When I go into the System Restore application, it doesn’t give me the option to create a restore point; it only allows me to restore to an earlier point and it never creates restore points. Any ideas on what might be wrong or how to fix it?
I’ll be honest and tell you right off that I have no answer for your question.
There are many possibilities, the most likely being that there is not enough room allocated for restore points. But in my experience, increasing that may or may not resolve the issue.
System Restore is so difficult to diagnose and I hear of so many problems and misunderstandings with it that I avoid it completely.
I turn it off. Completely. It’s not worth it to me.
I’ll tell you what I do instead.
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What System Restore is
System Restore is best thought of as a registry backup. Yes, in reality, it backs up more than just the registry, but exactly what else it backs up gets complicated. Suffice it to say that System Restore does not back up everything.
And as a registry backup, it’s actually a pretty reasonable solution. When it works, it’s a fine way to take a snapshot of the registry and restore it after other changes have been made.
What System Restore is not
Ironically, “System Restore” does not actually restore your system.
More specifically, it does not restore everything to the state that it was at the time the restore point was created. It restores some things – like the registry – but not all things – like your files.
System Restore is not a substitute for backup.
System Restore in the wild
Much of my opinion on System Restore is not based on its definition or its intent. In theory, it’s a great concept, poorly named (remember, it doesn’t restore your system, only some of it). I’m not a fan of its user interface, but even that seems to be improving and that doesn’t really factor much into my opinion.
What does is that, in practice, it seems to have problems.
Your inability to manually create a restore point is one example.
Other examples that I hear of frequently are the inability to restore to a listed restore point and the lack of a restore point to restore to.
Yes, sometimes, these are configuration issues. Sometimes, these are issues of mismatched expectations.
But often – too often – even understanding what should and should not be appropriate to expect of System Restore, it lets people down.
I see it in my inbox frequently.
System Restore successes
To be completely fair, I do also hear of successes with System Restore. It’s not that uncommon to hear of problems caused by an installation to be completely repaired by reverting to a recent restore point.
Like I said, it’s a great concept.
When it works.
Don’t rely on System Restore
Given that it can work, but can also fail unpredictably, what course of action does that leave you?
Simple. Don’t rely on System Restore.
Leave it enabled, if you like, but don’t rely on it. Don’t build your way of using your computer such that a System Restore failure would cause you a lot of problems.
Be happy when it works; be prepared when it doesn’t.
Instead of System Restore
What I typically advise people to do is to turn off System Restore completely and rely instead on a good system backup strategy.
By “good backup strategy,” I mean that you regularly take full system backups of your machine, augmented with frequent incremental backups.
If something goes wrong, restore from the most recent backup.
Yes, this can take more time than restoring to a System Restore restore point.
But restoring from a backup does restore your entire system.
It’s what I do.
Choosing to leave System Restore enabled is also a fine approach, but only in addition to having those backups. That way, when System Restore works for you, it’s a shortcut – a time saver.
And when it fails, it’s not a disaster.