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When to reinstall System Restore in Windows XP

If the mechanisms for performing System Restore become damaged or unregistered, don't panic. It is possible to reinstall System Restore. This tip explains how and when you should.

The System Restore function in Windows XP seems to be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it's pulled me back from the brink of more than a few disasters, including one fateful day when I somehow managed to trash my entire hardware tree and install the wrong HAL for my machine. On the other hand, it sometimes gets in the way of some other low-level functions -- virus scanning, for instance -- and if it gets damaged, it can be hard to work around.

The most common symptoms of a damaged System Restore installation in Windows are fairly obvious: You can't create System Restore points anymore, and you can't roll back to them either. Most users don't know this -- and many experts don't either.

It is possible, however, to reinstall System Restore and get it running again if the mechanisms for performing System Restore become damaged or unregistered. The one drawback to doing this is that all existing System Restore points will be deleted. But if you need to get System Restore working, this may be a relatively small price to pay.

  1. Enable hidden and system files in Explorer if you haven't done so already. To do this, open Control Panel | Folder Options | View, and in Advanced Settings under Hidden Files and Folders, select "Show hidden files and folders," Below that, uncheck "Hide protected operating system files." (You will probably want to restore this option later.)
  2. From Start | Run, type %SystemRoot%\inf and press Enter.
  3. Find the file named sr.inf. Right click on it and select Install.
  4. You may be prompted for your Windows installation media, or a directory on your hard drive that has the \i386 folder. If you installed Service Pack 2 (as opposed to installing a version of Windows XP with SP2 preinstalled), use the folder %SystemRoot%\ServicePackFiles\i386 .

If you have a virus or malware infection and System Restore still seems to be working properly (i.e., you can create restore points), do not attempt to reinstall System Restore until after you have dealt with the other problems at hand. As I mentioned, reinstalling SR will delete all your existing restore points, and those restore points may be the only way to get back what's been damaged if it comes to that.


Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

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