Sometimes when you’re trying to do something on your computer, things just go wrong. Sometimes you want to install a program and get a whole host of other programs (that you didn’t want) along with it, sometimes your computer goes through that Windows is updating, please wait… message, and then things are either different or working incorrectly. The point is, a whole host of things can go wrong and change settings on your machine.
Enter System Restore. System Restore is a valuable tool that restores the registry (essentially, the backbone of the system) to an earlier point in time. System Restore does not change any files you may have saved, but it will eliminate programs that you have installed, or even help to save your computer when an update or installation renders your machine unbootable. In all versions of Windows, you can just type System Restore into the search box, and it should take you there. Below, I will assume your machine has been rendered unbootable by an installation or by (grr) Windows Updates, and I will go through the specific steps for Windows 7 and 10, bearing in mind that the steps for Windows 8 and 8.1 are almost exactly the same as Windows 10.
If you are attempting this repair, please read through all of the instructions carefully before you begin the process. If you are in any doubt, please feel free to call us at the shop at (413) 863-5447 and we’ll clarify whatever steps you’re in doubt about.
For Windows 7, the first step is to power the machine off. If the system is not booting, this will have to be done by holding down your power key for a good 5-10 seconds. You should hear fans and things stop moving inside the machine. Then, you’ll power it back up, and repeatedly rap the F8 key as it boots. This will take you to a menu with options like Safe Mode, Safe Mode With Networking, etc. You’ll want to select Repair Your Computer, bearing in mind that without a mouse, all menu navigation is done with the arrow keys on the keyboard and then hitting the Enter key when your selection is highlighted.
The machine will go through a loading process, and should come up asking you what language you want to use. Click the next button (the default language is English), and then it should ask you for a username and password. Users are in the drop down box at the top (It will probably default to something like $HomeGroupUser$, but just ignore that). Select your user name, enter your password, and you should be in! If you have no password on your computer, leave the password field blank and it should work the same way.
This will take you to a menu with all kinds of repair options, one of which is System Restore. Select it, and a new box will pop up. Simply click the Next button until you’re presented with a list of dates, select the most recent date that the computer was working properly, and tell it to proceed with the restore. Note that sometimes in this Repair Mode, System Restore will falsely report that it failed. If this happens, go ahead and try to reboot the machine anyway. If System Restore worked, then viola! Your system should be working again.
Windows 10 can be a little bit more tricky. In order to access the Repair Options easily in Windows 10, you need the machine to actually boot, then hold down the left Shift key as you restart the system. As we know, this isn’t always feasible. With Windows 10, eventually the machine will keep crashing and you’ll see a black screen that says Attempting Automatic Repair. If not, you can always manually crash the system by starting to let it load, then hold the power button down and force it to think that it crashed—although this option is not recommended. More often than not, Windows will tell you that it couldn’t fix your problems automatically. You’ll have two buttons to click, Restart or Advanced Options. Select Advanced Options. The next screen you will see will have options to Reset this PC, which is not recommended as it will wipe all of your programs and potentially your data. Underneath that, you’ll see Troubleshoot. Select Troubleshoot. Once more, you’ll see all kinds of options, with System Restore being one of them. Select System Restore, and from there a new window will pop up and the steps should be the same as Windows 7, including (but not always) requiring your user name and password. Simply select the date that you want to restore to and tell it to proceed, then reboot and see if it worked.
Please note that System Restore will not fix everything, and if it doesn’t do the job then it may be time to bring the machine in to see us at About-Face. This is, however, a solid first step in troubleshooting that can get rid of either unnecessary clutter or a machine that has been rendered unbootable. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to call us at the shop or send us an email. We’re happy to help!