Inside Out

What's in a restore point?

Restore points created by Windows Vista and Windows 7 include information about changes made to any files on that volume since the previous snapshot was created . If you have enabled the option to monitor system settings, snapshots contain two additional data points: a full copy of the registry as of the time of the snapshot, and a list of files that include any of 250+ file-name extensions specifically designated for monitoring . This list (which cannot be modified) contains many file types that are clearly programs and system files, with extensions such as .exe, .dll, and .vbs. But it also includes other files that you might not think of as system files, including .inf and .ini, and some that are truly head-scratchers, such as .d01 through .d05 and .d32 . (Apparently .d06 through .d31 are unmonitored .) The entire list is available at It's most useful for programmers and system administrators, but you might want to take a look at it if you're curious why using System Restore deleted a file that you thought was perfectly safe .

To access the full set of System Restore options, open System in Control Panel and click the System Protection link in the left pane. (To go directly to the System Properties dialog box, click Start, type systempropertiesprotection, and press Enter.) The resulting dialog box, shown in Figure 11-6, lists all available NTFS-formatted drives (internal and external). The value under Protection Settings indicates whether restore points are being created automatically for each drive.

Using the System Properties dialog box, you can enable or disable automatic monitoring for any local drive. In addition, you can specify whether you want restore points for a given drive to include system configuration settings and previous versions of files or to save previous versions only. By design, system protection is fully enabled for the system drive and is disabled for all other local drives.

Figure 11-6 By default, System Restore monitors changes to the system drive. Select another drive and click Configure to enable System Protection for that drive.


System Restore is a powerful and useful tool, and you shouldn't disable it on your system drive without a good reason. If you're extremely low on disk space and a hard disk upgrade is impractical or impossible (as on some notebook computers), you might choose to do so, although you should try limiting its use of disk space, as we explain later in this section, before shutting it down completely.

If you've set aside one or more drives exclusively for data, you might want to enable the creation of automatic restore points on those drives, which has the effect of creating shadow copies of files you change or delete on that drive. This step is especially important if you've relocated one or more profile folders to drives other than the one on which Windows is installed. To enable or disable the creation of automatic restore points for a drive, open the System Properties dialog box, select the drive letter from the list under Protection Settings, and click Configure. Figure 11-7 shows the recommended settings for a secondary drive that contains data files and system image backups only. We've chosen the second option, Only Restore Previous Versions Of Files, rather than the default, which also tracks system settings

Figure 11-7 For this drive, which is used to store data files only, we've enabled System Protection but configured it to ignore system settings and only save previous versions of files.

The information under the Disk Space Usage heading shows both the current usage and the maximum amount of space that will be used for snapshots before System Protection begins deleting old restore points to make room for new ones . By default, a clean installation of Windows 7 sets aside space for system protection based on the size of the hard drive . On a volume larger than 64 GB, the default amount of reserved space is 5 percent of the disk or 10 GB, whichever is less . On a volume that is smaller than 64 GB, the default disk space usage is limited to a maximum of 3 percent of the drive's total space . (The minimum space required is 300 MB.)

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