With Windows 10, Microsoft seems to have disabled System Restore by default — at least on some PCs. System Restore has been around since Windows ME, creating snapshots of system files you can restore if a problem occurs.

Windows 10 still does contain System Restore, so you can re-enable it if you feel more comfortable with System Restore as a safety net. Windows 10 also offers other system-recovery features, helping lessen the need for System Restore.

Why Did Microsoft Disable System Restore?

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Microsoft hasn’t really explained why it’s not enabling System Restore by default. However, we do have some idea. System Restore can use quite a bit of disk space when it creates those snapshots, and Microsoft is trying to get Windows 10’s disk space requirements down. Microsoft wants Windows 10 to run on devices with as little as 16 GB of internal storage — all the better to compete with Chromebooks and cheap Android tablets.

System Restore is also less necessary thanks to other features in Windows 10 that can quickly get your Windows system back to a fresh state without a full reinstallation of Windows. Windows 10’s PC reset feature that will give you a fresh Windows system without necessarily wiping your files is one big help here.

How to Re-Enable System Restore

You can re-enable System Restore from the Control Panel. It will use some system storage space for its snapshots, so you probably won’t want to do this on inexpensive laptops and tablets with only a small amount of storage space. If you have a big hard drive in your PC, however, it won’t be a big deal.

Bear in mind that it’s disabled by default, so it hasn’t been creating snapshots. If you’re experiencing a system problem, re-enabling System Restore won’t help because you won’t have any old snapshots to restore. When you re-enable it, it will create a new snapshot — of your current system in its damaged state, if it’s damaged. If you want to enable and rely on System Restore, this must be done preemptively, before you have a problem.

This option is only available in the Control Panel, not the new Settings app. The quickest way to access System Restore settings will be to open the Start menu or Start screen, type “Restore” to search for it, and click the “Create a restore point” shortcut. You can also open the Control Panel, navigate to “System”, and click the “System Protection” link in the sidebar.

Open this window and you’ll see that system protection is “Off” for your Windows 10 system drive and the other drives in your computer. Select your system drive and click the “Configure” button if you want to enable it.

Click the “Turn on system protection” option and choose how much disk space you want to reserve for your restore points. The less space you provide, the fewer restore points System Restore will be able to kepe at once. Click “OK” and System Restore will be enabled.

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To use System Restore in the future, just go back to the same “System Protection” panel you used above. Click the “System Restore” button — now no longer grayed out, assuming you enabled System Restore — and you can use System Restore to go back to a previous restore point. Check out our full guide to System Restore for more information on how to use it.

If Windows isn’t normally bootable, you can also boot into Safe Mode and run System Restore, or launch System Restore from the “advanced startup options” recovery environment.

Other Ways to Fix System Problems

If you wanted to use System Restore to fix a problem but found out it’s been disabled all along, you’ll have to fix whatever system problem you’re encountering in another way.

If the problem was caused by a recent update, you can look at uninstalling that Windows Update or reverting to a previous “build” of Windows 10. This should fix problems that might occur due to Windows Update and issues with your specific hardware and software.

If your system files are corrupted, you can try using the SFC — system file check — command to scan your system files for problems and automatically repair them.

If you installed a program or hardware driver and the problem started after that, you can visit the Control Panel and uninstall that program or hardware driver.

If Windows isn’t booting properly so you can’t do any of this, you can boot into Safe Mode. You can also visit the “advanced startup options” screen — these will automatically appear if Windows 10 can’t boot normally — and use the options there.

There are many other ways to troubleshoot and fix a Windows 10 system. However, the one surefire solution will be to use the “Reset this PC” tool in the Settings app. This will wipe your Windows 10 system and restore it to factory-default settings. You’ll have to reinstall your software and reconfigure Windows afterwards. However, your personal files will be kept and won’t be erased. Whatever system problem you’re having, this will restore all your Windows 10 system files to their default state.

System Restore has always been a bit of a shotgun approach, just rolling back an entire system rather than fixing whatever that individual problem was. It used a bit of disk space, too.

Having it disabled by default is certainly a loss that makes tech support harder to perform. It used to be enabled by default and was a quick thing to try whenever a Windows PC isn’t working properly. Now, you just might have to use the “reset” feature instead.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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