I want to share my opinions on this unreliable, annoying feature that Windows ME an XP has, System Restore. With me being in Tech Support, I speak to people on a daily basis of which attempt to just rollback their system to a previous date in the effort to fix their technical problems or glitches on their computer. Here is my observations, and tips for users.
First, I don’t possess a MCSE certification, but frankly I don’t need one to let me share my perspective on this. In fact, I openly want to have some MCSE’s share their insight on this feature. I’ve been doing tech support for a couple years, software based, ten years if you count family and friends as customers.
I often have users who run System Restore who seem to think it is perfectly okay to resume normal day-to-day operations on it, then as a result Windows components will break down, networking will break, and Malware will show its ugly face after a several sessions (reboots in this context). My theory is that Malware will run amok within Windows networking drivers (DUN/RAS). It’s a real pain to discover what files were removed, and having to fix the mistakes of this feature of Windows. In addition, educating users on proper computer maintenance is challenging when Microsoft purports this shortcut as a feature so readily available.
From my use of System Restore, I use it to simply fix a dead registry or to rebuild some missing Windows files that appear to be damaged/missing. Then I would perform my data backup, then a reformat and install of the OS. (Assuming troubleshooting pointed to this, and exhausted other viable means of repair). As a result, if I do a System Restore, I am ready and prepared for full reinstallation of Windows.
What I can suggest others do, is to maintain CURRENT and working restore points, and occaisionally purge the old restore points. A benefit I can observe that salvaged disk space, and as with any form of data backup or recovery solution, to maintain frequent copies of it. The way to do that is to go to your System Properties, then under the System Restore tab indicate “Turn off System Restore”. Answer Yes to the dialogue box, then hit OK and reboot. To turn it back on, do the same thing and uncheck then Turn off System Restore box. McAfee has a decent tutorial on this process as well including screenshots.
My question to anyone who wants to answer is What exactly does System Restore do? As in, what changes are made to the system, what registry hives are affected? And lastly, in the upcoming release of Windows Vista, what reliable, simple, and intuitive methods does Vista offer the user (or Tech) for “Restoring” the system? It’s a handful of questions, and any feedback on it would be nice.