Using System Restore in Windows XP

by Ross McKillop on July 23, 2006

This tutorial will explain the System Restore feature of Windows XP, and how to use it. System Restore lets you “revert” your computer to a previous date if a problem occurs. To do this, System Restore constantly monitors your PC looking for changes to the operating system, such as an application or driver installation, and then automatically creates a restore point when it detects a change. Because these snapshots are comprised primarily of required system files, it’s very much worth noting that System Restore does NOT back up or save your documents (including emails, bookmarks, passwords, spreadsheets etc). If you were hoping System Restore could help you retrieve a lost document, you’re sadly out of luck..

With that said, System Restore will not delete or overwrite any of your documents either. If you use System Restore to revert your operating system to a previous date, any of the documents you’ve created or saved will still be there once you have completed the restore (with one exception; the Desktop is not a “protected” folder – any files you have saved on your desktop you should move to your My Documents folder before running a Restore).

System Restore needs at least 200MB of disk space to function. By default, it will use up to 12% of your hard drive, although this percentage is changeable.

View and change your System Restore Settings
Use System Restore to load an earlier snapshot of Windows XP
Undoing a System Restore

View and change your System Restore Settings

To view and/or change your current System Restore settings, follow the instructions outlined below:

  1. Select Start and then Control Panel
  2. Select Performance and Maintenance in the Control Panel
  3. Select System
  4. Click the System Restore tab

  5. Click to enlarge

  6. From here you can change the amount of disk space allocated to System Restore by moving the slider to the left, or disable System Restore entirely by placing a check mark in the box labeled Turn off System Restore

Use System Restore to load an earlier snapshot of Windows XP

  1. Click Start, select All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and then System Restore
  2. Make sure that Restore my computer to an earlier time is selected, and click Next to continue

  3. Click to enlarge

  4. Use the calendar to find a restore point. If the day you selected has more than one restore point available, select the one you wish to use from the right-side list. Click Next to continue

  5. Click to enlarge

  6. Review the information provided on this screen – this is your last chance to cancel or change the restore point. When you’re ready, click Next to continue

  7. Click to enlarge

  8. Your PC will now restart
  9. Once Windows starts again, you’ll be presented with a confirmation screen letting you know that the restore was successful (or not).

  10. Click to enlarge

  11. If using System Restore did not resolve the problem that caused you to use it in the first place, keep reading to undo that restore. You may also want to consider choosing an earlier restore point (as the one you just used may have included whatever problem you were trying to resolve).

Undoing a System Restore

  1. If you need to undo a restoration, launch System Restore again, and this time select Undo my last restoration

  2. Click to enlarge

  3. Review the provided information and click Next to undo your last restoration

  4. Click to enlarge

  5. Your computer will restart.
  6. Once Windows starts again, you’ll be presented with a confirmation screen letting you know that the restore was successful (or not).

  7. Click to enlarge

  • Andre

    Dear Editor,
    I have fully read and grasped your tutorial.Which I find very constructive and comprehensive,however I want you to give more clarifications conc Step 5 which speaks about disabling System Restore by placing a chk in the box.
    If I choose to do it and restart my PC will it behave the same as before or will I loose some restore or checking points or Windows updates.??
    Inversely when I uncheck the box and restart , what will happen.???
    Actually what is the purpose of this option.???
    Can you elaborate a little bit on all these please??

  • Gordon Coursen

    I’ve gone thru the restore several times. The end result is your computer CANNOT BE RESTORED.
    Why not, where do I go from here?

  • Gordon Coursen

    The restore says the copmputer cannot be restored.
    Why & then what next to get the PC back to functioning

  • Fredrik

    I wanted to restore my comp after I got a virus called Trojan.Win32@mx i think. I tried to restore my comp at first to the time before i got the virus. That didn’t work so I tried to resotre it to a even earlier date. Neither that worked. When I log in after the restart it says: “Restore incomplete”. May it be so, that the virus somehow prevents System Restore from restoring? And if so, is there any way to get around it?

  • Dene Ballantine

    My computer can not be restored to an earlier date in spite of my efforts. System Restore is on, there are many dates in bold to restore to and there is no other reason why it should not work. However, it doesn’t. I have tried every system restore point back to the beginning of July with no luck. What should I do now?? I even tried Norton’s GoBack, but that simply will not activate to use it… it stays disabled.
    Dene’ Ballantine

  • Ross McKillop

    @Dene Ballantine:

    You may want to considering backing up all the files you care about, and re-installing Windows. And it’s probably a good idea to do a format before you re-install – but you could try just re-installing Windows on top of itself and see if that resolves whatever problem(s) you’re having.

  • Mike Bain

    When I right click my computer, then click properties, then click system restore the computer shows that the “turn off system restore” checkbox is not checked.

    However, when I click start, run,then type in C:\windows\system32\restore\rstrui.exe, all I get is a blank white screen, except for the blue part above the blank right screen whick says “system restore”.

    If I try to click start, help and support, a blank white screen shows up. So I can’t even try to access system restore that way.

    I even tried to click start, all programs, accessories, system tools, system restore and I get a blank white screen.

    Please help.

