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Using System Restore to Recover your Windows 7 Computer

When using your new Windows 7 machine there might be times when something goes wrong with a driver or an app and Windows becomes unstable. Today we’ll show a complete System Restore process on a Windows 7 computer where the Office 2010 Uninstall went awry.

We recently had one of our computers in the lab take a turn for the worse after trying to do a complete uninstall of Office 2010 beta. It didn’t go the way we had hoped and experienced a hard time getting 2010 or 2007 reinstalled. It also caused some other apps that are associated with Office to error out and act unstable. Rather than spend hours researching Knowledgebase articles and tinkering with the Registry, we turned to restoring the system back to an earlier state with System Restore. In this article we thought we’d remind you about the importance of System Restore, and walk you through the restore process in Windows 7.

Recover from a Restore Point

First type system restore into the search box in the Start menu and hit Enter.

1restore

That opens the System Restore wizard and from here you can choose the recommended restore point,which is the most recent one…Or you can choose a different restore point, which for our situation we need to do. Select the radio button next to Choose a different restore point then click Next.

2restore

Now you get a list of different restore points and the description of what was taking place when it was created. We tried several attempts to install / uninstall Office 2010 Beta on this machine so there are several of those points listed as you can see. We need something later, so in this instance we want to click on the box next to Show more restore points.

3restore

Now scroll through and determine which restore point you want. For example, we know our system started being unstable at the time of trying to get rid of Office 2010…so we’ll pick a restore point that is a couple days before that when everything was working successfully.

5rstore

When you pick a restore point, another thing you should do is click the button to Scan for affected programs.

8restore 

The scan will kick off and determine what will be affected by the restore point you choose.

6restore

Then it brings up the results. It shows which programs and drivers that will be deleted…And what programs will be restored (though they may not work correctly and need to be reinstalled). This is goo information to know when selecting a point to recover. If some important drivers or programs would be deleted, you might want to try another restore point. Although, you may not always that luxury and will have to go with the one that works.

7restore

Confirm the restore pint and click Finish. If you’ve changed your password recently and need to reset it after doing a system restore check out our article on How to Create a password reset disk in Vista and Windows 7.

9restore

Click Yes to the message saying that it can’t be undone until it has completed, or cannot be undone if running it from Safe Mode.

10restore

The System Restore process begins…

11restore

You’ll see a series of messages display while the process completes and different things are being restored. The amount of time it takes to complete will vary between computers.

rest

After returning from the restart, you’ll have a message advising it was completed successfully and the time and date it was restored to.

12restore 

Now, your system should be functioning exactly how it was during the time it was restored to. You’ll still have all of your documents, but might be missing a couple of programs that you’ll just need to reinstall again.

Conclusion

Although often overlooked, it’s very important to create and maintain System Restore Points for the overall health of your system. It can make life much easier if something bad happens and you need a quick way to get your machine working again. A lot of times some programs and some Windows Updates will create a Restore Point for you automatically but not always. If you want to make sure one is created before making a major change to your computer, check out our guide on how to create a restore point in Windows 7 or Vista.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/24/10

Comments (4)

  1. TheFu

    Exactly which things are restored by using a system restore point AND exactly which things are not?

    I’ve never seen a complete list. What happens to non-OS partition programs and data? How is it different between WinXP, Vista, Win7 and 32-bit/64-bit versions?

    Basically, I’ve been conservative in my trust of SRP and perform complete system backups instead. Should I trust SRP for more than backing up the registry?

  2. mryang

    TheFu – > NO, WINDOWS 7 System Restore is COMPLETELY UNRELIABLE and DOES ONLY PARTIAL RECOVERY. Unfourtunately, they mislead people – it should say “Partial System Recovery”.

    In general – Inbound OS backup should never been done. If Microsoft can Fuck up – they will. Don’t even think about it.

    /marcus

  3. window7

    how long should i wait, i have i am still at the “logging off…” stage, for over 1/2 hour, is it safe to shut off and try to restore from a different point?

  4. robert

    i now tried it on my netbook and it seems to be working thks

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