How to perform a System Restore in Windows XP / Vista / 7

There comes a time in the life of every Windows PC where it just seems to have a problem that seems to be impossible to fix. Is a complete wipe of the system and a factory reinstall the only solution?  There is another way to try before having to go down that tedious route.. The built-in System Restore functionality. Or as I call it, the Windows Lifesaver.

You may not realise it, but every now and then Windows can take a snapshot of its present configuration and store it just in case something goes wrong.  In such a time the system can be restored to the state it was in at that particular snapshot whilst leaving the documents and emails etc.. that you’ve been working on intact.  Often it is possible to effectively go back in time and reset your computer to a time when things were running more smoothly.  Sometimes a new program install or a virus may wreak havoc with your system – This is where System Restore comes into it’s own.  It can restore your system to a time before the problem was even there.

So, how does it work?  Well, first, we need to make sure the feature is enabled.

In XP Click on the Start button, Control Panel, then click on System and select the System Restore tab where you’ll see a tick but indicating whether it’s on or off.

In Vista / Windows 7 click the Start button, Control Panel, System Maintenance, then click System.  You should see System Protection in the left-hand pane showing if it’s on or off.

To actually use System Restore in anger should you need to revert your system to a previous date start by finding the System Restore program.

In XP Click on the Start button, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and System Restore.

In Vista / Windows 7 click the Start button, System Tools and System Restore.  From here you can either choose the recommended restore point or select one manually.

At this stage just follow the on-screen prompts and your PC will roll things back to happier days when things were working again.

NOTE: That System Restore will shut down the PC and restart so make sure you’ve saved anything else you were working on first.