Configuring System Protection Options

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System Restore made its first shaky appearance in the late, unlamented Windows Me. With each successive version of Windows, this important feature has taken on whole new responsibilities . System Restore is now part of a larger feature known as System Protection, whose primary job is to take periodic snapshots of designated local storage volumes . These snapshots make note of differences in the details of your system configuration (registry settings, driver files, third-party applications, and so on), allowing you to undo changes and roll back a system configuration to a time when it was known to work correctly. In Windows 7 (as in Windows Vista), the volume snapshots also include data files on designated drives . The effect of this expansion is to create real-time backups of individual data files, allowing you to recover from unwanted edits or unexpected deletions by restoring a previous version of a file or folder from Windows Explorer.

For a full description of how the Previous Versions feature works and how to use it, see "Recovering Lost, Damaged, and Deleted Files and Folders" on page 337.

Periodically checking the status of System Protection is an essential part of a comprehensive backup strategy: Is the feature enabled and working properly on the drives where you need its protection? Is the proper amount of space set aside for it, not too much or too little?

The mechanics of System Protection in Windows 7 are substantially changed from those of its predecessors in Windows Vista and Windows XP. It uses disk space more intelligently and offers significantly more customization options . In this section, we explain how this feature works and what it backs up, how to turn it on or off for a given disk, and how to create a manual restore point.

If you're looking for step-by-step instructions on how to use System Restore to recover from a crash, see "Rolling Back to a Stable State with System Restore" on page 398. For information about recovering files that have been inadvertently edited or deleted, see "Recovering Lost, Damaged, and Deleted Files and Folders" on page 337. For technical details about the implementation of System Restore in Windows 7, see the associated MSDN reference pages "Volume Shadow Copy Service" (w7io.com/1102) and "System Restore" (w7io.com/1103).

Normally, automatic restore points are created at least once every 7 days . (This is a significant change from Windows Vista, which created snapshots daily.) Restore points are also created automatically before the following major system events:

• Installation of any application that uses an installer that complies with System Restore requirements In practice, any program that qualifies for the Windows Vista or Windows 7 logo will create a new restore point before performing any installation tasks (including removal).

• Installation of any updates provided through Windows Update or Microsoft Update System Restore creates a restore point before the installation of the update begins, whether the update is installed automatically or manually.

• System Restore If you choose to use System Restore to roll back to an earlier configuration, the system creates a fresh restore point first. If necessary, you can undo the restore operation by choosing the freshly created restore point.

• Any backup operation performed by Windows Backup System Restore points are created by Windows Backup as part of both file backups and system images.

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