The System Restore utility in Windows XP is an extremely valuable tool to help solve major problems.
Most major issues in Windows XP are caused by problems with the Windows Registry, device drivers, and DLL files. When a restore point is created, a current copy of these and other important files in Windows XP are saved and can be restored using System Restore.
Considering the scope of protection that System Restore provides, using it early in your troubleshooting could save you a lot of time.
Follow these instructions for reverting important Windows XP files back to a previous state using System Restore:
Time Required: Using System Restore to reverse system changes in Windows XP usually takes several minutes
Navigate to the Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools program group and choose System Restore.
Choose the Restore my computer to an earlier time radio button and then click Next >.
Choose an available date on the calendar on the left.
Note: Available dates are those when a restore point was created and are shown in bold. You can not use System Restore to undo Windows XP changes to a date that a restore point does not exist.
Choose a specific restore point on the right.
Note: All restore points created on the date you selected in Step 3 will be listed here. This includes any restore points that you created, scheduled restore points that Windows XP created, and those created automatically during the installation of certain programs.
Click Next >.
Click Next > on the Confirm Restore Point Selection window to begin the System Restore.
Note: Windows XP will shut down to complete the System Restore so be sure to save any work you might have open in other programs now.
Important: System Restore will not revert any of your non-system files like documents, email, music, etc. to a previous state. These types files are completely unaffected by System Restore. If your intention with this tool was to recover a deleted non-system file, try a file recovery program instead of System Restore.
System Restore will now restore Windows XP to the state that was recorded in the restore point you chose in Step 4.
Note: The System Restore process could take several minutes. Your computer will then reboot as normal when complete.
Immediately after logging in after the reboot, you should see the Restoration Complete window.
Windows XP will now continue to start.
Check to see if whatever Windows XP problem you were troubleshooting has been corrected by this System Restore.
If the problem still persists, you can repeat the steps above and choose another restore point if one is available.
If this restoration caused a problem, you can always undo this particular System Restore.
Not a Windows XP user? See How Do I Use the Windows System Restore Utility? for specific instructions for your version of Windows.
It's also possible to start System Restore in Windows XP with just a command. See my How to Start System Restore From the Command Prompt tutorial for instructions on doing that.
Having trouble using System Restore in Windows XP? See Get More Help for information about contacting me on social networks or via email, posting on tech support forums, and more.