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Old 02-11-2013, 10:04 PM
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IMPORTANT: System Restore Information UPDATED

Many have posted multiple times what System Restore Will do and what System Restore Won't Do but this advice is often ignored because at least once a week somebody will post saying they used System Restore for something and it didn't work, they went back weeks to get a "good" restore point or they used System Restore and now they can't use a program, can't find a program or parts of a program are missing. Or somebody else has advised the use of System Restore for something that it is not designed to do.
Because of this I felt compelled to create this thread in hopes that everybody will read it BEFORE using System Restore.
System Restore is not the "end all and be all" for fixing something as many people seem to think.

When offering advice concerning System Restore I have relied on these threads from Ask Leo

System Restore is Not a Substitute for Backing Up
System Restore actually operates only on a very few system files and settings. System Restore backs up your registry. System Restore does not backup your data. If you delete or damage a file, System Restore will not recover it.
System Restore will NOT uninstall a program. In fact if you have installed a program and find you don't want it if you use System Restore it may leave you with much of the program but it just won't be listed in Add/Remove, making it much harder to uninstall. System Restore does not keep old copies of your files or settings. If you're looking for an "old version" of a file or program that you used to have on your machine, System Restore isn't going to have it. System Restore does not fix your system. So if your computer crashes and needs to be repaired System Restore will not repair it.

System Restore is meant to restore from very RECENT changes like just day or two, not weeks. If you install a new driver for instance and that driver doesn't work correctly then System Restore may be able to restore the computer back to just before the time that driver was installed and revert back to older settings...not weeks back just a short time back.

System Restore only keeps the points for a short time, depending on how much disk space you have allotted for it. Once that space is filled up then old points are deleted. I keep my System Restore very small, gives me more disk space and also that way I don't have weeks and weeks of old restore points. I wouldn't want them anyway.

Why isn't there a restore point where I want to go back to?

System Restore is really intended as a kind of "short term" safety net. By that I mean that if you make a change that destabilizes your system, you should be able to quickly tell, and then use system restore to revert to the way things were before that change. The common scenario is that you realize that quickly; often within minutes of having made the change.
System Restore wasn't really intended to be able to restore you back to any arbitrary time in history. It has limits. Limits you can control, somewhat, but even then there are limits

Occasionally in malware removal threads we have seen the advice given:
"go to system restore and then restore to a day prior to the contamination"
Bad Advice. System Restore cannot be counted on to uninstall a program and this includes an infection. You have to look at an infection as a bad program. It won't remove it, it may only remove the footprints you need to FIND the infection. In Addition, it is almost impossible to know for sure WHEN the infection entered the computer. You may experience symptoms of the infection and wrongly believe that was the moment the infection came onto your computer but in reality sometime in the past days, weeks or even a month may have been when that very first "crumb" of the infection came onto the computer just to wait. What is it waiting for? It is waiting for the user to "pull the trigger". What is that trigger? Each infection that may be hiding has it's own trigger. After removals have begun it may be possible to find that trigger, but many times that is not possible.

Now for what I have found doing additional research in recent days, including the differences in System Restore in XP and System Restore in subsequent operating systems, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Windows XP; when it seemed we might benefit from using it, it may not quite work how we expect.
XP System Restore does not cause you to lose your personal files or password. Items like documents, e-mail messages, browsing history, and the last specified password are saved when you revert to an earlier state with System Restore as long as those files are stored in My Documents because System Restore protects your personal files by not restoring any files in the My Documents folder. It also does not restore any files that use common data file name extensions, such as .doc or .xls. If you're not sure whether your personal files use common data file name extensions, and you do not want the data files to be affected by System Restore, save them in the My Documents folder. If a program was installed after the restore point that you are restoring to was created, the program might be uninstalled as part of the restoration process. Data files that are created with the program are not lost. However, in order to open the files again, you must reinstall the associated program.
System Restore is *NOT* a backup or drive imaging program to let you
recover data files.

