In an ideal computing world, Windows XP would run problem-free, your PC would never crash, and Nigerian exiles really would want to give you a million bucks for helping them with their money-transferring problems. But it's not a perfect world, so this chapter steps in to help you recover from a serious glitch.
One critical tool for getting yourself out of trouble is System Restore, which may be the most useful utility ever built into Windows. This handy feature runs in the background whenever your computer is turned on, taking snapshots at regular intervals. It copies system files, information about your user accounts, and your hardware and software settings. Then, if your computer crashes or exhibits other signs of digital gremlin invasion, System Restore (Control Panel → Performance and Maintenance → System Restore) returns your PC to a restore point, a happy digital replica of your PC when it was working properly.
Because System Restore doesn't restore data—just system files and settings—it isn't a replacement for conducting backups. For information about backing up your PC, turn to Section 4.1.
System Restore automatically creates restore points for you (see the box on Some Good Things to Know About System Restore for more on when System Restore kicks in), but sometimes you want to decide when to take these snapshots. For example, to protect yourself when installing a new program, you may want to create a restore point before ...