Configure "System Restore" to work the way it should in Windows XP

System Restore is a function built-in within Windows XP that allows you to restore your system to a previous point in time.  It can become very handy to restore your system to yesterday if for example you've uninstalled or mistakenly deleted a device driver or your PC has been infected with a virus.  Although convenient, you will probably need to make sure you configure the System Restore function before you actually do one.  Out of the box and for most users, it does what it suppose to do but there are situations when it can really screw up your files.  Please read on.

System Restore can be a real hassle if you have multiple partitions in your PC.  If you are one of those people who save their applications, pictures, videos, etc to a separate partition (for example, drive D:), then you have probably faced problems with system restore.

System Restore is configured to monitor all partitions by default.  This means that when System Restore is done restoring, all changes are discarded up to the point of recovery throughout the system.  This may not be suited for users who backup their files to a separate partition within the system on a regular basis.  Consider this scenario, your Windows is installed on the system partition (drive C) and your files, applications, videos, and pictures are located on another partition (drive D).  You decided to update your video drivers to the latest version and oops, a whole wack of errors are poping up on system reboot.  Time to revert back to a previous point in time.  You go in safe mode and decide to do a System Restore.  Once again, this will effect all partitions found in the system (excluding external media).  You go ahead with the System Restore and wait until your system is back up.  You start noticing weird changes to your files on your backup partition:
  • Some of your folders in your backup partition have gone missing
  • Some of your folders have been backed up with the same name and appended with a # to it.  For example, folder App has been backed up to App(2)
  • Some of your executables have gone missing
If you are a fan of portable applications and tend to stay away from installers, then you probably have faced the problems listed above.  This can happen as you do updates to your portable apps specifically from places like and  In my case, I use Firefox portable, Notepad++ portable, and various other portable applications.  Applications from come bundled in an installer format.  The installer does a simple extraction to a folder of your choice.  Updates to these applications are done in the same manner as the initial install, by simply invoking the installer and choose the same directory where the portable application resides.  Although it may sound like a simple overwrite to previous versions, System Restore is constantly monitoring these kind of changes.  These changes can really corrupt your portable application suites especially Firefox portable, an application that constantly updates its databases such as history, form data, bookmarks, etc.

In certain situations like the above scenario, you probably want to turn off System Restore for specific partitions, where changes to Windows are not tied directly to these partitions such as your backup partitions.  This will certainly help with maintaining data integrity and boost up performance.  System restore should not be confused with regular backups.  You still need to do your data backups of course.  I find System Restore to be handy in situations where you need to revert to a previous recovery point to roll back a software installation or to get rid of a virus.

To configure System Restore to stop monitoring your other partitions, right click on My Computer, click Properties.  Your System properties window should come up.  Click on the System Restore tab as shown below

Select your backup partition(s) and click the Settings button

Check the "Turn off System Restore on this drive" to turn off System Restore monitoring then click OK

Click OK for the other windows.  That's it.  System Restore now should only take care of Windows changes and not stick its nose where it does not belong.