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Windows 10 basics: how to use System Restore to go back in time

A few years back, I was working as a freelancer for a company that was trying to develop a US market for its rather obscure hardware products and needed a native English speaker to tweak the text on its site. Everything was going swimmingly until my second week on the job, when I went to the site — and found that I was suddenly getting weird ads flashing across my screen and had lost the ability to access my security software.

I needed to get rid of whatever had invaded my system. Hopefully, without the need to reset my PC (and lose more time reinstalling all of my apps and files). But I had an alternative: use System Restore.


System Restore is a handy feature that takes a sort of snapshot of your PC’s software, registry, and driver configuration at a specific point in time called a restore point. You can then, if necessary, return your PC to that point in time. You might lose some of the work you’ve done since you created that restore point, but you’d also lose any unwanted changes that might have been made without your permission.

In past versions of Windows, I didn’t have a lot of success with restore points, but as with many aspects of the OS, System Restore has been improved over the years. And it could be very handy in an emergency.

In order to use System Restore, you first have to enable it and create a restore point.

And you’re done! Keep in mind that new restore points are only created when, according to Microsoft, “you install a new app, driver, or Windows update.” You can also follow the above directions each time you want to create a restore point manually. For example, if you’re about to do something experimental with your system. (There are ways to have your PC automatically create a restore point each time it boots up, but that involves working with the PC’s registry; this article will only cover the basics.)

So let’s say that you’ve just uploaded a new game that then proceeded to spread ads and other obnoxious things throughout your system. It’s time to use your restore point to go back to a time before you made that mistake.

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