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Configure System Restore in Windows

By . Last modified: 2014-08-14.

How to configure System Restore in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1

System Restore (aka System Protection in Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1) literally turns back time for your computer - it restores the system files and settings that were used at a time when your computer was still working well. It also restores your previous Windows password in case you have changed it recently - so make sure you remember your previous password!

System Restore will not touch your documents, e-mails, pictures, videos, etc. It will restore only system and program files and settings in Registry. But if you have installed a program after the time you want to restore your system to, you will still have to reinstall that program.
Never expect System Restore to remove a virus, rootkit or other malware - use free anti-virus programs and free anti-malware programs for this.

System Restore is available in Safe Mode, while booting from Windows installation DVD (in Windows Vista and later) or System Repair Disc/Recovery Drive (in Windows 7 and newer), and while running Windows normally. The only difference is that after restoring to an earlier restore point in Safe Mode or from installation DVD/Repair Disc/Recovery Drive, the action cannot be undone; if you have Windows running normally, you can undo the restoration.

In Windows 8, System Restore is off by default on most devices - Microsoft decided to rely on the new Refresh Your PC feature. You can still enable and use System Restore.

Configuring System Restore in Windows

First, let's see System Restore options. Open System Properties / Basic System Information using keyboard shortcut Windows Key+Break, or right-click Computer icon on Desktop or in Start menu and select Properties.
In Windows 8, you can also use keyboard shortcut Windows Key+X to open Quick Links menu (a list of system tools) and click System. Alternatively, right-click (or tap and hold) Start "tip" on the bottom left of Desktop.
Windows Vista, Computer right-click menu. To open Basic System Information, click Properties. Windows 8, system utilities menu (Windows Key+X). To open Basic System Information, click System.

In Windows XP, click to open the System Restore tab.
In Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1, click the System protection link on the left side of the window.
Windows 7, Basic System Information window left part. Click System Protection to configure System Restore.

Windows Vista users will meet User Account Control. Click Continue.
Windows Vista, User Account Control dialog for System Protection Settings. Click Continue.

In Windows XP, make sure that there is no check mark in the Turn off System Restore on all drives box. If there is, clear it and click Apply to re-enable System Restore.
Find Available drives. Here you have a list of hard drives or partitions available in your computer.
In Windows XP, verify that at least one drive has "Monitoring" written in the Status column.
In Windows Vista, check that at least one drive is selected.
In Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, ensure that at least one drive has "On" written in the Protection column. Please note that in Windows 8, System Restore might be off by default.
Windows XP, System Properties, System Restore tab. Select a disk letter and click Settings to change System Restore settings for the drive. Windows Vista, System Properties, System Protection tab. Use check boxes to enable or disable System Restore on the drive. Windows 7, System Properties, System Protection tab. Select a drive and click Configure to set System Restore preferences for the disk.

In Windows XP, 7, 8 and 8.1, you can configure how much disk space is reserved for restore points. There must be at least 1 gigabyte of free space on the disk for System Protection to work. One restore point uses around 300 megabytes. See the Free up disk space in Windows article if your device is tight on space.
Windows Vista will use up to 15% of total disk space for restore points and Microsoft provides no way of configuring it.

To adjust System Restore disk space usage in Windows XP, 7 and 8, click the drive that has Windows installed on it. Usually its letter is C: and Windows 7 has "(System)" written after it. Then click Settings or Configure.
In the Disk Space Usage section, adjust the Disk space to use (Windows XP) or Max Usage slider to suit your needs. This defines how much disk space will be reserved for restore points. In Windows 7, this also includes previous versions of files (if configured so). If you have very limited disk space, set it to at least 600 MB (megabytes) - this is the absolute minimum I would recommend. But in case you have a large hard disk with plenty of space available, you can reserve 1-5 GB (gigabytes) for System Restore and Previous Versions. Generally, 10-15% of disk space is the maximum I would use on large drives.

