How to do a System Restore
Sometimes if you get a quirkly problem with Windows the easiest way to solve it is to do a system restore. System Restore resets all of your system files and settings back to the way they were at the point in time that the restore point was created.
System Restore does NOT affect data files - however it will effectively uninstall any programs you installed since the restore point you're restoring back to so if you do restore to a previous restore point it's possible that you'll have to re-install an application or two.
System Restore has been available in every version of Microsoft Windows going back to Windows XP. By default it will create a new system restore point - that's basically a snapshot of your system - once per day AND any time a new application or AutoUpdate installation occurs. (and on a few other occasions as well)
System Restore requires 200MB of free disk space. If you don't have that, it won't create any restore points. If you happen to free up that much space System Restore will automatically start creating new restore points for you.
You don't have to worry about it filling up your drive, though, System Restore also cleans up after itself...deleting old restore points to make room for new ones.
Restoring to an Earlier Point
Restoring Windows to an earlier point in time is very easy. Click Start | Programs (or All Programs on later versions of Windows) select "Accessories" and then "System Tools". You'll find the System Restore applet listed there. Start it and a wizard will ask what you want to do.
The first choices are "Create a Restore Point" or "Restore to an earlier point in time". Create a restore point is the way you can manually create a restore point - that can be handy if you know you're about to make a few changes and you want to be sure you can undo those changes in case something goes bad.
Restore to an earlier point in time will present you with a calendar that shows you the dates you can restore back to. (available dates are bold-faced on the calendar). Select the date you want to restore to (typically just before when the problem occurred) and it will present you with a list of the restore points available on that day (there might not be more than one).
Select it, confirm the restoral and click OK and Windows will go through the process of restoring your system back to that point. It will probably take a few minutes and there will be a reboot involved.
If all goes well, after the reboot, you should be back to that point in time and everything should be working. If not...repeat the process and pick an earlier date.
If you're not happy with the outcome of the restore you can actually restore...back to where you were before you restored. Yes, one of the things System Restore does is create a restore point for the point in time before you did the system restore. So you can undo the system restore if you like.
Note however, system restore is *NOT* a substitute for having good backups of your system. System Restore is just going to put back drivers and settings; it does NOT protect your critical data and it's not going to fix every problem.