Windows XP System Restore

With Windows XP, Microsoft included a feature that keeps a copy of key system settings. In case you make a mistake configuring a system setting, or some basic application setting, you may be able to, conveniently, recover the system to a previous state before the mistake.

Windows XP automatically makes periodic copies, which it calls System Checkpoints. You can manually make copies too. Windows XP includes the System Restore wizard, which you can run from All Programs - Accessories - System Tools - System Restore.

When presented the System Restore wizard initial menu, you have 2 choices.

  • Restore system settings ("Restore my computer...").
  • Create a restore point.

Recover To A Restore Point
If you need to recover system settings to a previous time, and System Restore was enabled some time previous, you will be presented a calendar which will identify System Restore points previously created. Upon your selection of a restore point, the system will recover itself to that point. You should plan to restart the computer, so closing all open applications first would be a good idea.

  • Close all open applications.
  • Start the System Restore wizard.
  • Select "Restore my computer...".
  • Select a restore point, from the calendar, then from the restore point inventory.
  • Hit Next, and follow instructions.

Remember that when you restore to a given past point, all affected changes made after that point will have to be repeated. And remember that System Restore has a limited scope:

  • You should not plan to go back too far. The farther back you go, the more desired system changes will be wiped out, and will have to be repeated.
  • Don't plan on too many application changes being covered by System Restore.
  • Don't plan on ANY data files - Windows or third party - being covered.

Create A Restore Point
If you plan to make some system configuration changes, or reload key system files, it's a good idea to create a System Restore point. Just don't go overboard - note the limitations described above.

  • Start the System Restore wizard.
  • Select "Create a restore point".
  • Give a name to your restore point (remembering to make the name unique and descriptive) (note that the name you pick can't be changed).
  • Hit Next, and follow instructions.

Note The Limitations
System Restore is NOT a backup and recovery tool. Don't count on System Restore for system backups in general. For more information about System Restore, see (KB306084): How to restore the operating system to a previous state in Windows XP.

Enable System Restore First
To be used, System Restore has to be enabled. It may have been enabled by system setup, but it's not a bad idea to make sure it's active. In the System Properties wizard, select the System Restore tab. You enable System Restore for each partition that you wish it to be active on.

Since I, personally, separate my hard drive into 3 partitions (System, Applications, and Data), I enable System Restore on two partitions: C: (System) and D: (Applications). I don't need the overhead, which would not be productive, on my Data partition, so I leave my E: drive not monitored. This decision is entirely up to you.

Also up to you is the Disk Space usage. For each partition monitored, select that partition, and hit Settings. This will give you a control that will let you adjust how much space you wish to be used, by multiple System Restore checkpoints.