In Windows 7, verify that under Restore Settings the Restore system settings and previous versions of files is selected. This does not mean that System Restore will overwrite your documents, pictures, videos, e-mails or other personal data - this just enables backing up and restoring different versions of documents you have in your Documents folder and its subfolders. For example, if you accidentally delete or overwrite a document or folder, you can recover it using Previous Versions.
In Windows 8, make sure that Turn on system protection is selected in Restore Settings section.
You can see how much space is currently being used for System Protection in Current Usage row.

The Delete button (in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 only) is meant to use with care on system drive. You should never click it if you already have problems with your Windows 7 or newer. Clicking this button will remove all system restore points and previous versions of documents and therefore makes restoring your Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 to an earlier point of time impossible.

Click OK to close settings for the selected hard drive.
Windows XP, System Restore settings for Drive C. Move the Disk space to use slider to adjust maximum disk space allowed for System Restore.Windows 7, System Protection settings for Drive C. Move the Max Usage slider to adjust maximum disk space allowed for System Restore. Verify that Restore system settings and previous versions of files is selected in the Restore Settings section. Windows 8, System Protection settings for Drive C. Move the Max Usage slider to adjust maximum disk space allowed for System Restore. Verify that Turn on system protection is selected in the Restore Settings section.

Turning System Protection off for non-system or external hard drives

Some computer vendors divide a hard disk into two partitions - one for Windows, the other for recovery. The second partition usually has a name (label) that includes the word "recovery", such as "HP_Recovery".
Also, you might have external disks or more than one hard disk in your computer and you might not want to use other drives than system drive (the one with Windows) for System Protection.

In Windows XP, click to select the drive for which you want to turn System Restore off. Then click Settings....
Windows XP, System Properties, System Restore tab. Select a disk letter and click Settings to change System Restore settings for the drive.

Enable the Turn off System Restore on this drive option and click OK.
Windows XP, System Restore settings for Drive E. To disable System Restore for the disk, enable the Turn off System Restore on this drive option.

Click Yes in the warning dialog to turn System Restore off for the selected drive.
Windows XP, Do you want to turn off System Restore on this drive? Click Yes.

In Windows Vista, clear the check mark for the drive you do not need for System Protection.
Windows Vista, System Properties, System Protection tab. Use check boxes to enable or disable System Restore on a drive.

Click Turn System Restore Off.
Windows Vista, Are you sure you want to turn System Restore off? Click Turn System Restore Off to disable System Protection on the selected disk.

In Windows 7, 8 and 8,1, click to select the non-system drive. Click Configure... button.
Windows 7, System Properties, System Protection tab. Select a drive and click Configure to set System Restore preferences for the disk.

In Windows 7, select Turn off system protection in the Restore Settings section.
In Windows 8 and 8.1, choose Disable system protection.
Windows 7, System Protection settings for Drive. Select Turn off system protection to disable System Restore on the disk. Windows 8, System Protection settings for Drive. Select Disable system protection to disable System Restore on the disk.

Click Yes to turn off system protection for the drive.
Windows 7, Are you sure you want to turn off system protection on this drive? Click Yes.

Creating a system restore point manually

You might want to create a restore point before installing a program you do not really know much about or before making changes to Windows or its registry.

In Windows XP, open Start menu and browse to All Programs, Accessories, System Tools. Click System Restore.
Windows XP, All Programs menu. Open Accessories and System Tools. Then click System Restore.

Then select Create a restore point and click Next.
Windows XP, System Restore, Welcome. Select Create a restore point. Then click Next.

In Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1, click Create in System Properties window, System Protection tab
Windows Vista, System Properties, System Protection tab. To create a restore point right away, click the Create button. Windows 7, System Properties, System Protection tab. To create a restore point manually, click Create.

Type a description for the restore point and click Create.
Windows XP, System Protection, Create a Restore Point. Type some description for the restore point and click Create. Windows Vista, System Protection, Create a restore point. Type some description for the restore point and click Create.

Restore point creation will take some time, stand by. After the process is complete, click Close.
Windows XP, System Protection, Restore Point Created. Click Close. Windows 7, System Protection, The restore point was created successfully. Click Close.

 

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