Section 16.3. System Restore

16.3. System Restore

It's fun to watch parts of movies played backwards. That puddle of spilled coffee suddenly curls up, flies through their air, and lands inside the cup; the anguished person holding the cup resumes smiling, and then walks backwards up the stairs.

If only the bottom step of every staircase had a built-in rewind button. Windows XP's is called System Restore, and while it won't remove coffee from your keyboard (Section 2.2), it often can return your PC to a time when everything worked correctly.

System Restore does this by automatically taking snapshots of Window's most important settings, tucking them away in Restore Points, and then files them by time and date. When you install a promising new program that turns into a disastereven after it's uninstalledhead for a Restore Point created before you installed the program. The Restore Point not only resurrects Windows' settings, but also flushes out any newly installed programs that may be causing problems. When Windows XP wakes up, everything's back to normal.

Running System Restore won't change any of your data or emails. That letter you wrote yesterday will still exist when you use a Restore Point from last week. Instead, think of System Restore as a backup system for Windows XP's own settings, the boring things you don't particular care aboutuntil they're botched and Windows XP suddenly stops working correctly.

Windows XP automatically creates a Restore Point approximately once a day (depending on how often your PC's been running) and whenever these things happen:

  • You install a new program.

  • Windows Update (Section 15.3) applies a patch from Microsoft.

  • You use a Restore Point (Windows creates a Restore Point immediately beforehand).

  • You ask it to create a Restore Point.

Windows XP stakes out up to 12 percent of your PC's hard drive for System Restore's stash of system settingsa considerable amount of room. If you value your hard disk space more than System Restore's safety net, lower that percentage a few notches: right-click My Computer, choose Properties, and then click the System Restore tab, shown in Figure 16-2. Click the Settings button, and then adjust the percentage by dragging the slider to the left or right.

16.3.1. Performing a System Restore

Enlisting the help of System Restore involves selecting one of your PC's many Restore Points, hopefully one created just before things went wrong. System Restore is completely reversible, so you don't have much to lose.

Follow these steps to fire up System Restore and return to the past.

  1. Load System Restore (Start All Programs Accessories System Tools System Restore) .

    You'll also find System Restore in the Control Panel's Performance and Maintenance section. Or choose Start Help and Support, and then click "Undo changes to your computer with System Restore."

    The System Restore window offers two options:

    • Restore my computer to an earlier time . The most-used option, this lets you restore Windows' damaged goods to their previously working order.

    • Create a Restore Point . Described in the next section, this lets you create your own Restore Point when things are running splendidly. (You can then select that particular Restore Point in times of need to bring back the good times.)

    Figure 16-2. System Restore makes perfect sense on your C drive, the home base for Windows and the bulk of your programs. It takes periodic snapshots of their settings, letting you retrieve them should their health deteriorate. If you're using a second drive for storage (for music and movies, for instance) rather than programs, you probably don't want System Restore to grab 12 percent of that drive's space. To turn off System Restore on that drive, click the drive's name on the System Restore tab, click Settings, and then turn on the option called, " Turn off System Restore on this drive."
  2. Choose "Restore my computer to an earlier time," and then click Next .

    Windows then displays the calendar shown in Figure 16-3, letting you choose any of Windows XP's automatically created Restore Points or one you created earlier.

  3. Click a Restore Point from the calendar, shown in Figure 16-3, and then click Next .

    System Restore tells you the time, date, and name of your chosen Restore Point, and then reminds you to save any information in your currently running programs (that's because restoring from a Restore Point will shut down and restart your PC). Windows XP usually saves a program's open files before shutting down, but you don't want to take any chances , so saving your files yourself is always a good idea.

  4. Close any running programs so Windows XP can restart .

Figure 16-3. Each bold-faced date on the calendar represents a Restore Point created on that day. Click any boldfaced date to choose that day's Restore Point. Or, to flip quickly through all your available Restore Points, click the little leftor right-pointing arrow on either side of the current month. The box on the right lists all the Restore Points that were created for the day you've chosen. Windows XP's automatic, daily Restore Points are named System Checkpoints.

When Windows XP reappears on your screen, it's decked out with whatever settings it had on the Restore Point you chose. If everything seems fine, you've cured the problem. If your PC wakes up with an even worse headache , return to System Restore and choose "Undo my last restoration." That brings you back to where you started, letting you choose a different Restore Point.

16.3.2. Creating a Restore Point

System Restore's nifty time travel concept sounds wonderful, as long as you can choose from a large selection of Restore Points. Without them, you're stuck in today's catastrophe with no place to go. To keep System Restore well-stocked, Windows XP automatically creates a new Restore Point almost every day. But the real beauty of System Restore is when you create your own Restore Points rather than relying on Windows XP's robotic automation.

Create your own Restore Point after you fix something problematicwhen you uninstall a balking program, for example, or you finally install all the drivers necessary to run a temperamental computer part. Setting a custom Restore Point lets you go back to a time where you know for certain things worked well.

Actually, anytime that you notice your PC running particularly well, feel free to create a Restore Point to preserve that moment. The routine goes like this:

  1. Launch System Restore (Start All Programs Accessories System Tools System Restore) .

    Just as before, the System Restore window offer two options: "Restore my computer to an earlier time," and "Create a Restore Point.

  2. Click "Create a Restore Point," click Next, and then type in a description of your new Restore Point .

    System Restores asks you to type your new Restore Point's name into the "Restore Point description" box.

    Type in a short sentence or a few words to jog your memory as to why you're creating the Restore Point. For instance, type something like, "Just before trying out that new registry editor," or "No crashes all week!" Windows XP automatically stamps the Restore Point with the current time and date, so don't bother adding those items.

    The information you enter here appears as one of the descriptions shown in Figure 16-3, helping your custom-created Restore Point stand out from the long list of automatically created Restore Points all named "System Checkpoint."

System Restore and Viruses

If your PC has come down with a nasty virus, System Restore can't "go back in time" to disinfect your machine, unfortunately . Today's virus writers are too smart for that. Instead, a Restore Point can contain an infection that could reinfecte your recently disinfected PC. If your PC catches a virus, be sure to delete all your Restore Points to keep your PC completely clean. Most antivirus programs can't delete Restore Points by themselves , leaving the job up to you.

Deleting your Restore Points works like this:

  1. Click Start, right-click My Computer, and then choose Properties. Then click the System Restore tab.

  2. Turn on "Turn off System Restore on all drives ," and then click Apply.

  3. Restart your PC, and then run your updated antivirus program.

  4. Repeat step 1, and then turn off "Turn off System Restore on all drives." Finally, click Apply.

Following this procedure manually deletes all your Restore Points, keeping you from inadvertently reinfecting your PC by using one of them.

PCs: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596100930
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 206
Authors: Andy Rathbone

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