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System Restore : Best Microsoft Utility Ever

by Oscar Sodani
March 5, 2004

Oscar Sodani is a founder of Help2Go and owner of Help2Go Networks, an IT consulting firm in the Washington D.C. area. Oscar holds the CISSP certification as well as industry certifications from Microsoft, Cisco and Novell.

The best thing you can do for your PC (and for your sanity) is to install an anti-virus program. Coming in a close second is the ability to use Windows XP's System Restore utility effectively. Never used it before? Read on -- this just might save you a few gray hairs.

When someone has a problem with their PC, one of the first things I tell them to do is reboot their PC. If the problem persists, the very next step is to try the System Restore utility. System Restore allows you to "reset" your Windows PC back to an earlier time. Did your PC work well yesterday? Last week? With System Restore, your PC's configuration travels back in time to that point before the mishaps occurred.

Here's how it works: System Restore creates a "snapshot" of your relevant system files, and saves them in a "Restore Point". These snapshots are created automatically by Windows XP, but you can also create restore points manually. Creating a manual restore point is an excellent idea before installing any new software or hardware. It's also a great idea if your PC is working perfectly and you want it to stay that way!

Starting System Restore


  • click on the Start button
  • select Programs
  • select Accessories
  • select System Tools
  • select System Restore

The System Restore program will now start.


Create a Restore Point (snapshot)


  • select the button next to "Create a Restore Point" and then click on "Next"
  • Now type in a description for your restore point. For instance, if I was just about to install Mozilla, I would type in "Before installation of Mozilla". If you want to create a restore point just because your PC is working correctly, type in "PC working fine". You don't have to type in the time or date -- that is added automatically.
  • Click on the "Create" button.
  • The restore point will now be saved to your hard drive. When it is finished, click on "Close" to close the program.


Use a Restore Point

If in the future, your PC starts acting up, and you want to restore it to exactly the way it worked before, you need to start up the System Restore program and follow these instructions:


  • Start the System restore program.
  • Click the button next to "Restore my computer to an earlier time" and click the "Next" button.
  • A calendar will appear. Click on the date that you wish to restore Windows to. The box next to the calendar will show you the available restore points from that day. The ones marked "System Checkpoint" are the automatic ones that Windows XP created.
  • Choose the one you want, then click "Next". Don't pick a point too far back in the past -- remember, any programs you installed since your restoration point may not work anymore.
  • Reboot your PC.


Use System Restore often to keep your computer in tip-top shape!

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