How To Fix Your PC Using Windows Restore in XP, Vista & 7

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system restore windows xpHave you ever done something on your computer that you kind of wish you hadn’t done? For example, install that program you found on the internet; tried to find a crack to unlock a game you downloaded; or even visited a naughty website; and afterwards your computer went haywire?

Maybe it wasn’t one of those reasons and you just changed a setting on your computer and now it doesn’t work. Whatever you did (or didn’t do), when your computer stuffs up or think you may have a virus, what can you do about it; how do you fix it?


The good thing is that Windows has something called System Restore which allows you to restore your computer to how it was a day before, or even a month before.

So What Exactly is System Restore and What Does It Do?

You have probably first heard about System Restore on Windows XP. What it essentially does is restore your computer to a state that is back in time. The good thing about it is that it doesn’t delete your files. It does delete any programs or .exe files you have such as program installs you might have downloaded.

Using System Restore on Windows XP

Before you use System Restore, you must make sure that it is activated. To do this, simply right click on My Computer and select Properties. In the System Restore tab, make sure System Restore is turned on for all your drives (or at least C: Drive)

windows system restore

Once activated, your computer will automatically make system restore points regularly or when you install new software.

If you ever run into trouble on your computer, you can then restore your computer back to that stage. To do this, open system restore by going to Start ““> All Programs ““> Accessories ““> System Tools ““> System Restore. Once opened, you should see two or three options to choose from. The first option allows you to restore your computer to an earlier time, and the second option allows you to create a restore point. This is great if you are about to do something that you think may upset your computer. The third option will only appear if you have used System Restore before and this lets you undo the restore if it didn’t fix your problem or made things worse.

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windows system restore

We want to restore our computer, so select the first option and click next.

On the next screen you will be presented with a calendar and all dates that have a restore point will be in bold. Select a recent date and choose a restore point on that date to one that you know your computer was working.

windows system restore

Once done, select next and agree to the warning message and then press next.

system restore windows xp

Your computer will restart and reboot and the program you are having should be fixed. If it’s not, you can go back to a previous date or undo the restore as I mentioned above.

Using System Restore on Windows Vista

To access System Restore, just follow the same steps as in Windows XP Start ““> All Programs ““> Accessories ““> System Tools ““> System Restore.

restore windows xp

Here you can select the latest restore point or choose a different restore point. I would recommend choosing a restore point.

restore windows xp

If you want to show all your restore points, click the checkbox on the bottom left. Simple select a checkpoint, press next and agree to the confirmation.

restore windows xp

Using System Restore on Windows 7

Using System Restore is not much different to using it in Windows Vista.  You can access it by going to Start –> All Programs –> Accessories –> System Tools –> System Restore.

restore windows xp

Simply select a recovery position from the list and click Next and Finish on the next screen.

restore windows xp

As I have not used Windows 7 before (apart from the RC and Beta versions), I believe there are a few more options other than System Restore that you can use to help repair your computer. However, most of these require your installation DVD. By reading a post on Microsoft.com, there are a few repair options to choose from which you can access when you press F8 when booting your computer to enter the recovery console. If you want perform a certain recovery option, visit this link for more information.

system restore windows xp

One final option is to use the Backup and Restore option which can be found at Control Panel –> System and Security –> Backup and Restore. Using this method, you can create a backup image of your computer and restore it at a later date – but this will be for another post.

So I hope you now know how to repair your computer yourself if you ever run into trouble. System Restore is a lifesaver (it has helped me hundreds of times) and could save you a lot of money compared to taking your computer to a local computer repair shop.

If you have any problems about using System Restore or general backup questions, feel free to ask in the comments or at MakeUseOf Answers.

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Comments (14)
  • yuregininsesi

    I am not trying to say that it will completely remove a virus, but it’s an easy step to do for novice users and may work. Well it has for me a couple of times.

  • Jack Cola

    To add to your comment, System Restore also deleted .exe files, so it doesn’t have to be in the registry.

    So if you download a lot of programs off the internet, but don’t install them, if you do a System Restore, they will be deleted.

    Just keep that in mind.

  • fruitgeek.wordpress.com

    If its a virus try AVG Rescue CD <http: avg-rescue-cd=”” us-en=”” http://www.avg.com=“”>- make it on another computer.</http:>

  • fruitgeek.wordpress.com

    If its a virus try AVG Rescue CD – make it on another computer.

  • JK III

    I read somewhere that system restore can also restore a virus that your anti-virus deleted. This was confirmed many times after I scanned my computer and the only folder infected was “System Volume Information”. Therefore I have disabled this feature.

    • Jack Cola

      Yes, that would most likely be true. But… Say you get the virus on the 15th, remove it on the 17th, and it’s now the 20th, and you restore it back to the 14th using System restore, it will come back. But if you restore your computer back to the 18th, it won’t be there because you already removed it.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.