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Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Third Edition by Gina Trapani, Adam Pash

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Hack 105: Undo System Configuration Changes

Level Medium

Platform Windows

Cost Free

You install buggy software or change a setting on your PC, and things get ugly — now nothing works. But all is not lost. Luckily, you can save your PC from that bad decision with a powerful tool that’s built into Windows. It’s called System Restore.

You know how it goes: You edit your Registry, you install beta — okay, alpha — software, you throw caution to the wind and test unstable applications and drivers all willy-nilly. But one false move can render your machine unusable — or make it start popping up 30 missing .dll alerts every time you log in.

System Restore takes snapshots of your computer’s configuration over time. In the event of a disastrous installation or configuration change that didn’t go your way, System Restore can roll back a current Windows state to a working version without affecting any of your data.

By default, System Restore in Windows is turned on for all your computer’s hard drives if you had more than 300MB of disk space available after Windows was installed (and most likely, you did). To see whether System Restore is enabled, do the following:

1. Open the Start menu, right-click Computer, and select Properties.

2. In the left sidebar, click the System Protection link.

3. Under Protection Settings, select the drive you want to enable, click Configure, and select Restore System Settings and Previous Versions of Files. This enables System Restore for that drive (if it’s ...

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