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Do you have "System Restore" feature enabled on your computers?

Few years ago I had bad experience with System Restore on Windows XP and after that I disabled it. I never missed it.

On Vista laptop it didn't bothered me as it wasn't in my way. Until today when I got short with disk space (there's "only" 10GB left on 160GB disk in laptop). Then I found out that System Restore uses 12GB.

Are there any benefits of System Restore beside ability to revert system to some previous state?

Did anyone have some "success story" using System Restore?

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8 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As a sysadmin I find it great benefit to have it enabled on users machines, when your called to a problem where it was 'working fine yesterday', and the user has no idea what they have changed since then, using a system restore can often quickly solve a problem, or just eliminate a settings change from being the cause of the problem.

To be honest the cost of disk space on users machines, which are often barely used due to work being stored on network drives, is minimal for the convenience it sometimes offers.

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I always keep it disabled. I do this because of the cost to have the system maintain it in the background and on the hard disk (the disk space).

I've never found it useful when I did have it on and I've never felt that feeling of "if only system restore was on" after something had happened.

I think this feature could have benefits for an ignorant user but for professionals or for a networked system with a SysAdmin, this feature is unnecessary and too expensive to let run.

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It's mostly moot in an office where you have a deployment strategy and network drives for your users' critical data. The threat of reimaging keeps most people here from getting too adventurous.

This feature is a phenomenal godsend on the computers of family & friends who will call you in a state of complete panic exactly when you least want to talk shop. More than once, I've been able to wrap up a F&F tech support call in under 5 minutes, thanks to this baby.

Truly, the less technical the person, the more highly I talk up system restore. (not that it couldn't have a solid place in an IT department, but it's not a good fit for mine)

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+1 this is exactly how I use it. In the office, I tend to wipe machines and just use backup to bring them back, but for Mom and Dad... birds chirp, the grass is green, life is often much simpler because of system restore. –  Matt Jul 7 '09 at 18:36
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The main intention is to allow the OS greater chance of surviving things like a badly broken driver install, though I've personally never used it for that.

The one time I have actually used it was after user managed to let a virus in, and rolling back to the restore point from the day before followed by an AV sweep fixed the issue where just the AV sweep didn't (presumably the rollback reset something that the AV was unaware of that was allowing the malware to hook back in on reboot). It certainly saved us some time and hassle on that occasion. Of course modern viruses are smart to this and hook themselves into the restore points too, so it wouldn't help for those.

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I've yet to see a problem that both requires my intervention and is fixable by a System Restore. It eats disk space and CPU time when enabled, and also makes installing a lot of patches much more time-consuming- they all seem to want to create a restore point. In short, I've never seen anything useful in it, nor have I ever heard of anyone who's found it useful. (until reading this thread, of course, but even then I'm suspicious :) )

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System restore is like an insurance that would be rarely need,
but when required you will miss it dearly.

I usually do two things,

  1. Keep the disk space reservation low for restore backup and keep it enabled only on the Windows install partition
  2. flush the backups, up to the last copy when I feel things are stable
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System restore is one of those things that's virtually useless- until you need it. Then it's like magic. I have dumb users with admin rights (politics :( ) so I use it alot. The biggest reason to have it on is to revert a system back to before joe user screwed it up on you. There are a couple caveats I've learned.

  1. many virus authors write viruses with the same extensions as Windows files that are monitored by System Restore. It's common for people to have a virus, then run virus scans to remove the virus. But, once System Restore is used to recover their computer to an earlier date, it is very possible to introduce that same virus back in to the system. That being the case, when a virus is found on a system, System Restore should be completely disabled, and all the Restore Points should be deleted. Scan the system with anti-virus software. After all viruses have been removed, re-enable System Restored and create a new Restore Point.

  2. on laptops particularly (because for some reason folks buy them with tiny drives)- you need to keep the restore point reservation low.

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I've used System Restore successfully several times. Users muck things up, install incompatible drivers, spyware, etc. I can spend hours trying to unravel it, but a system restore fixes many problems.

In XP, there is a slider to control how much disk space is used. Unfortunately, the slider was removed in Vista, requiring a more difficult method to adjust the storage used.

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