System Restore is a built-in Microsoft feature that attempts to restore your PC to an earlier time. Most people use it when their Windows installation starts behaving capriciously. For example, if your PC continues to act weird even after uninstalling the junkware you believed caused the problem or even after removing a connected peripheral like a USB printer, then you can try restoring your computer to an earlier date when your computer was in its happy place.
The traditional way to view the System Restore settings is to click Start and enter this:
System Restore creates daily Restore Points just before significant system changes like new program installs or driver updates. And usually all is well and no one ever needs System Restore.
But what happens when Windows is so intractable that you can’t even boot into the operating system to launch System Restore? What do you do then?
Startup in Safe Mode.
What is Safe Mode?
Safe Mode is a technique Windows geeks use to load dilapidated Windows installs without the extras.
It’s like the pizza without the toppings or cheese; just the crust please.
All extraneous files and superfluous drivers are ignored leaving only the essential stuff Window’s needs to run. Safe Mode can be a real boon because it makes it easier to isolate the root cause of most startup problems.
If your machine works in Safe Mode but not in Normal Mode then you can reasonably infer that there’s some application present (or vestiges of an application present) in Normal mode that doesn’t load in Safe Mode.
If you can locate that unruly application and remove its slimy tentacles from the Registry then you might just alleviate the issue.
Booting to Safe Mode
To boot to Safe Mode, restart your computer and press F9 before the Windows Logo pops on the screen.
The insipid black and gray Safe Mode screen appears awaiting your input. Yes, it’s drab looking but despite it’s austere appearance, Safe Mode is full of features that can really save the day.
There a lot you can do here, but for today I’m just going to focus on booting to the Command Prompt so we can run System Restore.
If you can boot to Safe Mode (the first highlighted option) or Safe Mode with Networking then go for the gold and launch System Restore from within Windows.
But if you’re one of those hapless few who always seems to have bad luck with computers, read on.
We’re going to need to run Safe Mode with the Command Prompt. Select this option from the list above and press Enter.
You’ll see a deluge of obscure text cascade down your screen at a wicked pace. Don’t be alarmed though, Windows is just loading the device drivers for its core components so it can give you that coveted command prompt.
Ones the drivers are all loaded enter this at the command prompt:
The System Restore utility will load and will present a list of restore points you can revert to.
One thing to keep in mind is that running System Restore from the command prompt won’t let you reverse the operation so make sure you really want to do this: the change is irrevocable.
Let me know if you’ve had any issues with System Restore. Also, if you have sage advice to share, feel free to contribute in the comments!