System Restore is a feature of Windows 10 that allows you to take Windows 10 back to an earlier date/time. You normally use System Restore when a piece of software and/or a windows update file for example has become corrupt and/or broken and therefore giving you problems. With system restore you are hoping that windows 10 can be restored back to a date/time when everything was working 100%, but there is no guarantee of this happening unfortunately.
Windows 10 creates a Restore (Repair) Point for you automatically every day, and whenever software is installed (i.e. a Program, Driver Software, Protection Software and so on). So if Windows 10 freezes/crashes frequently after software is installed you can use System Restore to restore Windows 10 back to the state it was in before the software was installed. Before I show you how to use System Restore I will first show you how to manually create a Restore Point.
To create a Restore Point you first need to open the Control Panel and then click on the SYSTEM link. Alternatively, you can right click on the START Menu button and select the CONTROL PANEL menu-item. Either method will open the System window (Fig 1.1).
Fig 1.0 - Right click on the START Menu button and select the CONTROL PANEL menu-item
Fig 1.1 - Click on the SYSTEM PROTECTION link to continue
When the System window has opened look towards the top-left corner of the window. You should see four links (Device Manager, Remote Settings, System Protection and Advanced System Settings) with security shields on their left side. You need to click on the one called SYSTEM PROTECTION. Doing so might bring up a UAC (User Account Control) security requester, depending on your security settings and so on. If so, click on its CONTINUE button to continue. Regardless of a UAC security requester appearing or not, after that the next window to appear will be the System Properties window (Fig 1.2) whereby you need to select the OS (C:) Hard Drive from its listview window before clicking on the CREATE button to continue.
User Account Control (UAC) is a feature of Windows 10 that helps to prevent unauthorized changes to the computer, such as deleting a system file or creating a restore point. When attempting to create a restore point UAC automatically blocks you off with its requester, because it wants to know if you are the one attempting to create the restore point and not a piece of malicious software for example. In this case you would simply click on the CONTINUE button to continue.
Fig 1.2 - Select the OS (C:) Hard Drive and then click on the CREATE button to continue
After selecting the OS (C:) Hard Drive and clicking on the CREATE button (above), a requester will appear asking you to enter a Description for your restore point (Fig 1.3 below). Give the description some meaning. For example: If your computer is working fine and is fully updated with all the necessary Security updates and Windows 10 updates you could give your restore point a description like: Working Fine - Fully Updated. In this example I gave a description of: Working 100%. This lets me know in the future that at this restore point everything was working fine. When you have entered a description click on the CREATE button to create a system restore point.
Fig 1.3 - Enter a description for your restore point and then click on CREATE to create it
Fig 1.4 - Your system restore point is being created
Fig 1.5 - Your system restore point is being created
The reason for creating your own descriptive system restore point is because some of Windows 10's system restore points only have a description of - System: Scheduled CheckPoint - which means nothing to the average computer user. This only adds to confusion when doing a System Restore. Take the following scenario.
Imagine you have 8 of these - System: Scheduled CheckPoint - restore points and then you install some software called "YOUR". The software crashes halfway through the installation process and forces Windows 10 to crash (breakdown). You restart the computer but find Windows 10 still not fully working and frequently crashing, due to "YOUR" software corrupting Windows 10 files. You ignore the crashes, cursing Windows 10 along the way, but live with a damaged Windows 10. A month later it all gets too much and you go to see a Computer Engineer and say "I'm off to work now.....fix my computer....I'll collect it whenever". Even with the computer engineer knowing the history of what happened to your computer they cannot find evidence of "YOUR" software being installed. Why? Because "YOUR" software did not register itself with Windows 10. It never got to that stage. Therefore the computer engineer cannot just do a simple system restore before "YOUR" software was installed because "YOUR" software was not installed 100%, so was not listed in the restore list.
The computer engineer in this case has to rely on the date/time you said you attempted to install "YOUR" software. However, a month has passed and you cannot remember the exact date/time so you have to give the computer engineer a rough-idea date/time. The dilemma for the computer engineer is that if they restore the computer too far back previous corruption with Windows 10 might be exposed - Corruption that you might not of been aware of, perhaps due to a similar failed software installation that you ignored thinking "It failed/cancelled so it must not of done anything bad to Windows 10".
With the above scenario the computer engineer must System Restore one day before the date/time you stated and then work backwards, performing a System Restore on that date/time and then System Restore back one day at a time if necessary until the problems have been repaired/cleared. So if System Restoring back one day did not restore Windows 10 the computer engineer must System Restore back two days and so on until a good restore point (restore day) is found whereby Windows 10 is working again or is at least stable. If the computer engineer would of been able to see "YOUR Software installed 01/07/2014" for example in the restore list they could of quickly restored Windows 10 to one day before 01/07/2014 or before the point of "YOUR" software being installed. The - System: Scheduled CheckPoint - restore points have a date/time associated with them but are useless description-wise. It would be good if they described non-working or disabled software for example.
