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What Does System Restore Do – Beginner’s Guide

By Vernon Roderick, Last updated: April 10, 2023

We all know of the System Restore feature that allows you to reverse issues that are corrupting your operating system. It is often used to resolve most issues, it is capable of recovering your files for when your operating system is still completely functional.

However, it is not perfect. This leads us to the question, “What does System Restore do?” Fortunately, we have the answer for that in this article.

Part 1. What Does System Restore Do?Part 2. Limitations of System RestorePart 3. How to Use System RestorePart 4. Alternative to System Restore

Part 1. What Does System Restore Do?

To begin with, System Restore is a function for Microsoft Windows that was designed to repair your computer. This is done by returning the operating system at a point in time when the issues still haven’t occurred.

This is made possible by System Restore by creating a complete duplicate of your systems in a regular interval which you may configure on the settings. This duplicate is called a Restore Point and every restore point contains different sets of files for your system. However, although it is created automatically, it would be more accurate to create it by yourself.

What Does System Restore Do

While these Restore Points contain important files for the operating systems, drivers, and registry, it does not contain your personal files. This would mean that whatever you have on your secondary partition would stay all the while solving your issues with the operating system.

This is the main reason why System Restore is used by users and even professionals. However, to give you a better idea of what does System Restore do, here’s a look at some more specific reasons to use System Restore:

  • Incompatible New Software. Installing new software that isn’t compatible with your operating system may lead to system issues. System Restore will attempt to reverse the action of installing that software.
  • Incompatible Drivers Updates. Although you’ve had your drivers since the beginning, there are times when updating them will make them no longer compatible. System Restore is also capable of returning back to time for when you still haven’t updated the said driver.
  • Incompatible New Drivers. Finally, you can restore your system so that you can reverse the action of installing a new driver that happens to be incompatible.

These reasons make it crucial to know what caused the problem. That means you should remember every major action you take with your computer. But more than anything else, you have to make sure that you don’t install or update software and drivers without knowing what they are.

In addition, it is important to remember that System Restore works differently on each version of Windows. Here’s a look at some of those differences:

  • First of all, the design would be the most significant difference you’ll see. This means some instructions may not work with your version since the positioning and text for the options might be different. Either way, it shouldn’t affect the recovery too much.
  • Disk Space. Since Restore Points are duplicates of a whole system, it will take too much space on the disk’s volume. For that reason, there is a maximum disk space that it can consume, which is around 12%, but different Windows versions have different maximum disk space percentages. Either way, these restore points will be deleted within 90 days to avoid consuming too much space.

Disk Space Make System Restore Works Differently

  • Files Supported. The file types, file paths, and file systems that are supported by System Restore would differ for each Windows version. Some versions only include system files, while others may have an option for including personal files. There are also those that support EXE, DLL, and other similar file types. Lastly, the FAT32 file system is only supported by Windows Vista and later versions.

Lastly, there are many things that can change just because you used System Restore. For that reason, you have to understand how it would affect your whole system. Here’s a look at some of those significant effects:

  • Windows programs. The Windows programs that you installed after the restore point will be uninstalled automatically, while the software that you’ve uninstalled during the same time interval will be reinstalled. You can see the list of programs by clicking on Scan for affected programs in the System Restore window.
  • System Files. The system files on Windows are constantly changing. Some are removed, some are created, some are moved, etc. By using System Restore, you are undoing every change that happened after the restore point. This makes it one of the ways to recover system files.
  • Windows Updates. Any update that was done on Windows after the restore point will be undone, which means the programs and the system files affected by the update will also be removed.
  • Personal Data. The personal data, as we’ve said before, won’t be affected by the System Restore, although there is an option to include them if you would it. Either way, you can consider your personal data to be a special case when it comes to System Restore.
  • Virus & Malware. Another special case for System Restore is the virus and malware on your computer. These are some of the files that won’t be affected by the said function. This is because they behave differently from software and system files. With that said, we suggest using anti-virus software to remove them completely.

Virus Affect System Restore

  • Deleted Files. Oftentimes, we see System Restore as a way to recover deleted files, but in reality, it isn’t capable of that much. While it may recover system files, it cannot recover personal data since it’s not included on the list of files that would be reversed during System Restore.

That sums up pretty much everything you need to know about what does System Restore do. If you know all of these, then you should have an idea of how it works. But since we’ve discussed what it can do, it is also important to know what it CAN’T do.

Part 2. Limitations of System Restore

Perhaps the most significant limitation that you’ll notice with System Restore is the fact that it does not recover your personal data. This might be a loss to many, but it is actually very beneficial to others.

