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Why Won’t Windows XP System Restore Work?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management, System Tune-Up Help

Christa from Lake Charles, La writes: I have a Dell Dimension 3100 running Windows XP. I have not been able to use my system restore for awhile. Even if I just try to go back to the day before it says that my computer cannot be restored to that date. Please help.

The System Restore feature makes it easy to roll back unwanted changes and get your computer in working order again, but sometimes after going through the whole process you’ll get an annoying message like this:

System Restore Error

Unfortunately the most likely scenario is that your restore points are corrupted, meaning that to fix the problem you’ll have to delete them all and create a new one. That’s not a very helpful solution though, since it essentially means you won’t be using any of those restore points, but it’s likely going to be the end result. There are a few other potential issues worth troubleshooting first however, just in case.

First off, make sure you have all the latest Windows XP updates installed. XP in particular is an operating system that has problems using Microsoft programs if all the latest updates aren’t installed yet. Open the Start menu and navigate to “All Programs,” and then click “Windows Update” at the top of the list. Follow the on-screen prompts to install the available updates.

Windows Update

Try running the System Restore tool to see if you still get the error message. If the problem persists, next disable your anti-virus software and try loading the restore point again. Some of the more overzealous anti-virus programs will prevent any other software – even a Microsoft Windows program – from trying to make changes like restoring the computer to an earlier date.

Most anti-virus products can be disabled by right-clicking the icon in the taskbar at the lower-right corner of the screen and choosing the “temporarily disable” option, but some programs instead require you to actually open them up and select the option to entirely turn off the software.

Disabling Antivirus Protection

If the restore again fails after turning off your anti-virus program, next try running the System Restore tool in Safe Mode, as that mode turns off any other program that may potentially be causing problems. To access Safe Mode, restart the computer entirely and tap “F8” during the boot up process until a black screen with several text options appears. Highlight the “Safe Mode” option and tap the Enter key.

Safe Mode

Run the system restore tool as normal while in Safe Mode and see if the error message appears again. At this point if the error persists it’s unfortunately time to admit defeat and delete all existing restore points. To do so, open the Start menu and click “Control Panel.” Double-click the “System” icon.

System Icon

Navigate to the tab labeled “System Restore,” click the “Turn Off System Restore” check box, and click the “Apply” button at the bottom of the window.

Turning Off System Restore

Click “Yes” to confirm you want to delete all restore points and then restart your computer.

Deleting Restore Points

Turn the System Restore feature back on by returning to the “System Restore” tab and removing the check mark from the check box to create a fresh restore point.

~ Ty Arthur

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2 Responses to “Why Won’t Windows XP System Restore Work?”

  1. Kenneth Moffett says:

    Sometimes the most recent Restore Point will not work and you have to try one or more earlier Restore Points.
    Shouldn’t you include this in your directions above?

  2. Richard says:

    You can also try to do a restore point from a DOS PROMPT thereby eliminating any windows programs or virus from running. You should use f8 then start from DOS PROMPT.Safe Mode with Command Prompt

    Have you ever booted up your computer and not been able to reach the Windows desktop? It may be because of corrupted Windows system files, or perhaps you inadvertently downloaded a virus. Either
    way, a terrible sense of panic begins to set in – trust me, I know. “All my photos and files are gone! I have no backups!” Take a deep breath and relax. Today, I’m going to show you the simplest method to get
    your computer back to operational in no time! Pay attention, because you never know when disaster might strike!

    When your computer starts acting kooky, by giving you error messages or not loading properly, my first advice is always to boot into Safe Mode. We’ve talked about Safe Mode at WorldStart before, but just to reiterate, it’s a mode of Windows that only loads the bare minimum of necessary system files. However, if one of the fundamental system files has become corrupted or attacked by a virus, then even Safe Mode will not load. Luckily, Microsoft thought ahead and developed Safe Mode with Command Prompt. This mode of Windows only loads a simple command prompt feature… like the old days when you turned on your computer and this DOS window was all you would get!

    From here, we can open up System Restore, and roll back our settings to an earlier date, when things were working correctly.

    To get started with Safe Mode with Command Prompt, turn off your computer. As soon as you press the power button, begin tapping the F8 key multiple times to open the Boot Menu.

    Using your arrow keys, highlight Safe Mode with Command Prompt, and select Enter.

    Allow Windows time to load the necessary processes, and very soon you’ll see a full screen command prompt window as I showed you before.

    If you are using Windows XP, you’ll need to enter %systemroot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe and select Enter.

    However, if your computer is Windows Vista or 7, it’s a little bit easier. Simply type rstrui.exe and press

    System Restore will open and from here it’s a piece of cake. For a quick review, select a restore point prior to when you first began experiencing symptoms on your computer. If you need a refresher, we have a great video tutorial in the archives.

    After the restore wizard finishes, your computer will restart, and you should be back to normal! Be prepared to amaze your friends with how quickly you can fix their computer woes!

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