How To Use System Restore | Windows 7 - Page 1 of 4


The Windows "System Restore" feature can help you solve a number of common computer problems quickly and easily. Use it to recover your computer to a point in time when it was working correctly. System Restore can potentially save you hours of troubleshooting time and frustration. This tutorial shows you how to use a "Restore Point" to recover from a computer problem/issue using the System Restore feature in Windows 7. The process is similar in other versions of Windows.

How Can Windows System Restore Help You

What do you do if your computer DOES NOT work like it is supposed to or how it normally does? Where do you begin diagnosing and fixing a computer problem? Windows System Restore enables you to use "restore points" to recover/restore your computer. A "restore point" captures the state or condition of a computer at a point/moment in time. A restore point holds copies of specific, important computer application files, operating system files and settings. These important files and settings can be recovered/restored to return a computer to the state the computer was in at the time the restore point was created. Ideally the restore point was created at a time the computer was operating correctly. Learn more about restore points by reading my tutorial "Create A Restore Point".

Use a system restore point when:
  • You add a new hardware device to your computer for example, a video card or other internal adapter card, or a new peripheral device to include a video camera, printer, scanner, mouse, keyboard or blue tooth receiver. After adding the new device or peripheral your computer no longer works the way it did BEFORE you installed the new device or peripheral. Un installing the software and drivers that came with the new hardware device or peripheral does not resolve your problem or issue.
  • You update your computer with the latest version of the software and or drivers for a device or peripheral. After installing the updated version of the software and or drivers the computer does NOT work like it used to. Un installing the software and drivers does not resolve the problem.
  • You download a new game or application from the Internet. After installing it your computer no longer works as it used to.
  • You've made a configuration change or changes to your computer. The computer no longer works like it used to. You don't remember exactly what configuration changes you made and therefore are not able to reverse the changes.

The preceding list describes common scenarios in which computer problems/issues arise. Typically, computer problems/issues occur after a change has been made to the computer. Isolating the change that created the problem/issue is a key to troubleshooting and finally resolving a computer problem/issue.

Windows System Restore Limitations

Windows System Restore will NOT help you recover lost or deleted personal files (e-mail, pictures, documents, videos) you have stored on your computer. For example, files stored in a "My Documents" folder will not be recovered by System Restore. You need to use a file recovery program to retrieve deleted files. To prevent the permanent loss of personal files you should regularly back them up to both an external drive or NAS and a cloud service provider. Encrypt files you back up to protect your privacy.

Windows System Restore will NOT generally be helpful to solve computer problems that result from a hardware failure. For example, if a computer hard disk drive fails Windows "drive/system imaging" could be more useful than System Restore.

I do not suggest you use System Restore to resolve a computer virus or other malware infection.

Restore A Computer Using System Restore

I'm going to show you how to restore a computer to a previous state/condition using a "restore point" and Windows System Restore. This tutorial was created using Windows 7. The process is similar in other versions of Windows including Windows 8.

To begin:
  • Save any files you have open/are working on.
  • Close all open applications.
  • Left click the Windows "Start" button.
  • Type "system restore" (no quotation marks) into the search box.

The System Restore wizard will begin (see image below).
  • Left click the "Next" button.

windows 7 system restore wizard

Choose A Restore Point

In the next section of this tutorial we need to choose the restore point we want to use. How do you choose a restore point? In Windows 7 restore points are created:
  • Automatically once per week. (your computer must be powered on)
  • Prior to the installation of a new application. Examples of applications include any video game, image or graphics editing programs, spread sheet or word processing software. A restore point is only created if the application meets guidelines established by Microsoft for system restore.
  • Prior to the installation of device drivers. Device drivers are often installed when you add a new peripheral for example, a printer or when you install a new device for example, a video, sound or network adapter card.
  • Prior to the installation of a Microsoft issued update.

Before you choose a restore point, review the list above and consider:
  • What if any configuration changes were made to the computer?
  • Were any new hardware or peripheral devices installed?
  • Were any new applications or updates installed?
  • When (approximate date) did any changes occur?
  • When did a problem/issue begin?

Answering the preceding questions may help you determine the event and or time frame when your problem/issue began. Knowing the answers to these questions may help you choose the restore point you need to use.

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