Anyway, there’s an option to include personal data in later versions of Windows. For that reason, System Restore is a tool that can be considered as a backup exclusive to your system.

In addition to this limitation, there is also a restriction on how often Windows creates the restore points. To give you a better idea of what that means, here are the scenarios that will lead to the creation of restore points:

  • Windows Installer was used to install a software
  • Windows Update was used to update the system or any program within it
  • A driver was installed which isn’t included on the official Windows website

In addition, the system will also create restore points on a regular basis but it depends on the version. For one, Windows XP would create one every 24 hours, Windows Vista would create one if there isn’t any within 24 hours, and Windows 7 would create a restore point if none was created within a week.

Lastly, restore points are created if you do it manually. With that said, you have to know first how to create one. This is very crucial as it makes the process easier. Now that you know what does System Restore do and can’t do, let’s head to how you can use this function.

Part 3. How to Use System Restore

System Restore is a handy tool, there are lots of guides out there to help you use it. In addition to its convenience, there are also risks if you happen to use it improperly. For that reason, you have to know exactly how to use it. There are generally two ways to use it, the simple and the advanced method. Let’s start with the simple method first.

  1. Enable System Restore.

Go to your Start menu by pressing the Win key on your keyboard. Now type in “Create a restore point” then select the option that will show up. On the System Protection tab, you should see several drives. Select your main partition which is usually Local Disk (C:). Once selected, click on Configure at the bottom. There should be two options, mark the one that says ‘Turn on system protection’ then click on Apply. You have now enabled the System Restore function.

Enable System Restore

  1. Create Restore Point.

Normally, you would just wait for System Restore to create restore points naturally. However, you can do it manually by going to the same System Protection tab you were in before. Here, instead of Configure, click on Create. You will be prompted to write a description for the restore point. Write what you want, then click on Create. Now close the tabs and wait for the restore point to be created.

Create Restore Point For System Restore

  1. Use Restore Point.

The last step is to actually use the restore point that you’ve created. To do so, you have to refer to the System Protection tab yet again. While in there, click on the System Restore button. You will be taken to another window. Simply click on Next and you’ll see a list of restore points. Select the one you just created then click on Next again and again until the process is finished.

These are the steps you need to take if the issue isn’t that severe. However, in some cases, you won’t even be able to access the System Restore option through normal means. For that reason, you have to use the advanced method by following these steps:

  1. Boot Into Advanced Mode.

The Advanced Mode will allow you to access most built-in functions on your Windows. To do so, you have to first power on your computer. While the Windows logo is on the screen, press the power button again. Repeat this until the Advanced Mode starts, which you should be able to distinguish when there’s an Automatic Repair text.

Boot Into Advanced Mode For System Restore

  1. Use System Restore.

Now that you are in Advanced Mode, you can now access System Restore. First, click on Advanced options. Then from the three options, select Troubleshoot. Here, select Advanced options again and you should be able to see the System Restore option. Select that option then click on Next. The process should now be similar to the simple method. Just select the restore point you want to use then click on Next until the process gets completed.

Use System Restore

At this point, you should be able to use System Restore like an expert, regardless of how severe the issue is. But just because you know what does System Restore do and how to use it doesn’t mean you can use it recklessly.

As we’ve said before, although System Restore is powerful, it wasn’t designed specifically for recovery. We have another recommendation for that.

Part 4. Alternative to System Restore

You can’t deny the fact that System Restore isn’t perfect. There are flaws and as one of the sections discussed, there are limitations of System Restore. This is precisely why you should learn how to rely on other methods for recovery. For that reason, we recommend the FoneDog Data Recovery software.

FoneDog Data Recovery is a tool for recovering files and can even recover system files, although not as good as System Restore. Simply put, you can use System Restore for system files, while you can use FoneDog Data Recovery for personal files. For example, you can use FoneDog Data Recovery to recover shift deleted files.

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If you take into consideration the numerous issues on a computer, it’s only natural to think that you would be using System Restore sooner or later. But of course, you can’t use it just because it can solve the problem. You have to learn what does System Restore do first.

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Fortunately, we’ve discussed pretty much everything you need to know about that topic in this article. Hopefully, that would help you get a better idea of how to exploit the benefits of System Restore to make it more advantageous for you. Based on the topic of this article about the comparison between System Restore and FoneDog Data Recovery, I recommend another article to discuss whether System Restore can recover deleted files for your reference.

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Vernon Roderick

Technical Expertise for PC/Website Optimization

One of my passion is to develop software of my own

I write articles to share knowledge about IT technology and some experience in developing my own software, and developing my own software is one of my passions for work.

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