System Restore is a Windows repair feature that regularly creates restore points, which contain critical system information, and can be used to restore a computer to an earlier point in time. However, these points take up a good deal of space on a drive. According to Microsoft, “System Restore might use between three and five percent of the space on each disk.”
A recent WorldStart article described a quick and effective method–Disk Cleanup–for clearing up disk space. By using the same tool, even more space can be cleared by removing all but the most recent system restore point, making it possible to free up multiple GB (gigabytes) of space. When cleaning my C: drive for this article, it went from 77.1GB of used space to 71.9GB of used space (clearing 5.2GB of space). There have been times in the past when I’ve cleared up to 15GB with this process.
Note: Once you’ve done this, you will not be able to restore your computer to a point prior to following this procedure.
To begin (in Windows 8.1, 7, or Vista), tap the Windows key on your keyboard and–in the search field–type Disk Cleanup, and click the Disk Cleanup link.
In Disk Cleanup, click the Clean up system files button and click OK.
After calculating potential space savings, Windows should reopen Disk Cleanup with an additional More Options tab. Under that tab, in the System Restore and Shadow Copies section, click the Clean up button and click OK.
Note: On Vista machines, a Disk Cleanup Options dialog box may appear in the first step. In order to reveal the More Options tab, it will be necessary to select Files from all users on this computer.
When the space saving calculation is complete, the following message will appear. Again–if you’re unsure about doing this–click Cancel. To continue, click the Delete button.
This will lead to yet another message (Windows wants you to be absolutely certain about this decision). Click the Delete Files button.
In XP, click Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Disk Cleanup.
Then, select a drive and click OK.
Under the More Options tab–in the System Restore section–click Clean up.
The cleaning process may take a while.
I’m probably one of a fortunate few who have never had to make use of system restore. In fact–while being able to repair computers by returning them to an earlier state is a great idea–I’ve rarely performed a successful system restore. Most attempts have resulted in failure (a failure which often takes hours).
Whether these failures are the result of my own technical incompetence or a system glitch (naturally, I prefer to blame a glitch), they’ve generally made the decision to delete restore points easier.