What To Do When Windows System Restore Fails

system restore icon   What To Do When Windows System Restore FailsIf you’re experiencing a problem with your Windows computer, you can try using System Restore, which rolls back system files, program files, and registry information to a previous state. If these files have been corrupted or damaged, System Restore will replace them with good ones, solving your problem. However, in some cases, System Restore may not work properly – you may see an error message or the restore may not fix anything.

There are a few quick things to try that may fix System Restore for you, including running System Restore in Safe Mode, where other applications can’t interfere with it.

Try Another Restore Point

First, try using another restore point. This applies whether you’re seeing an error message while trying to use system restore, or whether you’ve used system restore successfully and it hasn’t solved your problem.

From the System Restore window (click Start, type System Restore, and press Enter to open it), select Choose a different restore point and click Next.

system restore wizard   What To Do When Windows System Restore Fails

Try to select a system restore point created before you started experiencing problems. More recent system restore points may have been created after the problems with your computer began, so they may not help. To view all available restore points, select the Show more restore points check box in this window.

choose system restore point   What To Do When Windows System Restore Fails

Ideally, this will solve your problem. However, if you see an error message – or if System Restore performs a restore operation that doesn’t solve your problem – continue reading the next section.

Use Safe Mode

System Restore works by replacing the system files on your computer with the system files from a restore point. However, some applications – particularly antivirus applications and other types of services running in the background – may interfere with this. Antivirus applications try to protect your system files, so they may prevent System Restore from replacing them. Other types of applications – perhaps even a virus or other type of malware – may also prevent System Restore from working.

To bypass these background services, you can start Windows in Safe Mode and run System Restore from there. In Safe Mode, Windows doesn’t load startup applications and third-party drivers, so they can’t prevent System Restore from working.

To boot Windows in Safe Mode, restart your computer, then press and hold the F8 key while your computer boots. Select Safe Mode in the boot menu that appears and press Enter. (If you don’t see the boot menu, restart your computer and try again.)

SafeMode02   What To Do When Windows System Restore Fails

Launch System Restore and use it in Safe Mode. After you’re done, restart your computer – it will boot Windows in normal mode.

Reinstall Windows

If System Restore doesn’t even work for you in Safe Mode (remember to try other restore points), its files may have become corrupted. Or, if System Restore works for you but doesn’t fix your problem, you may not have any restore points created before the problem occurred.

Either way, System Restore isn’t going to fix your problem. If you have a problem with your computer that needs to be fixed, you’ll need to restore your computer’s operating system from its restore partition or reinstall Windows – don’t worry, this isn’t quite as daunting as it may seem.

First, be sure to back up your personal data – the reinstall process will generally wipe the files and programs on your hard drive. After you’re sure you have your important files safely backed up, it’s time to perform a restore. There are three possible ways to do this:

  • Most laptops and other computers come with recovery partitions, which you can activate by pressing a special key while booting your computer – consult your computer’s manual for the exact key and instructions.
  • If your computer came with restore discs instead of a restore partition, insert the first restore disc into your computer’s disc drive and restart your computer to get started.
  • If you installed Windows yourself (perhaps you built your own computer or installed a different version of Windows on it), insert the Windows installer disc into your computer and restart the computer.

Follow the instructions that appear on your screen to complete the recovery or reinstall after you start it.

Windows7Reinstall04   What To Do When Windows System Restore Fails

Have you ever run into a problem with System Restore? How did you fix the problem or get your computer back to a working state? Leave a comment and share your experience!

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Another option, and the one I would use, is to restore from an image. You should be making images of your drive reguarly just for such a case. Much better than wiping the drive and reinstalling Windows. All programs and settings will be there after the image is restored. You can use any of the third party imaging programs or use Windows 7 built in one.

Chris Hoffman

Certainly, but most consumer backup programs don’t really take full images — well, maybe some do. I probably should’ve mentioned that. Good catch!

Richard Steven Hack

System Restore basically just restores the Registry and some other system files. This can be done manually if you actually have a Restore Point available to restore from. Google for the instructions – there are plenty of instructions available. Try this after trying System Restore in Safe Mode but before doing a full reinstall.

Sammi Ham

Also registry cleaners are available.


Funny, I just wrote an article on why not to use registry cleaners. Sure, they are a last resort, but they should not be used routinely. That will get you into more trouble than it’s worth.

Chris Hoffman

Huh! I’ve never thought about that, but it makes sense. Thanks for the tip.

