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How to use System Restore on Windows 10

Windows 10 system restore point
Windows 10 system restore point (Image credit: Windows Central)

On Windows 10, System Restore is a feature designed to create a snapshot of the current working state and save it as a "restore point" when important changes are detected on your computer. If a critical problem occurs after installing an update, driver, or app, or after modifying the system settings incorrectly in the Registry, you can use a restore point to revert your laptop or desktop computer to an earlier point to resolve the issue without losing your files.

Although this is an excellent recovery feature, it's disabled by default, meaning that you have to enable it before you can create points of restoration manually or the system automatically.

In this Windows 10 guide, we walk you through the steps to set up System Restore and the steps to recover from problems that may be affecting the normal operation of your device.

How to enable System Restore on Windows 10

Since Windows 10 no longer includes the System Restore feature enabled by default, you must enable it manually.

To enable System Restore on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Create a restore point and click the top result to open the System Properties page.
  3. Under the "Protection Settings" section, select the primary "System" drive.
  4. Click the Configure button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Select the Turn on system protection option.Quick tip: Windows 10 can automatically manage the space. However, under the "Disk Space Usage" section, you can use the slider to specify the storage for recovery. You will also find a Delete button, which you can use to remove all restore points, which can come in handy to free up space or want to start over with the recovery feature.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Apply button.
  2. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, the system will automatically create restore points when applying a new update or applying specific system changes.

System Restore doesn't enable automatically for all drives. If you have other drives connected to your computer, you must enable the protection manually on each storage. Also, it's important to note that this is not a backup solution. It's only a feature to undo system changes without affecting your files.

How to create a System Restore point on Windows 10

Once System Restore is enabled, it will create a checkpoint when it detects system changes automatically. However, if you plan to make configurations manually, you always want to create a restore point manually.

To create a restore point on Windows 10 manually, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Create a restore point, and click the top result to open the System Properties page.
  3. Under the "Protection Settings" section, click the Create button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Type a descriptive name for the restore point — for example, Before modifying the Registry settings.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Create button.
  2. Click the Close button.
  3. Click the OK button.
  4. Click the Close button.

After you complete the steps, you should be able to undo system changes in the event that something happens while installing a new driver, program or applying changes to the Registry.

How to recover using System Restore on Windows 10

If an error or an unknown problem occurs after installing or modifying system settings, you can use the recovery feature to apply a restore point to undo the changes and fix the issue. You can complete this task from the Windows 10 desktop or the advanced startup settings if the computer no longer starts correctly.

Undo system changes from desktop

When you have access to the Windows 10 desktop, you can revert changes using these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Create a restore point, and click the top result to open the System Properties page.
  3. Click the System Restore button.Quick note: If the option is grayed out, the system does not have any restore points available.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Select the restore point to undo changes and fix problems on Windows 10.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Scan for affected programs button to confirm the apps that will be removed because they were added after creating the original restore point.
  2. Click the Close button.
  3. Click the Next button.
  4. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, System Restore will restore the computer to the previous working state. If one or more apps were affected, remember to reinstall after the process finishes.

Undo system changes from Advanced startup

Alternatively, you can use the Advanced startup settings to access the System Restore feature to recover the system if the computer doesn't start correctly.

Access Advanced startup

To use System Restore through the Advanced startup environment, use these steps:

  1. Start the computer.
  2. As soon as the Windows logo appears, press the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Repeat steps 1 and 2 two more times. (Or until the device boots into the recovery experience.)

After you complete the steps, you can use the steps below to revert system changes with System Restore.

If you cannot access the recovery environment with these instructions, you can start the device with a Windows 10 installation media, and while in the "Windows Setup" experience, click the Next button, click the Repair your computer button from the bottom-left corner, and then continue the steps below.

Undo changes with System Restore

To undo system changes on Windows 10 through the Advanced startup environment, use these steps:

  1. Click the Advanced options button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on Troubleshoot.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on Advanced options.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click on System Restore.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Select the Windows 10 account.
  2. Confirm the account password.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Click the Continue button.
  2. Click the Next button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
  1. Select the restore point to fix the problem with your device.
  2. Click the Scan for affected programs button to confirm the apps that will be removed because they were added after creating the restore point.
  3. Click the Close button.
  4. Click the Next button.
  5. Click the Finish button.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Once you complete the steps, the restore point will apply to undo system changes that may be causing problems, including those preventing the computer from starting correctly.

