How to use System Restore in Windows Vista

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System Restore and Recovery Points

Restore points can be created prior to making a change on your Windows Vista computer – many applications will even automatically create a restore point prior to making a change. Should the change go bad, you will have the option of rolling the change back so your system will perform as it did before the change was made.

By enabling System Restore Points, a small portion of your hard drive will be reserved for storing restore points. As long as there is space in this reserve, your restore points will remain available. Once the reserve space is fully used, the oldest restore points will be deleted to make room for new ones. System Restore may use up to 15% of your hard drive.

Enable System Restore

This section will walk you through enabling System Restore.

  1. Click on the Start button and then click on Control Panel.

  2. Go to System and Maintenance, System, System Protection

  1. In the System Properties window on the System Protection Tab you will see a list of your partitions – typically listed as “Local Disk (C:)”. Note that you may have more than one partition. It is recommended that you enable Restore Points for each partition or hard drive you have installed.
  1. Click OK. You’ve successfully enabled System Restore Points.

Create a Restore Point

Note that you need to have at least 300MB of disk space free and the hard drive must be 1GB or larger in order for Vista to create a restore point.

Follow these steps to create a restore point.

  1. Click on the Start button and then click on Control Panel.

  2. Go to System and Maintenance, System, System Protection

  3. Click on the “Create…” button on the System Properties, System Protection Tab.

  4. Enter a brief description – something that will help you remember the state of your computer at the time of the restore point. Click Create.

  5. Your first restore point will take a few minutes to create. Subsequent restore points should be created quicker. Click OK on the dialog box when it appears stating that the restore point had been created.

Perform a System Restore via Windows

Depending on how severe your computer issues are, there are two methods for performing a system restore. The first method is to perform a restore from within Vista. If your computer won’t boot into Windows, you will need to follow the second method - using the recovery console.

Follow these steps to restore from within Vista.

  1. Click on the Start button and then click on Control Panel.

  2. Go to System and Maintenance, Restore Files from Backup.

  3. On the Backup and Restore Center, click the “Use System Restore to fix problems and undo changes to Windows” link.

  4. On the System Restore window, click Next.

  5. Select the Restore Point you wish to restore and click Next.

  1. Click Finish to begin the restore. Click Yes when prompted to confirm. The computer will log you out while the System Restore runs. The computer will reboot when the restore is complete. My restore took about five minutes to run in total.

Perform a System Restore via Recovery Console

Follow these steps to restore from the recovery console.

In order to perform these steps, you will need to have your original Vista install disc.

  1. Insert the Vista install disc and start your computer - you will need to boot off the disc. Please refer to your computer manual for instructions on how to do this if you are unsure.

  2. After a few moments, you will be able to choose the option to “Repair your computer.”

  1. Click Next. From the System Recovery dialog, select System Restore.

  2. You will be presented with the same list of restore points that you would have, had you been in Windows. Select the Restore Point you wish to use and follow the remaining prompts to complete the process.

  3. After several minutes, the restore will be complete and the computer will reboot.


Although System Restores can eat up a good chunk of disk space, this potential drawback is easily outweighed the first time you use a system restore to bring your computer back to life after a bad install.