You install a new driver, or download a new program, and suddenly your computer is behaving erratically. You uninstall the driver or program, but it doesn’t solve the problem. You scan your computer for viruses and malware, but it’s clean. What is wrong with your computer? You may need a system restore.
Sometimes, installing programs or drivers makes changes to your computer’s registry and other systems that are not undone during an uninstall. System restore is a Windows component that creates what it calls “restore points” which will allow you to reset your computer to an earlier date. The program will set restore points automatically, and will also let the user set them manually. The restore point contains registry information and other system data. The idea is to return your computer to a time when it was working correctly.
The restore component does not solve every problem. It does not serve as a backup system, so it cannot retrieve or repair damaged personal files. You cannot set a permanent restore point, because it is only allowed a limited amount of space, about fifteen percent of hard drive space. New restore points replace old ones. If a restore point was set while the computer was infected with a virus, the virus may be saved as well. Additionally, any program installed after a restore point is set will be removed when that point is used.
As with all Windows components, the benefits and drawbacks of the restore component varies with the operating system. Problems in Windows XP may be resolved in Windows Vista or later versions. XP does not always complete full restores, which, depending on the problem, may make the restore point useless. XP also does not give the restore component full monitoring access, so automatic updates, and some other types of automatic installations may be overlooked. Both issues were addressed and corrected in Windows Vista.
Although system restore’s abilities are limited, it can save some headaches when dealing with a corrupted system.