A lot of users get confused when it comes to understanding what the Windows utility System Restore actually does. The number one thing to emphasize is that it will not bring back any of your personal files such as Word documents or emails. This is something that the Backup and Restore facility will help with, as long as you’ve set up regularly scheduled backups.
System Restore has been included in Microsoft’s operating systems since Windows ME (barring all Windows Server versions). On Windows Vista and later, it can be accessed by simply searching for it in the Start menu. System Restore will roll back system files, registry keys and installed programs to a previous state on a set time and date. You can set a manual restore point, or the system will automatically create one each time you install new software or drivers. This is very useful should you ever install something that screws with your system and you need to get rid of it completely. It is also possible to configure the amount of disk space that System Restore uses (and it is noteworthy that the program will automatically disable itself if there is not enough space on the drive). Even if you can’t load Windows, you can put in your operating system installation disc and then use System Restore from here. Using the System Restore tool sooner rather than later will ensure that it is most effective.
Then there is a system backup. Included in later versions of Windows is the Backup and Restore facility. This is different to System Restore in that it is a program that allows you to create a schedule for consistent backing up of your files. This time that includes all your personal files like emails and pictures. Backup and Restore is the feature that you’d want to use if you’ve accidentally deleted a file and need to recover it, or if you still want to access your files should your hard drive bust on you (and let’s face it, that’s everyone). You can also create a system image, which is an exact image of the drive and will enable you to perform a create restoration of the drive. With Backup and Restore you have the ability to restore a single file or a whole group of them while still keeping everything else about your system the same. This is not something that System Restore offers.
To conclude, the System Restore function is focussed more on your system’s health rather than your personal files. If you’ve installed a driver that is faulty, for example, you could turn to System Restore and revert your computer to the state it was in before. On the other hand, if you just want to bring back a picture you accidentally deleted then you should use the Backup and Restore program (providing you’d set it up to perform backups beforehand). Using System Restore when you don’t need to could cause problems, so ensure that you understand what it is used for before you start rolling things back.
System Restore vs. System Backup: What's the Difference?
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