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Using System Restore on
Windows 8+, 7, Vista or 2008


The following topics are available:

Also available is Using System Restore on Windows XP/2003

  What does System Restore Do?  

Windows makes periodic restore points that saves the registry files. You can recovery a system with one of these restore points. It can often correct a host of problems including:

  • Repair a damaged or corrupted Registry
  • Remove an application that failed during install/uninstall and screwed up something else
  • Inactivation of some viruses, malware, spyware and a few rootkits

You success depends on being able to find a restore point that was made BEFORE the damage or problem was created. It's quite helpful if you have a good idea when the problems began or when some major event caused the problems.

One of Restore-points failings is it only retains the last 8 restore points, and every install and uninstall uses up another restore point. You may find that the restore points do not go back far enough in time to help solve your problem.

Keep in mind that anything that was installed, updated or changed after the point of the restore point you plan to use will be lost, and these installs and updates will need to be reapplied. Your data should not be affected, although having a good backup of your important data is always wise!

  The Simple System Restore (pre Windows 8)  

Windows makes it easy to return to the last working checkpoint, what it calls the Last Known Good Configuration. This is used when some event causes Windows to fail to boot up. Often Windows will detect this and on the next boot provide access to the Advanced Boot Options.

If Windows can boot up, then this option will not solve any problems, since the "Last Known Good Configuration" will have already saved the problems you're encountering.

To get to this screen manually, during the boot up process (and well before you see any Windows logos) press and hold F8 until a menu appears. In some cases the Please select an operating system to start menu appears. If so, select your operating system and press F8 again. The goal is to get to the Advanced Boot Options screen.

This critical feature was removed in Windows 8, making it difficult fix a range of startup problems. Windows 8 assumes it will never crash and need these lower level tools.

Windows 7, Vista and Server 2008:

Advanced Boot Options

Choose Advanced Options for: Microsoft Windows Windows 7
Please select an option:


Safe Mode
Safe Mode with Networking
Safe Mode with Command Prompt

Enable Boot Logging
Enable low-resolution video (640x480)
Last known Good Configuration (advanced)
Directory Services Restore Mode
Debugging Mode
Disable automatic restart on system failure
Disable Driver Signature Enforcement

Start Windows Normally


Description: Start Windows with only the core drivers and services. Use
             when you cannot boot after installing a new device or driver.


Use the down arrow key to highlight the option Last Known Good Configuration and press Enter. This will load the checkpoint before the last event. If this fails to correct the problem, then you'll need to use an older Restore point as described below.

Do NOT use Directory Services Restore Mode - this is for IT professionals and it starts running Windows Domain Controller with Active Directory. It does not run a System Restore.

With some OEM pre-installs of Windows, you may get another choice in the list, Windows Recovery Environment (not shown above). If this option is available, and you select it, you will get a new menu to select the recovery tool. You can select System Restore to choose from the last eight restore points.

  System Restore from a running Windows 8+, 7, Vista or 2008  

For Windows 8+:

Press the Windows key and X at the same time, then select System, and finally select System Protection from the left side. In the System Properties dialog, with the System Protection tab selected, click on System Restore.

For Windows 7 and older:

Click on Start, type rstrui and press Enter.

Continuing for all versions:

The System Restore dialog appears similar to:

System Restore Start

Here it shows the next-to-last saved restore point as it's recommendation. If your problems occurred after this date, it's a good choice. You can select the option Choose a different restore point to view all the available system restore points. Click on Next.

If you had selected to view a different restore point, the dialog appears:

System Restore select

Here you select from one of the last eight restore points. Select Next. A final confirmation dialog appears:

System Restore Confirm

Select Finish. A second confirmation appears:

System Restore Confirm 2

Before continuing, be sure all applications are closed as the Restore will force a reboot. Select Yes to start the restoration. The restoration will begin and the system will reboot when it's complete.

It may take 10 minutes or more, so be patient and don't power down the PC while the restoration is occurring. After the reboot it will tell you the restore completed successfully.

If you don't like the results of the restoration, you can return to System Restore and choose a different restore point or even undo the last restoration.

  Recovery Console and System Restore from Windows 8/7/Vista boot DVD  
Vista CD  

Ideally, you'll have a retail version of the Windows 8/7/Vista DVD that matches your exact version of Windows installed (service pack, and 32 or 64 bit version).

Many PC manufacturers fail to include this DVD when an OEM version of Windows is installed to save a few cents. If you don't have a Windows installation DVD, you'll need to get one from your computer manufacturer. If you're lucky they may have installed a copy of System Restore on the hard disk. If you do not have the bootable DVD, see the section above The Fast and Easy System Restore.


Use the following steps to get to the Recovery Console from the boot DVD:

Insert the DVD and boot from it. You'll get a black and white screen:


Press any key to boot from CD or DVD....