It lets you revert registry changes and recover
*system* files. That is why it is called *SYSTEM* Restore. System
Restore is used to return the computer to a previous system state. Data
files are not part of the system state. In fact, imagine the wail of
users that would lose all their changes to their documents after they
did a system restore. Everything you edited or composed after the
selected restore point would disappear.
All that said, you should realize that there are times when data files will
be removed. For example, people have reported losing recently downloaded
files after doing a System Restore. Hence, it is advisable to place any
such files in the My Documents folder or some sub-folder of the My Documents
folder as that folder is specifically protected from System Restore.
System Restore Removes Files During a Restore Procedure

After you use the System Restore utility, some files (files that are listed on the include section of the Filelist.xml file, for example, files that have .exe, .com, .drv, .dll, or .sys as their file name extension) that were on your computer before the restore procedure may no longer be on your computer and The files were not stored in the My Documents folder.
To avoid this behavior in the future, store the files that you do not want to include in a System Restore procedure in the My Documents folder. You can move the My Documents folder to any location, but System Restore includes the new location of the My Documents folder unless you disable and then re-enable System Restore.
Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8

System Restore can make changes to Windows system files, registry settings, and programs installed on your computer. It also can make changes to scripts, batch files, and other types of executable files on your computer. Personal files, such as documents, e mail, photos, and music files, are not changed.
For example, if you download a personal file, such as a photo from a digital camera, on a Friday and then restore your computer to the state it was in two days earlier on Wednesday, the photo will still be on your computer.
However, if you installed a photo viewing program on a Friday and then restore your computer to the state it was in two days earlier on Wednesday, System Restore will uninstall the program, and you won't be able to use that program to view photos.
Now System Restore IS somewhat different than it was previously on ME and XP. But again, it is not the "end all and be all" for "fixing" something you may feel is broken. It still only works on a few files and again it is *NOT* a backup or drive imaging program to let you recover data files.
Windows automatically makes restore points now and then such as when installing critical updates. This is not really a substitute for making backups and the results will be mixed.
One real difference is that you can check what programs will be affected when using a restore point, but it will really only detect programs that were actually uninstalled, not just corrupted. But you must Choose to Check this when considering System Restore, it will not show you this automatically. After choosing your restore point then you must click the button that says Scan for Affected Programs in order to receive the information.
See my attachment #1
Suppose you accidentally UNINSTALL a program you did not want to remove, say you hit the one below the program you actually want to remove in Uninstall a Program for instance. Can you get that back? Highly unlikely.
See attachment #2.
There you see exactly what I saw on my own System Restore. I chose the oldest point available, which you should NEVER choose but I chose it to make a point, it was the date of the last Windows Updates done, January 9, 2013.
Take a look at all programs that will likely be Uninstalled (there are 6 Programs including Firefox and 11 Windows Updates) and what programs it says that MIGHT be reinstalled, it also says "These programs might not work correctly after the restore and might need to be reinstalled." There are 9 programs, including Firefox 17.0.1 and 2 drivers!
So I could lose nearly ALL of the updates I had done to various programs over the last month, including TWO for Firefox, taking me back to version 17.0.1 which may not work right because it "came back" do to using System Restore, plus ALL of the Updates Done on January 9, 2013 would be removed, meaning I would have to reinstall them again. I also could "get back" two drivers that were incorrect and very likely would compound the problems I had because of those in the first place.
Did I go forward with that System Restore? Of course not, this was just a "test run" to show exactly what may have happened if I had.

The whole point of this post is to say Don't jump into using System Restore if you are having any type of problem. You may compound those problems beyond repair. Can you "undo" a System Restore, yes on the new operating systems, but this does NOT guarantee that it will be 100% undone.
System Restore is NOT the "Magic Fixer" and you should never consider it to be, it was not considered to be either when it was created. It should never be considered something that will bring your computer back 100% to a state it was before because it absolutely will NOT.
To take the computer back to what it was, when you knew it operated 100% correctly, your software all worked correctly, etc., then use and Imaging Program to create an Image of the the drive and all contained and save it someplace OFF the computer, a DVD, External drive, wherever it will be safe and easily accessable if you need it.

1.Dell Inspiron 17 5759
Windows 10 64bit
Firefox v.52.0 ;WLM2012; Avira Free, Windows Firewall, MBAM, SpywareBlaster, SUPERAntispyware

2.Dell Inspiron N7010; Laptop Windows 7 64bit SP1
*same programs as computer 1 above*

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