Richard Steven Hack

Also, if you’re using image backups, remember that you need to be doing data backups as well as image backups. If you’ve not done an image backup in a while, your data will be out of date and over-written when you restore the image. Having a daily separate data backup allows you to make sure your restored data is current.

This is why I recommend you keep most of your data on a separate partition from the OS and programs. You take image backups of the OS partition periodically, and data backups of the separate data partition daily. Take note that some applications, such as Outlook and Outlook Express, store their data in the C: drive. You can lose your email history if you’re not backing that up separately from an image backup.

It’s possible to just take daily image backups but usually that takes longer than backing up data separately, depending on how much data you have. This is another reason to keep your data separate from the OS and programs. If you have a couple hundred gig of data in the image, it’s a pain to backup as an image, whereas most data backup programs will incrementally back up just the new and changed files. Some image backup programs, however, can incrementally backup.

Chris Hoffman

I definitely agree with this.

Swaroop Nunna

I never tried Safe Mode. I tried restoring to another time couple of times and I reinstalled many times :-)

Next time I will try with safe mode

Ibrahim Nadir

they say worst option is the best option… the final option is the worst one :P

Tom Grady

I use Dropbox and Google Drive for all the files that I would need to access within 48 hours of a computer crash. That way, I can still use another computer to get the essentials done. If you can’t boot your system, try using a Linux live usb or cd. I have an Ubuntu usb drive that sits in a drawer just in case I need it. Boot into linux and use it to back up all of your files, then re-install Windows.

I actually re-install my system annually just to clear up all of the junk that Windows tends to accumulate. Backups are fundamental.

Chris Hoffman

Definitely; I do that too. Also helps if you use multiple computers. But Google Drive/Dropbox shouldn’t be your only backup, what happens if you lose access to your account? The thought scares me.

Candy Copeland

This happened to my laptop after it auto downloaded a windows update. Next time I turned it on the screen pictures and icons were all screwed up and I couldn’t click to open anything. Not even the start menu worked right. Popped in the rescue disk and not wanting to wipe out my whole disk I opted for trying restore to fix it. Three tries, each a different restore point and each time it acted like it was working only to come back and tell me restore wasn’t working! I hadn’t done a system image on my external drive in over a year. After trying and trying I had to say yes to restoring the year old system image. Lesson learned, BACK IT UP OR RISK IT ALL! Yes, it’s auto scheduled now. LOL

Chris Hoffman

That’s the thing about backups — no one starts backing up regularly until they lose a lot of their stuff.

Same happened to me when I was younger. After losing years of stuff (none of which was really that important, I guess), I started backing up regularly.

Manuel Reyes Jr.

System restore in XP is useless so I clone a freshly installed Windows using rsync and save it somewhere. I’ve already restored my system several times using rsync as well. I type some characters on the terminal and I have Windows good as new in a little while. I’m lazy so I do it this way.

Chris Hoffman

It’s not necessarily useless — proper backups are better but for the average user’s computer without backups, it can fix some problems.

I know how you feel about System Restore though — I first encountered System Restore in Windows ME. Windows ME was so terrible that I ignored System Restore for years, even on newer operating systems.

susendeep dutta

Most of the time,system restore doesn’t works and all the user is left to do is to reinstall the OS.

Noman Fayez

sorry to say………….not good enough……..


What is not good enough and why? Can you suggest any alternatives to Windows System Restore? I’m curious!

Akram Najjar

Tina: the problem with a System Restore is that it is not documented what it takes a “snapshot” of. You are left guessing as to what it will restore and what it won’t. Example: you’ve spent time configuring a complicated software application. Do we know if restore takes you back to what you’ve done? I prefer image backup. Restore helps if you are within the hour, ie, if something happens a few hours or even days after restore and you are sure you have not changed anything in the system. Take care


Great point, Akram!

And I should add that System Restore and Windows Backup are notoriously unreliable or unpredictable. For example Windows may delete restore points at (what it seems like) random. And Windows Backup won’t back up all files of a given program, for example Outlook.

So it’s always a good idea to rely on more direct and predictable ways to make backups etc.

Chris Hoffman

Good points, but many users don’t make regular backups. Windows System Restore is often one of the only solutions.

Chris Hoffman

What else is there to do? Restore from backups, of course.

Ultimately, at some point, a full reinstall is the only option. It sucks, but there are no better options.


