What Is a Restore Point?

The Windows System Restore tool lets you pick a restore point to revert your computer to—it's a potential fix for system issues

What to Know

  • Restore points are snapshots of important Windows system files from a specific point in time.
  • Windows creates them automatically in some situations. You can also make a restore point manually.
  • Restoring to a particular restore point can help fix PC issues. Images and other personal files are unaffected.

This article explains what a restore point is, when Windows creates one, what's in a restore point, and more.

What Are Restore Points?

A restore point, sometimes called a system restore point, is the name given to the collection of important Windows system files stored by System Restore on a given date and time.

What you do in System Restore is revert to a saved restore point. If no restore point exists on your computer, System Restore has nothing to revert to, so the tool won't work for you. If you're trying to recover from a major problem, you'll need to move on to another troubleshooting step.

The amount of space that restore points can take up is limited (see Restore Point Storage below), so old restore points are removed to make room for newer ones as this space is filled up. This allotted space can shrink even more as your overall free space shrinks, which is one of several reasons why we recommend keeping 10 percent of your hard drive space free at all times.

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When Restore Points Are Created

A restore point is created automatically before:

  • a program is installed, assuming the program's installer tool is compliant with System Restore.
  • an update is installed via Windows Update.
  • an update to a driver.
  • executing a System Restore, which allows for undoing the restore.

Restore points are also created automatically after a predetermined time, which differs depending on the version of Windows you have installed:

  • Windows 11/10/8/7: Every 7 days if no other restore points exist over that time frame.
  • Windows Vista: Every day if a restore point was not already created that day.
  • Windows XP: Every 24 hours, no matter what restore points already exist.

You can also manually create a restore point at any time.

If you'd like to change how often System Restore creates automatic restore points, you can do that, too, but it's not an option built-in to Windows. You have to instead make some changes to the Windows Registry. To do that, back up the registry and then read this How-To Geek tutorial.

What's In a Restore Point

All necessary information to return the computer to the current state is included in a restore point. In most versions of Windows, this includes all important system files, the Windows Registry, program executables, supporting files, and much more.

In Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista, a restore point is actually a volume shadow copy, a kind of snapshot of your entire drive, including all of your personal files. However, during a System Restore, only non-personal files are restored.

In Windows XP, a restore point is a collection of important files only, all of which are restored during the System Restore. The Windows Registry and several other important parts of Windows are saved, as well as files with certain file extensions in certain folders, as specified in the filelist.xml file located in this System32 subfolder:


Using System Restore will not restore documents, music, emails, or personal files of any kind. Depending on your perspective, this is both a positive and negative feature. The good news is that choosing a restore point two weeks old won't erase the music you bought or any emails you've downloaded. The bad news is that it won't restore that accidentally deleted file you wish you could get back, though a free file recovery program might solve that problem.

Restore Point Storage

Restore points can only occupy so much space on a hard drive, the details of which vary greatly between versions of Windows:

  • Windows 11, 10 & 8: Disk space usage for restore points can be as much as 100 percent of the hard drive to as little as 1 percent.
  • Windows 7: On drives of 64 GB or less, restore points can take up to 3 percent of disk space. On drives over 64 GB, they can use up to 5 percent or 10 GB of space, whichever is less.
  • Windows Vista: Restore points can occupy up to 30 percent of the free space on the drive, or 15 percent of the total space on the drive.
  • Windows XP: On drives of 4 GB or less, only 400 MB of space can be reserved for restore points. On drives over 4 GB, it's up to 12 percent of the disk space.

It's possible to change these default restore point storage limits.

  • How do I start a System Restore from the command prompt?

    Use the rstrui.exe command to start a System Restore from the Command Prompt. Follow the instructions in the System Restore wizard.

  • How do I access Windows Advanced Startup Options?

    To bring up Advanced Startup Options, hold down the Shift key and restart your computer. Alternatively, enter shutdown /r /o in the command prompt. You can perform a System Restore from this menu.

  • How do I restore the Windows Registry?

    To restore the Windows Registry, open Registry Editor and select File > Import, then locate the REG file you want to restore and choose Open. If you know where the registry keys were located, verify that the changes were made in the Registry Editor. You may need to restart your PC.

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