To restore the computer back to an earlier date/time, preferably when it was working 100% or at least stable, begin by going back to the System Properties window (as described above) whereby you then need to click on its SYSTEM RESTORE button to continue.
Fig 2.0 - Click on the SYSTEM RESTORE button to continue
After clicking on the SYSTEM RESTORE button the System Restore process will begin, with a Welcome Message window (Fig 2.2 below). If your computer is new and you have never used System Restore before you will be greeted by that Welcome Message window only, in which case just click on its NEXT button to continue.
Fig 2.1 - Preparing to start the System Restore process
Fig 2.2 - Click on the NEXT button to continue
However, if time has past (i.e. weeks, months or years) from the installation date of Windows 10 you will not see the above Welcome Message window. You will see the following Welcome Message window instead, with two options on it. The first option is to use a recommended restore point, which is normally the most recent restore point, and the second option is to use a system restore point from a list of the most recent system restore points - For this example select the CHOOSE A DIFFERENT RESTORE POINT option (left click on the radio (circle/dot) button) and then click on the NEXT button to continue.
Fig 2.3 - Select the CHOOSE A DIFFERENT RESTORE POINT option and then click on NEXT to continue
You can see more system restore points, if any are available of course, by click on the option called SHOW MORE RESTORE POINTS. In this example the most recent restore point is the one I just created, called Working 100%, and the one before that was created by Windows 10 on 20/10/2015 at 15:09:06. Further down the list you can see I uninstalled (removed) a program called WinZip and prior to that installed a program called QuickTime.
If I click on the WinZip system restore point the system restore process will restore Windows 10 back to the time just before I uninstalled the program called WinZip. So it will reinstall WinZip, but will not recover (reinstall) the three Critical Updates; nor anything to do with my Working 100% system restore point. This is because the system restore process restores/recovers Windows 10 back to the state/condition it was in before the selected system restore point happened. So before WinZip was removed in this case.
Fig 2.4 - Select a Restore Point and then click on the NEXT button to continue
If you imagine one of the above Critical Updates has messed up Windows 10, but I do not know which one, this would be a good reason to select the WinZip system restore point; because it would technically uninstall those Critical Updates as it goes back in time. And that is exactly what the system restore process will do, take Windows 10 back in time. Hopefully back to a time when all was well. NOTE: Your personal files are not affected by a system restore.
Fig 2.5 - Click on the FINISH button to continue
After selecting a restore point and clicking on the NEXT button (Fig 2.4 above) you are then asked to confirm your actions by clicking on the FINISH button of the window that follows (Fig 2.5 above). Doing so will give you one last chance (one last confirmation requester) before the actual restoration process begins with no option to cancel that restoration process. So think carefully before clicking on the final YES button.
Fig 2.6 - Click on the YES button to begin the actual restoration process
Fig 2.7 - The restoration process (system restore) has begun
At this stage of the restoration process, when the above progress window appears with its green (progress) gauge going across the window, you should not do anything with the computer. This is because after a short while the restoration process will restart the computer, in order to complete the restoration. When this happens and the computer is up and running again you should, hopefully, see the following window stating that the restoration process (system restore) was successful.
Fig 2.8 - The restoration process has completed successfully
In this example system restore copied back (restored) the Windows 10 files that were backed-up on 14/10/2015 at 10:00:17. The date/time the WinZip restore point was created by Windows 10. As the above completion window states, personal files were not affected.
If you find upon returning (computer restart) from a System Restore that Windows 10 states your restore point could not be successfully applied, for whatever reason(s), you may want to try again by clicking on the RUN SYSTEM RESTORE button (to re-run System Restore with a different restore point) or just give up and accept failure by clicking on the CLOSE button.
Fig 3.0 - The restoration process failed - The restore point could not be successfully applied, for whatever reason(s).
Three things you can try, before giving up, are; 1) Unplug any hardware that is not needed (i.e. Flash Drive, Printer, Etc). 2) Disable, or even uninstall, your Security software (Anti-Virus, Firewall, Etc). And 3) Delete any other User Accounts. Some of these are drastic measures but do work. Sometimes it is a case of trial and error though. Meaning, sometimes you have to select one or more restore points in turn before you get one that works (restores Windows 10). And as nothing is guaranteed you could end up with no system restore points working (restoring) at all.
In Figures 2.4 to 2.8 you may of noticed a link or button called SCAN FOR AFFECTED PROGRAMS. This has nothing to do with scanning for virus infected files or anything. It actually scans the restore point and tells you what programs, if any, will be affected by the restore process (i.e. what programs might be restored but not work properly for example, for whatever reason(s), due to them being incomplete upon a successful restore). So you do have options before giving up the idea of a system restore.