Windows XP won’t boot up (keeps looping). I tried safe mode boot up & tried a system restore to no avail. Then I used recovery disks to reinstall, no luck. Whatever has corrupted the OS, won’t let the recovery Windows XP do its “setup”. And, setup won’t run in safe mode on XP. What to do now? HELP
Thankfully, this is not my laptop, it is a freebie given to my non-tech husband.
One of the Windows scanner programs from Microsoft showed a virus & a trojan. Names of “Win32/PossibleHostsFileHiJack” & TrojanDownloader:JS/Renos

raj gopal

an even efficient way would be to just back up, my favorite one is acronis true image
a very good and an effective against these kinds of scenarios……

Akram Najjar

(Agree with ANOMALY!). If your requirement is to go back to an earlier “state” then the above are not solutions. An earlier restore point defeats the purpose. Safe mode does not do that. Re-installing Windows means you have to do everything all over again.
Best technique: Take an image backup on a regular basis (weekly). It takes an image of ALL your system (including settings, registry, etc). Products like MACRIUM REFLECT, NORTON GHOST and 10s of others do that. MACRIUM has saved my neck many times, even when I lose a file or a DLL or I simply give up and wish to go back 1 week in my work. ALL THE BEST.

Chris Hoffman

You should ideally have a backup, but if you’re depending on System Restore, you may not…

Ray Randall

forget about Windows fixing itself….Keep good backups, reinstall WIndows periodically, reinstall software you actually use, transfer data from backup.


System Restore also roll backs ur documents.

It happened with me in XP.
I had some documents created and saved on desktop. Sue to some issue I had to do system restore. When system came back online, the documents were no more there.

Chris Hoffman

A good reminder to back up personal files (the most important thing), if not the operating system itself.

Siddhant Chaurasia

Use a Mac!

Chris Hoffman

Then you might have to read “What To Do When Time Machine Fails,” I guess.

Becky Bowman

System Restore hasn’t worked on my computer for a year. I had everything backed up to an external hard drive, but it crashed and I can’t get anything off of it. I’ve never done an image back up. Can I pick and choose what to restore or is it all or nothing? I have many programs that I’ve received free (Give away of the day) but can’t reinstall to another computer. Would an image backup solve this?


Image backup – Yes- it brings back ur complete system.

What do u actually mean when u say “System Restore hasn’t worked on my computer for a year”?

Did u try restoring and it failed or what?

Chris Hoffman

Yeah, image backups are good — although if your system is already messed up, you may not want to keep using that image forever. Backing up personal files is the most essential thing.

Rich Mc.

I guess I have been lucky enough to not have system restore not work….If I did have a problem I would just use a backup to fix.

Suman Kc

When system restore fails there is very few chances of getting another restore point so that we could restore again so better solution would be you need to repair your windows with windows installation media ….. this helps you to repair your system without loosing your files

Chris Hoffman

Yeah, also not a bad idea!

Alan Wade

My system is set to backup with an image backup every other day so I dont use System Restore at all in the event of a problem. I also have my documents, email profile and FF profile backup independently, in the past, I couldnt say that I was successful with System Restore so just dont waste space having it activated.

Michael Avila

hmm never tried safe mode and went through many failed restores where everything got deleted thanks for the info now im prepared for my next crash.


I used to have windows live. Used to sign in no problems. One dat i went my bookmarks to direct me to hotmail but i couldnt login? I tryed and tryed. ,well 1 i didnt have the reqirments to login. I have an unsuppored phone and its hard for me to do anything on da web. Pls help

Rody Roon

Nice Information but there are an another option too for secure your data or restore your data from a professional restore software as i know one of them it is Kernel for Window data recovery to restore data after any problem occurred of lost data .

Altra Attestor

I often fail melakukannya.tapi I will try this mode.


5 years ago in Germany I buy a hp Compaq Presario CQ60-130EG Laptop, during move to USA the backup Disk has damage, now I format my hard driver and tried to recovery my Laptop to Factory delivery, the vista program recovery but at end shows this message,
The installation could not be completed; they start the installation again to install windows on this computer, I tried much time still the same Message, could you please help me how can solving this problem,

Thanks for your help

Chris Hoffman

If you can get your hands on a Windows installation disc and install Windows from that, that should work for you.


I recently performed a system recovery/reformat…now I cant access windows and I can’t get past the screen that keeps telling me to reboot…I went into start up am changed to CD and tried that way…still nothing
.I went into bios to force CD start up…un successful as well…now mu computer just keep wanting me to F11 start recovery…yet again for the 100th time or restart for the 100th time…I’ve read and read and read on the internet and to no avail…I have an emachine T6532….if ANYONE can help, please email me….