you know things were working properly, essentially undoing the changes that were the result of your installation of the program.

How do I Use System Restore?

On both Windows ME and Windows XP, you can find the System Restore program this way. Firstly, go to your start menu. Open up the Programs folder. Then go to Accessories. From Accessories go to System Tools. You will find the System Restore shortcut within this folder.

When you first open the program, you will come to a window welcoming you to System Restore. On the left you will see information about the program, as well as a button that will allow you to change the settings of the system restore program. On the right you will see two choices: either restore your computer to a previous restore point or create a new restore point.

If you are about to install something that you fear might possibly damage your system, it is often wise to create a restore point immediately before installing the program. This will allow you, if you need to use system restore afterwards, to restore your system with a minimum of loss of system data. For this you would click create a restore point. You will be able to give the restore point a unique name so you will be able to find it more easily.

If you wish to restore your computer to an earlier setting, you will select the first option. This will take you to a calendar showing all dates. Each date will be written in blue. If there is a restore point on that date, it will show a darker blue, so you will be able to more easily find the restore points.

Select a date on which you know your computer was functioning normally, then restore to that date. It is important that you have saved all data and closed all programs before doing this, because System Restore does require that you reboot upon initializing the new system settings.

How to Use System Restore if Windows will not Open

Sometimes your system is so badly damaged that you will not be able to even open up Windows so you can use System Restore. If this happens, there are a few different options that you can take.

Firstly, if you have tried to boot up your computer and find that Windows will not open, reboot your computer. As soon as the computer comes online, start holding down the F8 key. This will take you to a menu that allows you to boot up your computer in different modes. Once you see a menu asking you which mode you wish to start up in, release the F8 key.

The most basic of these extra modes is Safe Mode. Safe Mode loads up only the minimum of system information and device drivers that are necessary for basic running of the machine. If you can open up your computer in Safe Mode, you should be able to run your System Restore program from there, and then allow Windows to open up normally.

There is also an option called Safe Mode with Command Prompt. This performs the same functions as Safe Mode, however instead of opening up Windows it opens up Cmd.exe, basically DOS. From here you will be able to type in text commands. If you are required to do this to run system restore, open up Safe Mode with Command Prompt then type in %systemroot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe Once you have done this you can simply follow the instructions your computer gives you to continue with the System Restore.

If you are a user of Windows XP, one of the easiest ways to handle this situation is the Last Known Good Configuration option. While this doesn’t always work, it can often allow you to boot up using the last configuration that your computer knows works automatically, thus saving you the hassle of going through the System Restore system.

How to Disable or Enable System Restore

Not everyone wants to use System Restore, and there are other alternatives out there for performing the same functions (although System Restore has the advantage of being free and already installed on your system).

If you wish to disable System Restore, you must be logged into an account that is either the Administrator or has Administrator privileges. You can then open up your System Restore program, and click on the System Restore settings mentioned earlier. Inside the program you will see a box that says “Turn Off System Restore.” Click that box to turn it off. Know though that you will lose all restore points created by the program by turning it off.

If you have gotten your computer and your System Restore program is turned off, you can turn it on by going into the settings the same way. Then, make sure that the box marked “Turn Off System Restore” is not checked, this will turn on your System Restore program.

While in the System Restore settings, you can also change the amount of disk space that is being used by your System Restore program. This is the amount of disk space that is allotted on your machine to be reserved for holding restore points. The maximum amount of disk space usable is generally 12%. By lessening this number you can free up more disk space for other programs, but it will also limit your number of possible restore points.


In conclusion, System Restore can be a very useful program to those having problems with their Windows ME or XP operating systems. It is a fairly simple to use and straightforward program, and you should have little difficulty in using it. If you have further problems with your system or with your System Restore program, it is best to contact either Microsoft or your computer manufacturer for further technical support.

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