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Why Won’t Windows XP System Restore Work?

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