    If I know a restore point date I want to use, is there another to run it using Start/run?

    DirectoryName=RP232, Size=0, Type=7[CHECKPOINT], RestorePointName=System Checkpoint, RestorePointStatus=[VALID], Number=232l, Date=Friday December 28, 2007 23:59:22

  • Merlin Wiese

    I have recently aquired a virus and normally am able to remove a virus by peforming system reset and restoring my computer to an earlier date without the virus. This time the virus has stopped me from restoring my computer. There are no dates in bold to restore to and have no idea how to fix this. Please help ASAP.

  • Jun

    Merlin, I had the same problem as yours, I am wondering if you get any solutions for this? I appreciate if you could send me the solutions if you get. My eamil is Thanks,

  • PK

    Merlin, I am facing with similar situation. Please share if you found a fix. Thanks.

  • Sue Browning

    Did a system restore on pc, however, when restoration was finished pc got accidently turned off by grandchild. Now, when I go to system restore I get a blank white page, can’t restore computer, or, find out what my current restoration point is/was. Any help is greatly apprediated.
    Thank you

  • buttaflyy

    no restore points windows XP. HELP

  • Ginzette

    “I have recently aquired a virus and normally am able to remove a virus by peforming system reset and restoring my computer to an earlier date without the virus. This time the virus has stopped me from restoring my computer. There are no dates in bold to restore to and have no idea how to fix this.”

    Merlin… Jun… PK…

    If any of you guys find anything, please let me know. Could we all possibly have the same virus??? I think my infection ocurred on May 21st. I too, have no bold dates even though system restore is turned on. The virus also disabled my task manager, SpyBot, and Ad Aware. A search in Explorer will bring up links, but once I click on them I’m redirected to a “Canadian Meds” site. I can’t download anything (was hoping to reinstall Ad Aware). I’ve run Norton 3 times and manually quarantined other suspicious files from that day. So far, nothing’s worked. I can only operate in safe mode. If you find a solution, please email me at Thanks!

  • Trainboy Jr

    Problem w/ System Restore. It won’t restart
    after being turned off. A warning telling me system restor has encountered a problem to enable/disable one or more drivers and suggests I restart the computer and try later.
    48 hrs. later it still has the same result.
    Any help/ideas? Thanks.

  • Ian

    I have just acquired a virus which stops me updating all of my anti virus software, prvents me from amending all the entries that hav appeared below 127.0.01 on the systems32\drivers|etc|host file and also stops me doind a system restore and the same happens in safe mode. If anyone has any advice what next to do, I would be grateful please email

  • tom

    same problem…anybody have any luck???

  • kenan

    ı can not see the system restore menu. ı can only see a white blank page.
    help me…

  • Ken

    Same here. I got this virus a few days ago. All prior restore points are gone and I cant even get recovery to help me. I have been running in safe mode and using the AVG tray to try and clean this up, but yet no luck.

  • lynda

    I am having the same problem I need help Please tell me what you did to resolve the problem I tried every date to do system restore and none work,I got the same answer system could not be re-stored. I have Norton anti- virus I was thinking of contacting them.

  • Alet

    Can anyone PLEASE tell me, is there ANY way to go back to an EARLIER date to restore my system?? It only gives me the option to restore up to 1 December 2008 – I need to restore as from 12 November 2008 HOW do I get to that date if at all possible?? I am having endless problems with Google Chrome and am trying to fix it this way please HELP!

  • Jenny

    if you are having restore problems and run norton anti virus. You have to uncheck the protection box as it blocks system restore.

    It’s in Options – NIS (or NIS – Settings – NIS Options ) – General Options

  • Lynda

    I am still having problems I paid Micrsoft to work on my computer. I still can’t operate start menu and task manager is till a problem I also paid Norton anti-virus to take over the computer to remove the virus and no luck. I cannot use system restore either. Whats the purpose on using Norton anti virus If it is not doing the job. Any help would be appreciated it is frustrating!

  • Lynda

    I am still having the same problem with start menu, task manager and system restore. It is so frustrating. I paid Microsoft to work on my computer they could not fix it. I than contacted Norton AntiVirus. They could not fix it. It is driving me crazy. Any ideas name of the virus or what to do? Any HELP would be appreciated!

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  • mjre65

    I am having the same problem with system restore. when I click on it, nothing show up at all. I think this start around April-May time from. could not access yahoo games, microsoft update website just show blank pages, ect.

    please help!!! anyone find an answer!!

  • Cathy

    Mi restore system desaparecio de mi pc y necesito dar un restore ya q lo amerita, quisiera que me dijeran como puedo bajarlo sin tener que volver a configurar, por favor que sea gratis restore system para windows xp home edition, enviemen por favor a esta direccion de correo electronico

  • Walt Winston

    I found this Antivirus Soft wrecked my computer to the point where I can’t even go to system restore. I’m already having all kinds of bad luck and am still unemployed. I can’t upload any music to make any money because none of the sites I work with can handle windows 7. Can anyone please help me??

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  • Don

    I have selected a Bold Restore Date with System Checkpoint.
    I still get the Message : Your computer cannot be restored to an earlier date. Why?

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