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Installing new hardware or software can cause your machine to behave erratically, but should the worst happen there is a way to revert back to its previous state. Here’s how...

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By  Matthew Wade Published  December 3, 2006

|~|Resotre---m.gif|~|If you’re experiencing trouble with your PC after a change, restore it to an earlier point. Thankfully, you won’t lose any recent work.|~|System Restore is a useful utility that is built into Windows XP. It lets you create ‘Restore Points’, which are essentially snapshots of your operating system’s data. If used properly, this feature lets you revert your PC back to a prior state, should it start behaving erratically after you’ve install a new piece of hardware for instance. The best news is that this utility doesn’t change personal data files at all, so you can rest assured that your Word documents, e-mails and favourite images will never be tampered with. Make sure it’s watching System Restore is always enabled by default, however it can be easily disabled so it’s worth checking first to make sure it’s definitely running. If you had a friend or specialist manufacturer sell you a PC or laptop, it’s doubly important to do this, because there’s a good chance it may have been disabled in order to boost overall system performance. To check whether or not System Restore is operational, right-click on ‘My Computer’ and click ‘Properties’. Then click the ‘System Restore’ tab. If the ‘Turn off System Restore on all drives’ tick box is ticked, un-tick it and then hit ‘Apply’. The window below, which lists your machine’s hard drives or partitions, should now show ‘Monitoring’ instead of ‘Turned off’. System Restore can use a fair amount of disk space for its snapshots so if your machine is running low on disk space, think about limiting the space you make available to this feature. You can allocate space by clicking on the ‘Settings’ button in the ‘System Restore’ tab. Once the window is open, limit the space by moving the ‘Disk space usage’ slider. Allocating smaller amounts of space will limit the number of restore points you can create. It’s mandatory for space to be allocated on the system drive (C:), at the very least. You could also set system restore to monitor other drives or partitions; for instance, if you have an application installed on D: because it wouldn’t fit on C:. Get to the point Before you can use System Restore to restore your system, you first have to create ‘Restore Points’. XP does this by itself periodically but if you are making a change such as installing new software or a new piece of kit, it’s worth creating a new point manually. Hit Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools and choose ‘System Restore’. Once running, click the ‘Create a restore point’ check box and hit ‘Next’. Now give your restore point an easy to identify description such as ‘Before installing new graphics card’. Now click ‘Create’ and the utility will go to work creating your ‘Restore Point’ and will then give you a brief description of the point (including the time, date and name of the point). Click ‘Home’ to return to the main menu. Repeat this process before making any major changes to your PC as this will make it easy to get back up and running should things go awry. Ready to restore If your PC starts acting bananas after a change and you want to restore back to a previous point, fire up the ‘System Restore’ utility once again. Now click ‘Restore my computer to an earlier time’ and click ‘Next’. The ‘Select a Restore Point’ screen shows you a calendar and the list of points made on any certain day (the days that feature points are shown in bold). Simply click the date you wish to revert back to and the right window will list all the ‘Restore Points’. It will show you the times and descriptions too, so you can pick exactly what you want. If however you wish to jump back to a much earlier ‘Restore Point’ - one taken a month ago for example - click the left arrow button on the calendar. This will show you all the days during previous months on which you created ‘Restore Points’. Once you’ve made your selection, click ‘Next’. The next screen confirms your selection but before clicking ‘Next’ again save all your open work and then shut it down because the restore process shuts down Windows. When you click ‘Next’ the utility will restore your machine and reboot. Once back in Windows, your PC should be just as it was when you took the snapshot. You can undo a restoration too, in case you find out that you restored using the wrong point or someone has mistakenly restored your PC. To do this simply open up the utility, check the ‘Undo my last restoration’ and click ‘Next’. On hitting ‘Next’ again, the utility will restore your machine. ||**||

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