System Restore is an application in Windows that should back up the Registry and many important system files frequently and automatically in Windows XP and Vista. But various conditions can prevent System Restore from creating backups or (as it calls them) restore points.

Users have been known to receive a Windows error message that says 'System Restore was not successful, Please try a different restore point. Nothing was changed on your system'. In some instances this message appears until the System Restore is turned off and then back on again.

To get to it in XP, open the Start menu, head for Help and Support, and choose 'Undo changes to your computer with System Restore'. Choose 'Create a restore point' to back up your Registry; to restore the Registry, select "Restore my computer to an earlier time." (You can also get to the tool from Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore.)

If you ever have trouble with Restore Points, there are a number of things you should be looking for to correct the process.

Tight drive space

To create a restore point, you need about 200MB of free space on the system drive or partition (usually the C: drive). When this space is unavailable, your PC may stop creating restore points and may delete existing ones.

No task scheduler

System Restore uses Windows' Task Scheduler to create system restore points automatically every day. To make sure Task Scheduler is active, select Start, Run (or Start in Vista), type 'services.msc', and press Enter. Scroll to and right-click Task Scheduler, and choose Properties. If 'Service status' isn't set at 'Started', click the Start button. And make sure that 'Startup type' reads 'Automatic' before you click ok.

No rest for the OS

System Restore creates restore points automatically only when your PC is turned on but idle. If the system is always off, hibernating, or in use, you get no automatic restore points.

Even when System Restore works properly, not all restore points are usable. Restore points aren't complete backups. Each holds only the changes since the previous restore point, and System Restore may need to use all the restore points on your hard drive so as to revert to any one of them. In that case, if one restore point is corrupted, they're all useless.

NEXT PAGE: Turning off Restore Points

  1. Tips and tricks to ensure your system can be restored
  2. Turning off Restore Points