It’s full of unmet promises and will probably let you down.
I’ll be honest: I have no answer to your question. There are many possibilities, the most likely being that there is not enough disk space allocated for restore points. 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 now avoid it completely.I turn it off. It’s just not worth it.
I’ll tell you what I do instead.
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System Restore considered harmful
System Restore does not restore your system. Its name implies it does, but at best it backs up and restores only the registry and a few other items. In addition, experience shows it’s untrustworthy. While System Restore can be a quick solution when it works, there’s simply no assurance it will. Rely on system image backups instead.
What System Restore is
In reality, it backs up more than the registry, but exactly what else is complex and incomplete.
As a registry backup, it’s reasonable. When it works, it’s a fine way to take a snapshot of the registry you can restore later, should something go wrong.
But only the registry — and only when it works.
What System Restore is not
Ironically, “System Restore” does not restore your system.
It does not restore everything to the state at which it was created. It restores some things — like the registry — but not all things — like your files or whatever else you were hoping it would.
System Restore is not a substitute for backing up your system.
System Restore in the wild
Much of my opinion on System Restore is not based on its definition or even its intent.
In theory, it’s a great concept, though poorly named. I’m not a fan of its user interface, but that seems to be improving and doesn’t really factor much into my opinion.
What does factor into my opinion is that in the real world, System Restore continues to have problems.
Your inability to manually create a restore point is just one example among many. Other common examples include failures when restoring and missing or non-existent restore points.
Sometimes, these are configuration issues. Sometimes, these are issues of mismatched expectations.
But too often, even understanding what we should and should not expect, System Restore just lets people down.
To be fair, I do hear of successes. It’s not uncommon to hear of problems caused by installing some application or another to be completely repaired by reverting to a recent restore point.
Like I said, it’s a great concept.
But in my experience, you just can’t count on it.
Don’t rely on System Restore
Given that it might work but might not, what should you do?
Simple: don’t rely on System Restore.
Leave it enabled if you like, but don’t count on it being there when you need it. Don’t set things up such that a System Restore failure would cause you grief.
Be happy when it works; be prepared when it doesn’t.
Rely on backups instead of System Restore. I advise turning off System Restore completely (to free up the disk space allocated to it) and relying instead on a good system backup strategy.
By “good system backup strategy,” I mean that you regularly take full system backups of your machine, augmented with more frequent incremental backups — typically monthly full and daily incremental.
If something goes wrong, restore from the most recent backup. Done. Everything — everything — is restored to the state it was in when the backup was taken.
This can take more time than restoring to a System Restore restore point. Restoring from an image backup restores your entire system. But it’s worth it because it works.
It’s what I do.
Choosing to leave System Restore enabled is fine, 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.