If this doesn't appear, it may be the DVD is not a Windows bootable DVD. Assuming you get this message, press a key (spacebar or anything else). If you don't press any key within about 5 seconds, it will boot from the hard disk.

Continuing to boot from the DVD you'll see a loading progress screen (not seen in Windows 8).


Windows is loading files...


Loading typically takes 2-3 minutes. When complete the first options screen appears similar to:

boot start

Change any options if desired, and press Next.

boot start screen

Select Repair your computer.


Select Troubleshoot

windows 8 boot choose

Select Troubleshoot

windows 8 troubleshoot

Select Advanced options

windows 8 advanced

Now you can select from a number of options:

System Restore replaces the registry with a previously saved one. If selected it will confirm the OS (in case you have multiple OSes on the PC). Jump to System Restore.

System Image Recovery - restore the entire computer from a previously saved image (if it was made).

Automatic Repair - Windows attempts to repair problems such as

  • Missing/corrupt/incompatible drivers
  • Missing/corrupt system files
  • Missing/corrupt boot configuration settings
  • Corrupt registry settings
  • Corrupt disk information (master boot record, partition table, or boot sector)
  • Problematic update installation

Command Prompt for advanced users who wish to manually perform an action (jump to Command Prompt).



To start the Recovery Console, select Repair your computer (pre Windows 8).

OS selection

Windows 8, select Troubleshoot option (screen not shown)


Unless you have multiple copies of Windows installed, only one choice will appear. Select your OS, and press Next.

Vista Boot Recovery Options

Here you can pick from a number of useful options.

Startup Repair looks for damaged or missing key system files and will replace them if a problem is discovered.

System Restore replaces the registry with a previously saved one (jump to System Restore).

Windows Complete PC Restore restore the entire computer from a previously saved backup (if it was made). This feature is only available on Business and Ultimate editions of Vista and Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7.

Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool to check your system memory for errors.

Command Prompt for advanced users who wish to manually perform an action (jump to Command Prompt).

System Restore

After selecting System Restore from the options menu, the screen appears:

system restore

Press Next.

System Restore Choose

From the list of restore points, select the one you want to restore. You'll want to pick a date prior to the problem event, such as before an installation that you suspect caused the problem. You do not want to pick the newest restore point, since that has saved the very last problematic registry.

Press Next.

System Restore Confirm

If you have multiple drives, in rare cases there may be restorable information on those other drives. The status will confirm which drives have recovery information. Check any drives that you want to recovery (including the system drive). Press Next.

System Restore Confirm 2

This is the final confirmation. Press Finish to begin restoring the selected restore point.

It may take 10 minutes or more, so be patient and don't power down or reset the PC while the restoration is occurring. After the reboot and logging on again, Windows will confirm the restore completed successfully.

If you don't like the results of the restoration, you can return to System Restore and choose a different restore point.

Command Prompt

All commands, directories and filenames are not case sensitive. Don't forget to include the spaces exactly as shown. Most DOS type commands are available, although the HELP command to list the commands has been removed.

Unlike XP's recovery command prompt, files and folders marked hidden will not appear. Use the "/h" command line option to see these files and folders. For example to see the hidden files and directories in the C: root, at the prompt type dir c:\ /h

Highlights include:

Validate and Fix the File System

This runs the check disk program to detect and attempt to repair problems on one partition. For example, to repair the C: drive:

  1. At the prompt type chkdsk  c:  /r

Repair the Boot Process

Typically this is used if Windows doesn't start and you can't get to the safe mode menu. You might also replace the Master Boot Record (MBR) and boot sector if you suspect a virus infection. There are four options:

New MBR - Insert a new generic MBR without changing the partition table.

  • At the prompt, type: bootrec  /FixMbr

New Boot Sector - Insert a new Windows 7/Vista compatible boot sector. It will automatically insert the right type of sector for the file system type (NTFS, FAT32, etc.)

  • At the prompt, type: bootrec  /FixBoot

Rebuild BCD - Rebuild the Boot Configuration Data (BCD). The BCD controls which partition boots. This option will let you select which installations to include in the BCD.

  • At the prompt, type: bootrec  /RebuildBcd

Find OSes - Scan the system for all OS installations that are compatible with Vista/2008 and will also show those that are currently included in the BCD.

  • At the prompt, type: bootrec  /ScanOs

Edit or View a File

  1. At the prompt, type Notepad filename

  2. Notepad opens to edit the filename provided. You can also open notepad without a filename and either open a file from within Notepad or create a new file and save it.

Exit Command Prompt

  1. At the prompt, type Exit

  2. The system will close the command prompt dialog and return to the Recovery Options menu.
  Notes for 64-bit Environments  
  These instructions address both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 8, 7, Vista and Server 2008 environments. Operations are normally the same for both 32 and 64-bit editions.