XP HOME: System Restore saves the day

Microsoft heralds Windows XP as its most reliable operating system. However, that does not mean it is totally immune from crashes and system conflicts. We review the System Restore utility and explain what you can do to restore your system to a working state if a mishap occurs.

In a nutshell

System Restore is a Windows XP utility that allows you to restore your computer to a previous state without losing any personal data files (such as documents, e-mail and favourites lists). System Restore monitors changes to the system and some application files, and automatically creates restore points. These are created daily and at the time of significant system events. You can also create and name your own restore points at any time.

Creating restore points

System Restore can be accessed from the Help and Support Center or from Start-All Programs-Accessories-System Tools. From the System Restore window you can choose to restore your computer to an earlier time or you can manually create a restore point.

System Restore settings can be changed by clicking the link on the left- hand side of the window. You can choose to disable System Restore (which is not recommended), and you can limit the amount of space that System Restore uses. System Restore requires a minimum of 200MB of space on the system partition but you can increase the amount of disk space that it can use, up to a maximum 12 per cent of your drive. The more space you allocate to System Restore, the greater the number of restore points it will keep.

Windows XP creates restore points every day, as well as at the time of significant system events (such as when an application is installed, when a driver is updated, or when a Windows update is applied). You can also create your own restore points at any time. From the System Restore window select the Create a restore point option and click Next. Type a name into the description box to help identify your restore point and then click Create. This restore point will then be available to restore like any other.

Restoring to a previous state

When you want to restore your computer to an earlier time, a calendar is displayed to help you find dates associated with restore points. If you don't use your computer every day, some days might not have any restore points. If you use your computer frequently, you might have restore points almost every day, and some days might have several restore points.

After selecting the desired restore point and clicking Next, you will be prompted to save anything you are working on and to close all your programs. Windows XP will then restart using the settings from the date and time of the selected restore point.

If a restoration causes more problems than it fixes, you can easily revert to your original settings by selecting a new option called Undo my last restoration from the System Restore window.

Advanced settings

The above information is all you need to know about System Restore. However, there are a couple of hidden settings that may prove useful to some users. You can change the default restore timeframe from 24 hours to something else, and you can also increase or decrease the number of days for which System Restore keeps restore points, which is 90 days by default. Note: these settings can only be changed by editing the Registry. If you have no experience with editing the Registry, it is recommended that you leave System Restore the way it is.

By default, System Restore will create a restore point every 24 hours. If a restore point has not been created in the past 24 hours, one will be created when Windows XP first loads. To increase or decrease this timeframe, simply open the Registry Editor by selecting Run from the Start menu and entering regedit. Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\
WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\SystemRestore, then change the RPGlobalInterval from its default setting of 86,400 seconds (which is 24 hours) to the appropriate interval. Make sure that the base is set to Decimal and not Hexadecimal.If you want to change the length of time for which restore points are stored, then change the value of RPLifeInterval from 7,776,000 seconds (which is 90 days) to a more appropriate value.

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Kieran McNamee

PC World
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