When your computer is running smoothly, we like to imagine that this is the way it will always be. Even though, in our heart-of-hearts, we know that isn’t going to be the case. And even if you’re a cautious user, problems can arise without warning.
In those cases, System Restore is your friend. Lo, it can be your savior. System Restore has saved my bacon on multiple occasions. But what if System Restore has given up on you, too? Before you reach for the nearest Windows installation media, try these tips to see if we can coax System Restore back to life.
1. Run System Restore From Safe Mode
Your first port of call should be Safe Mode. Problems encountered while running System Restore are usually alleviated by trying again in Safe Mode.
First, we need to boot into Safe Mode. There are three easy ways to do this on Windows 10.
- Head to Settings > Update & security > Recovery. Under Advanced start-up, select Restart now. This will reboot your system into the Advanced Start-up settings menu. From there, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart. On restart, you’ll see a list of options. Select 4 or F4 to boot your PC into Safe Mode (choose 5 or F5 for Safe Mode with Networking).
- Press Windows Key + R to open Run. Type msconfig and press Enter. Open the Boot tab. Check the box alongside Safe Mode. If you require Networking, select it from beneath. Once you hit Apply, and close the System Configuration window, you’ll receive a prompt to Restart your system. Please note that your system will continually boot into Safe Mode unless you uncheck the System Configuration option — repeat the same process within Safe Mode once you’re sure you’ve fixed the issue.
- Restart your PC. Press F8 during the boot process to enter Safe Mode. This is a tried and tested method. However, if you use Windows Fast Startup feature, spamming F8 will not work. If you can spare the few startup seconds shaved by using Fast Startup, you’ll find the whereabouts of this option in this short, handy guide.
Once you’re in Safe Mode, go ahead and type recovery into the Start Menu search bar. Select Recovery from the list, then Open System Restore from the Advanced recovery tools menu.
If System Restore works in Safe Mode, it is a clear indicator that something, likely a program or service, is impeding it during a regular boot. Antivirus settings can at times cause System Restore to misbehave (for instance, Norton’s Product Tamper Protection is a well-known culprit).
Alternatively, a virus or malware infection could be creating an issue. In this case, you’ll need to scan your system using an up-to-date antivirus program.
2. Configure Disk Space Usage
If you still cannot get System Restore to run properly, try adjusting the hard disk space allocation. It might have run out without informing you (a classic Windows move).
I would recommend allocating at least 4 GB. Some will say that is overkill. However, I would contend that each major Windows 10 update weighs in at around 4 GB (major update in this case meaning the Creators Update, rather than the regular cumulative updates). On the other hand, you might not want System Restore to take up too much space, especially if you’re already limited.
Let’s check what is going on with your System Restore allocation. Type system protection into the Start Menu search bar, and select Create a system restore point. Select Configure. Check your Disk Space Usage, and increase if it is less than or equal to 300 MB.
Clearing Out Old System Restore Points
You can delete old System Restore points. Ultimately, System Restore updates your System Restore points as it goes, replacing the oldest one each time. (This is why some people allocate lots of space to System Restore.) That said, if you do want to delete your System Restore points, I’ll show you how to do it without wrecking everything.
Type disk clean into the Start Menu search bar. Right-click the best match, and select Run as administrator. Select C: as the drive you’d like to clean, then press OK. Disk Clean-up will calculate the amount of space available for cleaning.
Open the More Options tab. Under System Restore and Shadow Copies, select Clean-up. You’ll meet the following message:
Press Delete if you want to proceed.
This method keeps your last System Restore point in place, whereas hitting Delete on the System Protection panel will eliminate all of them.
3. Ensure System Restore Points Are Being Created
This won’t entirely help solve your current issue, but will absolutely help you next time.
Are System Restore Points turned on? Are they being regularly and automatically created? We can easily check by entering rstrui in the Start M enu search bar and selecting the corresponding entry. Press Next when prompted. You’ll then see a list of your current System Restore points.
Nothing there? You’ll need to head back to the System Protection options we used earlier. Type system protection into the Start Menu search bar and select Create a system restore point. Select Configure. Under Restore Settings, make sure Turn on system protection is checked.
Alternative: Windows 10 Reset
System Restore still not working? Windows 10 introduced a handy new feature that allows you to reset your installation, keeping your personal data files intact. Windows 10 Reset draws on a recovery image already stored on your system to initiate a fresh installation. There is no downloading, and no installation media, either.
Press Windows Key + I, and head to Update & security > Recovery. Under Reset this PC, hit Get started. Select either Keep my files or Remove everything. As we just want to refresh your system, select the former.
Please note that this process resets your Settings, and will remove your Windows apps.
Click Reset when prompted, and the actual process can take a few minutes to complete.
How to Fix System Restore and Recover Your System
It can be an excruciating moment when System Restore fails. Don’t panic. One of the methods listed above will coax System Restore back into life, and with it, the rest of your ailing system. Remember:
- Run System Restore from Safe Mode.
- Configure your disk space usage.
- Use Windows 10 Reset to refresh your installation.
- Double-check System Restore points are being created.
- Create regular system backups.
I cannot stress how important point #5 is. Regularly backing up your system is incredibly important. There is a reason everyone asks if you’ve backed-up your data.
Are you a backup beast? Or do you let everything slide? Have you ever lost ALL your data? Or did you have a trick to recover everything? Let us know your System Restore tips and tricks in the comments or share this article on Facebook or Twitter to keep the conversation going there!
Originally written by Jessica Cam Wong on 20 April 2011.