Windows 7 System Restore: Less Trustworthy Than XP?

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My main computer is a Lenovo ThinkStation running Windows 7 Professional. Today, trying to manually take a Restore Point, I ended up instead at the Restore a Restore Point window. While there, I couldn't help but notice that there was only one available restore point.

Just one? (Yes, I did click on the "Show more restore points" checkbox).

It was a week old and had been triggered by the installation of Java 6 Update 24.

In fairness, there was also a five-month-old system image restore point, no doubt dating back to an experiment of mine with the imaging backup program included in Windows 7. I'm not sure if a full image backup can be treated as a Restore Point, but even if it can, it was five months old and the backup file is not necessarily available.

The computer in question gets turned on and off daily and has been in service for a few months. The C disk partition has 35GB free. System Restore is configured to use a maximum of 1.65GB of space. And I end up with one lousy Restore Point?

Curious, I checked the only other Windows 7 system available to me. This one was first put into service in October 2009 and, for many months, was used daily. Lately however, it has seen little use.

It had all of two restore points.

System Restore was using 245MB of disk space and its limit was 670MB. So why only two restore points? Both were a couple weeks old; one had been manually taken, the other was created by Windows Update.

Got RPs?

Anyone with a mature Windows 7 system who wants to comment on their available Restore Points, along with the current and maximum space allocations for System Restore, please do so in the comments below.

To see the space allocations for System Restore do: Control Panel -> System -> Advanced system settings (left side column) -> System Protection tab - > Configure button.

To see the available Restore Points, go back to the System Protection tab, click on the System Restore button, Next button and be sure to turn on the "Show more restore points" checkbox.

Windows XP

It seems that Windows XP is more reliable when it comes to making Restore Points. Without anything special going on, it defaults to making one a day.

Another computer that I use regularly, running XP Professional, had four available restore points and they were all recent. They had been taken: 5 days ago, 4 days ago, 3 days ago and 2 days ago. The maximum space allocated for Restore Points was a somewhat skimpy 441MB.

I also checked an XP machine that doesn't get a lot of use and found it had more than 12 restore points (I stopped counting). This machine allocated a more generous 978MB for Restore Points.

Searching online, I found documentation on Restore Points from Microsoft that says

System Restore in Windows 7 creates a scheduled restore point only if no other restore points have been created in the last 7 days.

Given a choice, I prefer the daily scheme used by XP. And this doesn't explain why there would only be a single Restore Point on a system allocating 1.65GB to the feature.

I'm not alone in this. Last year, one of the questions asked of Leo Notenboom at his website was Why do my Windows 7 restore points keep disappearing?

His response? Don't rely on System Restore.

Good advice.

Update: March 15, 2010. A bit more digging shows that what's missing appears to be the normal, nothing going on, once-a-week Restore Points. According to an example in a Windows 7 book that I own, it's called an "Automatic Restore Point". Neither of my two Windows 7 systems has one. The system that I rarely use has no restore points at all for over two weeks, so as a test, I'll leave it on for a while and see if an automatic one gets generated...

This story, "Windows 7 System Restore: Less Trustworthy Than XP?" was originally published by Computerworld.

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