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There are numerous articles about how to enable System Restore on Windows Server 2003. My question is, why is it not there in the first place? One would think a service like this is even more important on a server where long term stability is paramount than on a workstation.

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For servers we make actual backups, and generally test things before installing on the server. Desktop users, do a poor job making backups, and don't usually have a testing environment. –  Zoredache Sep 27 '11 at 19:11
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Because it's the devil. –  MDMarra Sep 27 '11 at 19:22
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I debated on just saying, "That's crazy talk"... –  GregD Sep 27 '11 at 19:26
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Long term stability is paramount on a server, you're absolutely why. This is why hack jobs that were designed for home use are not enabled on the server by default or by most sane sysadmins. –  RobM Sep 27 '11 at 19:48

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

There are probably lots of different reasons why it's not enabled.

My reason is that System Restore isn't the panacea that you think it is. You're restoring a computer back to a specific state (of the whole OS) at a particular point in time. Can you imagine the problems that could cause should you enable this on a server running AD or perhaps DNS or DHCP?

IMHO it's the exact opposite of "long term stability".

As for 2003 servers, that's what the Volume Shadow Copy Service is for...restoring specific data back to a specific date/time.

Edited to add

System Restore also has the potential to make someone lazy (and lull them into a false sense of security) with regard to patches, installing software, etc. Generally with servers, more care needs to be taken when installing aforementioned items. Patches and software need to be tested before pushing them to production servers. The same kind of care doesn't necessarily have to be taken on workstations..

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System Restore is a "Good Enough" type operation. It's good enough to get a WinXP workstation up and running long enough to back up all the data the user should have been backing up all along and then do a wipe and reimage. For a server where you want 24/7 reliablity, it's a stability liablity (what's restored is pretty ugly) and a waste of disk space. –  Fiasco Labs Sep 27 '11 at 20:20
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Don't even get me started on System Restore archiving viruses... –  GregD Sep 27 '11 at 20:28
    
Oh, gosh, didn't think of that one. When that happens, just disable System Restore and let it flush all the backups. Had one with about 15 saved copies of the original viral content. Sweet! –  Fiasco Labs Sep 27 '11 at 20:34
    
I see it didn't think it through. I've always used System Restore on my workstation as a testing device: install this app, look at what it does, make some notes, back out the change, all usually in that same day. This is what my planned method was on the server. I guess what I'm really wondering about is "what is the equivalent of Source Code Control for a running machine?", which is a totally different question, and we probably wont see for years, if ever. ;-) –  matt wilkie Sep 28 '11 at 16:57
    
There are numerous things you can do. What I do is use something like Backup Exec, which not ONLY backs up System State, but is product aware..for things like Exchange, SQL Server, etc. I'm not shilling BE, just mentioning it because I've used it in the past. –  GregD Sep 28 '11 at 17:08

Lots of features are left off by default.

I personally think this is a good thing. It makes me research and understand ramifications of turning up some service or feature.

For instance, while I agree about the usefulness of System Restore, it does use resources, and it may not work as advertised. Do I want some well meaning engineer (or more likely, a marketing guy or gal) decide that it should be on by default?

Again, I think that when a vendor makes me understand what I am turning on, rather than deciding that they know better, is a good thing.

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This is a pretty "Rambly" answer. I think I understand what you're getting at but it's pretty hard to pull that out of the noise. I'd suggest removing the rambling and irrelevant bits, just leaving a clear concise answer. –  EEAA Sep 27 '11 at 19:57
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Well done. Downvote removed. :) –  EEAA Sep 27 '11 at 20:08

System Restore was only added to Windows to cut down on support calls by giving users a way to undo their most recent screw-up. While this might still be useful for a server in a lab or test environment it makes no sense at all in a production environment. Any admin caught enabling it on a production server should be rapidly escorted off the premises because their methodology is questionable at best.

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