Using System Restore to Recover from Harmful Updates or Changes in Windows Vista and XP
This procedure can be used before installing any updates. Although most updates are beneficial, any update you install has the potential of causing problems. This includes WIndows updates, the frequent updates for your Anti-Virus program and other less frequent updates, such as HP (Hewlett-Packard) updates.
The System Restore 'accessory' has two functions: (1) set a system RESTORE POINT and (2) RESTORE the system to a Restore Point that was previously set. Usually a Microsoft update automatically sets a System Restore Point BEFORE they begin the update. It is often wise not to count on this. You can manually set a System Restore Point at anytime you chose. Restoring the System to a Restore Point must be done manually. Restoring your computer's System to a previous System Restore Point only restores the System (hence "System Restore") and does not affect user files.
Usually, the updates sent from Microsoft and other reputable software suppliers are beneficial and benign. But occasionally one comes down that can cause serious problems and cause things that were working to quite working. It is better to be prepared for this beforehand than to have to react to it.
On good method for guarding against the possible effects of a harmful update – if you are up to it – is to have the updates set to download automatically and then ASK before installing. (This is the second option radio button for Windows Vista Updates.) The 'System Restore' utility is a very useful tool for getting back to the last know good configuration of your Windows Operating System.
Using System Backup and Restore should also be used when making changes to the Windows System - such as installation of new software or changing the Registry.
Set Updates to download but not install without asking
For Vista: navigate to Start --> Control Panel --> Security Center and click 'Windows Update' in upper left corner of the Windows Security Center dialog window. Then click 'Change Settings' and select the second radio button, "Download updates but let me choose whether to install them". Close all windows opened by this procedure.
For XP: navigate to Start --> Control Panel --> Security Center and click " Automatic Updates" near bottom of window. Then select the second radio button, "Download updates but let me choose whether to install them". Close all windows opened by this procedure.
Then, before you allow that latest update to install itself, create a Restore Point. It is important that you create the Restore Point BEFORE you install a given update or group of updates. Then, if something ‘breaks’ after the update is installed, you can RESTORE your system to how it was at the time of the Restore Point you just created. (You can restore it to an earlier one, too – but this way you know where you what the conditions were just before the update installed.)
This procedure is recommended because you are not always aware when an automatic update comes in – and therefore do not necessarily associate a sudden outcropping of problem(s) to that update. By manually running the update install, you will have a better chance of associating a change in system behavior to the update that caused it..
NOTE: For Windows XP users: there is a Restore Utility available and same principles apply, although the navigation is somewhat different. See 'For XP Users' below
(NOTE: this is a System Restore - not to be confused with Backup and Restore, which involves your personal files and settings - System Restore does not affect personal files such as Excel files, Word documents and such.)
Start -->All Programs -->Accessories --> System Tools -->System Restore
Later, to RESTORE to the Restore Point you created, or any other Restore Point, by clicking the ‘System Restore…’ button. A list of all available Restore Points will be shown.
ALTERNATE ACCESS #2 to the System Restore Tab:
There are probably three or four other ways to get to the ‘System Protection’ Tab on the ‘System Properties’ dialog window. These have been just a few. The first one is longer but may be easier to remember and it takes you to and through the ‘System Restore’ program from the ‘All Programs’ menu. Any of the three methods will work ok.
Don’t forget that if the ‘confirm’ option is not overridden on your computer – which it probably is not and should not be - you will be required to confirm your action by clicking ‘Continue’ button on the ‘User Account Control’ dialog (“Windows needs your permission….”) when it appears.
Restore does NOT affect your personal files such as Word, Excel, Email, and such. If you decide you did not want to restore to an earlier 'Restore Point' you can roll back to the configuration that existed before you started the Restore process..
This is very similar to the Vista procedure, and since there are a lot of XP users out there, is included here.
Setting System Restore Point
Navigate to: Start --> All Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools --> System Restore
Performing System Restore
If things crash or quit working (which CAN happen) you can RESTORE to the POINT you just created – or any other existing point you may wish to restore to by: