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What to do when System Restore doesn't work

Tips and tricks to ensure your system can be restored

System Restore is an application in Windows that should back up the Registry and many important system files frequently and automatically in Windows XP and Vista. But various conditions can prevent System Restore from creating backups or (as it calls them) restore points. We’ve round up some tips & tricks to help you get System Restore working again.

If you can't get any of your restore points to work, remove all of them so you can start over; to do this, turn System Restore off and then on again. In Windows XP, select Start, Run, type 'sysdm.cpl', and press Enter. Click the System Restore tab in the System Properties dialog box, check Turn off System Restore, click Apply, uncheck Turn off System Restore, and click OK.

In Vista, click Start, type 'sysdm.cpl', and press Enter (or select System Restore from the list of programs that appears as you type). Click the System Protection tab (or choose open System Protection), and uncheck Local Disk (C:). The exact name of this option varies, but it should end with '(System)'. You may have to wait a few seconds for it to appear. Select Turn System Restore Off in the System Protection pop-up, click Apply, recheck Local Disk (C:), and click OK.

If none of the above work and you're still troubleshooting why not try Bert Kinney has an immensely valuable System Restore FAQ, which includes details about corrupt Restore Points. And for those of you in a geeky frame of mind should download Doug Knox's Single Click Creation of a System Restore Point.

Finally, we also recommend ERUNT (Emergency Recovery Utility NT) as a great freeware tool to back up the registry and allows you to restore it.

Removing restore points

If you want to remove restore points, there are a couple of ways you can get rid of them.

The first uses the Disk Cleanup utility to remove all but the last Restore Point. From My Computer, right-click the C: drive, choose Properties, and click Disk Cleanup. Once the hard drive stops churning, you'll see a list of items to delete, such as Temp files and the Internet cache. You might as well dump those, too. Next, choose the More Options tab and select 'Clean up in System Restore' at the bottom panel of the dialog box.

The second method temporarily removes all Restore Points. This one is risky because if something goes wrong, you won't be able to undo system changes. It's worth doing if you strongly suspect you're infected with spyware and want to remove every Restore Point before scanning with an antivirus or antispyware program. I've done it, but I'm fully backed up (just like you are, right?).

From the Control Panel, double-click System, click the System Restore tab, and select the 'Turn off System Restore' check box. Click OK, and then click Yes to initiate Restore Point Deletion. Do the antivirus or antispyware scan, and then turn System Restore on again: Repeat the above steps, but this time click to clear the 'Turn off System Restore for all drives' check box.

  1. Tips and tricks to ensure your system can be restored
  2. Turning off Restore Points

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