Q: How do you use the System Restore feature in Windows XP? — Josh
A: The System Restore feature built into Windows XP provides users with a method of returning the system to a previous configuration.
Windows XP creates what are called "Restore Points," which are snapshots of what the system looked like at a specific point in time.
Previous version of Windows such as 2000 and NT had a similar option to restore to the "Last Known Good Configuration," but the difference is Windows XP’s System Restore feature allows you to choose any previous point in memory. Instead of just having a single restore point, Windows XP creates restore points every 24 hours (during times of inactivity) or every time you install or uninstall a program that is Windows XP restore-point compliant.
Windows XP also creates a restore point whenever you install an unsigned driver, which is a software program that controls a hardware device but has not been certified as being Window XP-compliant.
The most common use of the System Restore feature is when you get yourself into trouble. For instance, if you install a program or software driver that was written before the introduction of Windows XP, you can cause major instability (illegal operations, Blue Screen of Death, etc.) because it overwrites an important file in Windows.
Or, if you can track a nagging problem back to a specific time (i.e., "I didn’t have any problems on Tuesday of last week"), you can revert Windows back to a specific date.
If you do use the System Restore feature, any changes to your system such as program updates, new installations or new drivers will be gone because the system is returned to a previous state.
This does not affect data files such as word processing documents and spreadsheets that reside in the My Documents folder, but it could affect other non-Microsoft programs and data.
The good news is that if you do restore to a previous point and don’t like what you see, you can restore the system to where it was before running System Restore.
You can also jump from point to point if necessary because most systems will have a dozen or two restore points. The exact number of restore points is based on the size of your hard drive, the amount of hard disc space used and the number of recently added programs or drivers.
To use the System Restore feature, click on Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, then on System Restore. The initial screen will give you the option to "restore to an earlier time" or "create a restore point."
Some advanced users who want Windows XP to run faster and don’t want to allocate the extra hard drive space (up to 12 percent) for this feature will turn it off, but doing so erases all of the restore points. I would not recommend turning off this feature unless you are an advanced user who is diligent in creating backups and you’re very careful about what gets installed in the system.
To modify or turn off the System Restore feature, go to the System Properties (rightclick on My Computer, then choose Properties) then click on the System Restore tab.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the "Computer Corner" radio show at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR (620 AM) and the "Tech No Phobia" television show at 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays on COX9. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.