When something goes wrong on your system as a result of a bad piece of software — maybe an app you installed, or a driver that broke something important — it can be hard to fix. System Restore lets you restore your Windows installation back to its last working state.
It does this by creating “restore points” every so often. Restore points are snapshots of your Windows system files, certain program files, registry settings, and hardware drivers. You can create a restore point at any time, though Windows automatically creates a restore point once per week. It also creates a restore point right before a major system event, like installing a new device driver, app, or running Windows update.
Then, if something goes wrong, you can run System Restore and point it to a recent restore point. It will reinstate those system settings, files, and drivers, returning your underlying Windows system to that earlier state.
This can be really useful when troubleshooting certain types of problems. For example, if you install a device driver that makes your computer unstable, you’ll want to uninstall that driver. However, in some cases, the driver may not uninstall properly, or it may damage system files when you uninstall it. If you use System Restore and select a restore point that was created before you installed the driver, this can restore your system files to the previous state before any problem occurred.
Windows Restore can also be really useful for undoing the damage caused by a misbehaving app or Windows update. Sometimes, apps and updates can cause problems with other apps or even system components, and simply uninstalling the app might not reverse the damage. Restoring to a point before the app was installed, however, can often clear up the problem.
How Does Using System Restore Affect My Personal Files?
System Restore is different than making backups — it specifically works on the underlying Windows system, rather than everything on your hard drive. As such, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration. So don’t count on System Restore as working like a backup. That isn’t what it’s intended for. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.