Using the System Restore Feature in Windows

Originally introduced in Windows ME, System Restore is one feature that you definitely should be familiar with if you find yourself in the habit of constantly tinkering with your system. Also available in Windows XP, this feature allows you to restore your system to a previous configuration with a few simple mouse clicks. For example, let’s say that you’ve been running Windows XP for a while now, and one day decide to install what you think to be some great little utility. If the application is misbehaving, uninstalling it would be the logical first step, but sometimes even that doesn’t solve whatever problem you are experiencing.

With the System Restore feature, you could simply restore your system to the way it was before you installed the program, without the need to worry about what an uninstall might leave behind. In that way, this feature allows you to truly restore your operating system to a previous point in time.

It’s not just the programs that you install that may cause problems, however. Other potential culprits include installing incorrect drivers, using the Windows Update feature, or accidentally deleting a required .DLL file. In any of these cases, System Restore can get you back to where you originally started, as long as you’ve planned things correctly.

System Restore is used to bring your operating system back to a previous point in time, but not your user data. In fact, System Restore ignores your personal data files completely, so you don’t need to worry about losing new email messages or data files if you choose to restore your system to a previous point in time. To that end, you should be aware that System Restore will not allow you to restore one of your data files that you have accidentally deleted, so be sure to back up your data as necessary using the Backup utility.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.