One of the new features that Microsoft introduced with Windows Millennium (Windows Me) was the incorporation of a third-party program that backed up the Windows operating system and critical files, including the Windows Registry. It was called GoBack.
While GoBack was incorporated into Windows Me, and was made available from the third-party software company for earlier versions of Windows, it never really caught on. Perhaps because it ran before Windows ever started. It also modified the Windows C: drive’s partition to a non-standard partition type, which broke a number of third-party utilities.
With the advent of Windows XP, GoBack was gone from Windows. Microsoft introduced a new feature called System Restore to Windows. Over the years, and over changing operating systems, System Restore has gotten better and better.
The biggest problem with Windows System Restore was that Microsoft had it set to reserve 10% of each hard drive’s space for its use. As drives got bigger and bigger, 10% got bigger and bigger, too.
Users could change that setting, but most people didn’t…
First, System Restore protects your Windows operating system’s critical files and settings.
Second, unless you turn it off for an individual drive, it will create Restore Points at certain intervals and upon certain events happening. Windows 7 will create a restore point when it boots, if no other restore point has been created within seven days.
The time you might want a special restore point is when you’re going to install new hardware or new drivers for hardware. Similarly, you might want to create a restore point before installing a program.
Windows 7 will create a Restore Point automatically, without prompting, when you install a new driver. If you’re going to install a new program, it’s up to you whether to create a Restore Point or not.
You don’t have to tell Windows to create a Restore Point, but you can if you want to get one "now."
The route to get to System Restore manually is:
Control Panel > System & Security > System
When you follow that route, you get the dialog box below:
At that point, select System Protection from the left-hand column in the dialog box.
In the resulting dialog box, click the System Protection tab.
On the System Protection tab of the System Properties dialog box, you can open the System Restore functions, but that’s not the easiest way to get to that capability.
The important function that you’ll find here is the ability to create a Restore Point.
You can also use this dialog box to control which hard drives are monitored and protected by the System Restore system protection. You can also control how much drive space is reserved for Restore Points.
In the final image, we see the limited dialog box that is displayed when you use the route
Control Panel > System & Security > Restore your computer to an earlier time
Sometimes I hear the comment "I don’t need to back up my computer; I have System Restore turned on."
Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking.
First, the Restore Points are stored on the same drive as the original information. If the drive fails, you lost everything.
Second, the Restore Points don’t include all the information on your drive. They’re created much too quickly. I would not count on them to be protecting anything other than the Windows installation itself.
Third, when you read that the Restore Points back up your data, be sure to read the "fine print." You’ll see that it’s not all backed up.
And, finally, when System Protection runs low on space for Restore Points, it deletes old ones. If you have a problem, your early attempts to fix the problem could quickly wipe out a Restore Point that you could have used to solve the problem.
Do I use System Restore? You bet. Most of the time, when I use it, it’s because a new driver broke something else.