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How to use Windows System Restore to undo changes to your computer

Computer Most of the time when your computer does not do what you want it to do, it is usually because you have not given it correct instructions.

For example, if you try to maximize a program's window, but instead the program closes, it's likely that you clicked the tiny close button (the small X in the upper right of the program's window) instead of the tiny maximize button (the button immediately to the X's left). Has this ever happened to you? This is known as "operator error". In other words, your computer did exactly what you told it to do, but you gave it wrong instructions (clicked the wrong button).

Sometimes your computer just does the wrong thing. This could be evidence of a bug in the software, or a virus on your computer.

What about the situations when there does not seem to be any reasonable explanation for a computer problem? Sometimes it's easiest to just go buy a new computer or reinstall the operating system. I must admit, I love the new computer smell. (Is there such a smell?)

Before spending/wasting your money, try Windows' System Restore tool to see if it can fix your problem.

Here's what happened to me. While setting up for our last day of classes on our recent Legacy Genealogy Cruise, I could not get my laptop and projector to work together. I restarted each, replaced the cable connecting the two, reset the projector's settings, invited the ship's technology expert to help - we tried everything. I actually arrived ninety minutes early to class to set up (I love teaching). Still, with just five minutes to go, nothing worked. We finally replaced my projector with the ship's just in time for class to start. It mostly worked.

What was the problem? Was my new projector at fault? What about the cable connecting the laptop to the projector? Could it be the laptop's outgoing signal? Usually I press Function-F5 on the laptop which sends the correct signal to the projector and all is well. I've done this hundreds, if not thousands of times successfully. Function-F5 did nothing.

Yesterday as I considered just "upgrading" both laptop and projector, I had one last idea. I remembered about Windows' System Restore tool. Windows gives this explanation:

System Restore is a component of Windows XP [and probably Vista and Windows 7 too] that you can use to restore your computer to a previous state, if a problem occurs, without losing your personal data files (such as Microsoft Word documents, browsing history, drawings, favorites, or e-mail). System Restore monitors changes to the system and some application files, and it automatically creates easily identified restore points. These restore points allow you to revert the system to a previous time. They are created daily and at the time of significant system events (such as when an application or driver is installed). You can also create and name your own restore points at any time.

Again, using this tool will not revert your data, such as your Legacy Family Tree family file, to an earlier version. Also, any changes that System Restore makes to your computer are completely reversible.

The tool is located in Windows XP by navigating to:

Start menu > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore

This is what the screen looks like. (Click on the image below for a larger view.)

After I initiated the process yesterday, my laptop restarted, chugged away for a little bit and completed in less than ten minutes. At the end, it told me that my computer had been reverted back to September 1 which is the date I selected, and that I could choose to undo this restore if I wanted.

Immediately I hooked up my projector to see what would happen. To my delight (and surprise), it worked! Pressing Function-F5 actually did what it was supposed to do. I had a brief moment of sadness as I realized I didn't need a new laptop and projector, but that didn't last all that long. I remembered how much work I still had to do that day.

So...Windows' System Restore saved the day, and saved me about $1,000.


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You can also use Window's System Restore if you ever lose you Start Menu. Open Task Manager (ctrl+alt+del) Go to File>Run and type in

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