What Does System Restore Do in Windows?

Featured Image What System Restore Does In Windows

System Restore is a Microsoft tool that reinstates your Windows PC environment to an earlier point in time. This can be a big lifesaver when you are facing an unsolvable Windows problem, as it saves you from having to reinstall or reset Windows. While restore points are saved automatically, it is good practice to create them manually from time to time. The following guide will show everything that System Restore can do in Windows 10 or 11.

What Does System Restore Do

System Restore creates a snapshot of your working system so you can restore to it in the future if anything happens to your PC. This is quite useful in cases when a recently installed program, game, or app causes the system to run poorly, crash frequently, or trigger unexpected delays. Using a restore point will remove any applications and drivers that were installed after the restore point was created.

The “System Restore” button is prominently visible in System Properties under the “System Protection” tab. After you click that, its main settings can be controlled in a new pop-up window.

System Restore Windows What Does It Do

Some disk space on your Windows computer (2-4%) should be allocated for restore point requirements. Also make sure to “Turn on system protection” is enabled by pressing the “Configure” button.

In the following example, 4.68 GB is being utilized for a total reserved disk space of 18.28 GB, around 2%. As the space fills up, older restore points will delete automatically to make room for the newer ones.

System Restore Windows Delete Restore Points

Creating a series of restore points on your PC is insurance against unexpected failures. You can delete older restore points on your PC. But it is advisable to keep at least the bare minimum backup points for a 2% disk size.

Good to know: If Windows Search is not working for you, go ahead and apply these fixes to solve the problem.

How to Open System Restore

There are many different ways you can launch the System Restore window on your screen (as well as System Properties and System Protection.) We have covered the main methods below.

1. Windows Search Bar

In Windows 10 or Windows 11, you can access System Restore option from the Start menu in the Windows search bar by clicking “Create a Restore point.”

System Restore Windows Create A Restore Point Start Menu Search

In older Windows versions such as 7, Vista or XP, you could directly open the System Restore menu from a search query. That option has been removed in the newer versions.

2. Command Prompt Window

You can also open System Restore from the Command Prompt in Administrator mode using the following:

System Restore Windows Cmd Rstrui Exe Command

Keep in mind that only the “rstrui.exe file” in the “This PC -> C: -> Windows -> System32” folder is trustworthy, and any such file elsewhere is malicious. To verify that you’re opening the System Restore file from the right location, you can search for the presence of the “rstrui.exe” in System32.

System Restore Windows System32 Rstrui

3. Run Command

  1. To open the System Properties window directly from your keyboard, open the Run command using Win + R, and type sysdm.cpl.
System Restore Windows Run Sysdm Cpl
  1. From there, you can navigate to the System Protection tab followed by the System Restore button.
  2. To open the System Restore wizard directly, type rstrui in Run command as shown here.
System Restore Windows Run Rstrui

Tip: Keeping the System Restore function “Always On” is one of the key requirements to manage your SSD’s performance. There are a few other things you should do, such as disabling fast startup, enabling AHCI, and keeping Windows scheduled defragmentation “On.”

How to Create a Restore Point in Windows

The option to create a restore point in Windows is directly visible as soon as you open the System Properties window.

  1. Click the “Create” button under the “System Protection” tab.
System Restore Windows Create A Restore Point System Protection

Note: You can create a number of restore points from time to time. Using the “Configure” option, you can create automatic or daily restore points as needed.

  1. Give the restore point a name with some identifiable details. If you finished an important update or installed a new program, you can name the restore point after it to keep track in the future.
System Restore Windows Create A Restore Point Naming
  1. It takes a few seconds for the System Protection menu to create a new restore point on your system.
System Restore Windows Create A Restore Point Live Creation
  1. Once the process is complete, you will see a success message: “The restore point was created successfully.”
System Restore Windows Restore Point Was Created Successfully Message

Tip: Here are more options to restore files in Windows.

How to Restore System Files Using System Restore

Once the restore points have been created on your PC, you can initiate a system restore directly from the System Properties window.