System Restore is only a feature to quickly recover a device from configuration problems. It is not a feature to replace a backup solution or an option to reset the computer to the factory default settings.

More Windows resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

18 Comments
  • "Using a restore point when your device won't boot...
    If you can't get to the automatic repair environment, you can boot your device using a bootable media, click Next, click the Repair your computer button, and then follow the above instructions." If auto repair doesn't trigger etc...
    You can access the Advanced Options screen from the win10 boot menu, problem being most people will never see that boot menu, as it's off by default. If you don't mind a few seconds delay booting to win10, it's easy to add a 2nd item to the boot menu using EasyBCD. That 2nd item doesn't have to point to a copy of an OS, as you'd leave your
    current Windows install as the default, & you can set how long the menu stays on-screen -- you just need it there long enough to press the hot key to get to Advanced Options. OK, that works if you set up the boot menu beforehand, but if you don't have it & are in trouble now, if you have a WinPE stick or similar, and can boot to it using the device that's screwed up, EasyBCD will run portably, & it will let you edit that device's boot menu.
  • For most brand computers, they have a built-in recovery partition. When you need to restore your machine to factory settings, you can just press the recovery key or button and get into recovery environment to finish system recovery. Those brand computers including Lenovo, Asus, Acer, Dell, HP, Sony, Toshiba, etc. 
  • Restore and recovery (reset) are different.
  • In 30 years of using PCs I've never seen a Recovery Key or Button. What you're referring to a Recovery App is largely a thing of the past. Windows 10 has it's own Reset feature in Settings.
  • Thanks for the tutorial.
  • Thanks for the article, but why you have to search each time, just go to Control Panel and click on System icon to bring the System Properties.
  • Why search for Control Panel to open System Restore when you could just search for System Restore? Also, because Control Panel is a legacy feature from pre-Windows 10 that's gradually getting disbanded. Later this year/early next year Microsoft will start to remove more features. It's not confirmed which but one of the next Windows 10 releases.
  • Sadly VSS, which system restore is based on, is badly broken. Most files are empty or damaged. See also https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/shadow-copy-snapsh...
    It's an issue that has existed for 5 years now, so quite unlikely that Microsoft will fix it. Basically: Do not use it! You might screw up your system even worse.
  • In my experience VSS has always been varying degrees of broken :(.
  • Neat feature from Windows Me but sadly it's never worked well. If you're lucky it'll finish restoring. 9 put of 10 times it'll just error at some point. It's disabled by default as it's a legacy feature now. Although there isn't a direct replacement :-/
  • OneDrive creates restore problems. I've seen restores fail many times b/c of it, even with recommended workarounds such as signing out of OneDrive prior to restoring. However, I haven't tried for at least a year so maybe more recent versions/updates fixed it.
  • Not surprising. System Restore dates back to Windows ME and hasn't been updated since Windows XP I believe.
  • I need a native /Microsoft own Backup app (not Windows 7 backup as it'll deprecated or discarded in future or third party expensive app) as of MacOS Time Machine. It's 2021, no where to be found. Even in Windows 11!
  • It's been part of Windows since Windows 8.1. It's called OneDrive. No seriously this is the expected Microsoft backup now because like you say it's 2021. If you want to backup offline you'll need to look elsewhere.
  • This is a deprecated feature that never worked well anyway. More often than not it would just fail. Microsoft never fixed how buggy it is and won't now.
  • Does anyone know if it can be restored to 2019??? 2020 and 2021 are not worth keeping.
  • Windows Restore is hot garbage. In reality it does not work at all, never have. You're better off with a third-party backup and real-time OS syncing software
  • Agree. Had a case the other week on Windows 11 where Outlook was popping up the login screen every 2 seconds and I couldn't sort it. Ran the system restore from a point from 2 days ago and after reboot issue still there. Fixed it by restoring the image backup from the week before.