  1. Click the “System Restore” button which will lead to a new pop-up window where you can undo system changes.
System Restore Windows Click System Restore Button
  1. You get two separate options here. There is a “Recommended Restore” which is based on recently saved updates, drivers, and software installations. If you just diagnosed a new issue on your device, this one is what you should select.
  2. On the other hand, if your prominent issue has been affecting your device for some time, go for a slightly older restore point. This can be accessed using “Choose a different restore point.”
  3. Once you made your selection, click “Next” to restore system files and settings.
System Restore Windows Choose A Different Restore Point
  1. While doing a System Restore, you will come across all the states before the selected date. Click the checkbox next to “Show more restore points” to view all the restore points on your PC.
System Restore Windows Show More Restore Points
  1. The manual and automatic restore points are arranged neatly date-wise, and you can select the required event for further action.
  2. Once all of them are visible, select the one you want your PC to be restored to. If you have a bug or bad installation on your PC, just choose the most recent date, which can even be within the same hour.
System Restore Windows Automatic Restore Point Selected
  1. Click “Next” to confirm your restore point for ensuring a manual restoration and click “Finish” to finalize the system restore activity.
System Restore Windows Confirm Your Restore Point
  1. You will get a warning that once the system restore has started, it can’t be interrupted again, as the PC will restart. Click “Yes” to proceed.
System Restore Windows Warning Message System Cannot Be Interrupted
  1. Sit and wait while Windows restores your files and settings slowly. After the computer restarts, you may see a “System restore completed successfully” message with the date and time of restoring.

Good to know: Have a large file you need to open on your Windows PC? Here’s how to do so without lag.

How Long Does System Restore Take

On average, if the restore point was just a few days ago, you should be able to complete the process for Windows 10 within 25 minutes to up to 2 hours. It should take a little more time for Windows 11. All this depends on the number of files on your system and the complexity of the programs to be removed.

Once the system restore has initialized, you need to wait for a while and cannot interrupt the process. The System will now restart, and you will see the following message: “Please wait while your Windows files and settings are being restored. System Restore is initializing.”

System Restore Initializing

If the activity is consuming too much time, give it a generous break, as there may be many files it has to fix first. This is especially true if your PC is in Safe Mode. However, in normal mode, you can always cancel using the computer power button.

Does System Restore Delete Files?

System Restore, by definition, will only restore your system files and settings. It has zero impact on any documents, pictures, videos, batch files, or other personal data stored on hard disks. You don’t have to worry about a potentially deleted file. It will also not affect the standard programs you have been using for a long time.

To get an idea of what you’re getting into, do a scan beforehand of all affected programs and drivers before hitting “OK.” Once you have an overview of the programs that will be affected, confirm the restore point to proceed. The system will restart only once to complete the procedure.

System Restore Windows Scan For Affected Programs

Before activating System Restore, an option is given to review the programs that will be affected. The only items that will be deleted are the latest browser updates or a few drivers of new programs that were installed. Windows updates after the restore point will be affected by the change, and your system will go back to a previous version.

System Restore Windows System Files And Drivers Deleted

Only the recently installed programs and drivers can be uninstalled. Its task is to repair the Windows environment by reverting to the previous configuration that was saved in the restore point.

What to Do If There’s Something Wrong with System Restore

If there are any issues with System Restore in a previous restore point, you will get an error screen after the Restart. To solve this problem, you need to start an Advanced Recovery, which can only be achieved through Safe Mode.

System Restore Failure
  1. To run System Restore in Safe mode in Windows 11, go to “System -> Recovery -> Recovery options -> Advanced Startup -> Restart Now.” For Windows 10, follow this path: “Start -> Change Advanced Startup Options -> Advanced Startup -> Restart Now.”
System Restore Windows Advanced Startup Windows11
  1. This will take you to a blue screen where you can now perform System Restore in Safe Mode. This is much faster than the normal PC mode but remembers you cannot interrupt the process at all.
System Restore Advanced Startup Screen View

Tip: Here’s how you can reinstall Windows without losing your precious files.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does System Restore mess up your computer?

System Restore can sometimes have a negative impact on your Windows device, mainly due to installation failures or data corruption in a previous state. It won’t however do any permanent damage to your Windows device so you can safely allow the process to unfold. Before doing it, try to scan for affected programs and drivers (see above).

How to fix Windows System Restore stuck in restarting?

If you find yourself stuck in a Windows System Restore infinite restart loop i.e. the computer keeps starting frequently, then wait for the Windows software to apply automatic repairs. If that doesn’t happen, try restarting after powering off the device completely.

In the event you just can’t get out of the restart cycles, go for a fresh restart and press the boot keys of your computer. This will start it in Safe Mode. Here, you need to go for a reset of your Windows operating system. Choose a cloud install option. The process will take a few hours and up to a day. Keep it online and powered on.

What are the disadvantages of a System Restore?

System Restore will only restore your PC to the most recent settings that you think were stable. It also comes at a price: any new user accounts and program keys that you created after the restore point will be deleted forever. It’s better to make a backup of your important data first before you do a system restore.

Image credit: Pixabay at Pexels. All screenshots by Sayak Boral.

Sayak Boral
Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over eleven years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

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