System Restore and Recovery

Resolve OS errors and other system issues through System restore and System recovery programs

Recovery and restoration are commonly used methods to address specific PC issues. The two terms are often considered synonymous as system restore programs. Although both the techniques are built for resolving OS related issues, they are different in terms of the challenges they help to address and how they work.

System Recovery

What is System Recovery?

System recovery refers to the method used to restore PC to factory settings. Most modern computing systems have an intuitive inbuilt tool that allows end-users to execute a system recovery. When the process is executed, it wipes clean the entire storage drive. All personal files, system files, registry keys, software and applications installed/downloaded by end-users are permanently deleted. The Operating System is then reinstated using a recovery partition or an external disk. Most modern PCs and many older versions have a dedicated recovery partition by default. The models that do not have a default recovery partition have the provision of an external recovery disk or assist users in creating one with ease. Once completed, the PC reverts to its administrator defined pristine status.

Computers are used for an extensive range of activities, which vary considerably from user to user. People typically access various websites, download files, and install software as and when required. Even when users do not have anything to download, there are automatic system downloads to support certain online functionalities and websites. Consequently, systems are prone to malware attacks. A good firewall is usually effective in averting common threats, but it is still not a foolproof solution for protecting a device from all kinds of threats. Besides, third-party software that users install from unverified sources also causes malicious files to enter a system. In any case, when users encounter a situation where all methods of resolving an issue prove to be ineffective, system recovery is inevitable.

System Recovery
System Restore
System Restore

What is System Restore?

System Restore program, on the other hand, is the process of rolling back a computing system to a predefined point of configuration. System Restore program impacts only the system files and registry, leaving users’ personal folders and partitions totally unaffected. It can be performed using the in-built restoration tool (typically available in all PCs) or a third party PC restore software. This method involves saving the system configuration at regular intervals. The saved system states are called restore points, which users can opt to create automatically or manually. When System Restore program is initiated in a PC, the OS rolls back to the restore point selected by the user. Hence, all the software and applications installed after that restore point, and all the changes to the system settings made after it, are removed. However, users’ personal documents that were created or edited after that restore point are still retained.

If users do not select a restore point, the system restore program selects the last restore point that was created. It is to be noted that this method only restores back to the previous configuration stored in a restore point. Hence, if a particular restore point was created after a malware infection, the disruption caused by that malware will persist. In such cases, users need to execute the process again and restore the system to an even older configuration to resolve the malfunction.

Software Programs for Recovery and Restore

Windows System Recovery and Restore Options

Microsoft offers an inbuilt tool that has various System Recovery Options for Windows. It also provides a separate external disk for the purpose. The System Recovery Options menu contains:

Startup Repair System Restore

Startup Repair

It resolves startup issues caused by damaged or missing files by replacing them with fresh ones. Windows 8 onwards, Startup Repair is available in Advanced Startup Options menu, which can be accessed by press-holding the Shift key while clicking on Restart. Windows 7 users need to boot from an external drive to access this option. This program usually resolves issues related to OS bootup, and thus prevents users from taking more drastic actions such as full system recovery.

Startup Repair System Restore
System Image Recovery
System Image Recovery

System Image Recovery

It allows users to restore the OS and all critical programs, and user data through a personalized backup of the partition containing the data. On Windows 8.1 and later versions, Image backup can be created from the File History window in the Control Panel. There is a link for ‘System Image Backup,’ from where users can ‘Create a system image.’ Windows 8 users have to type “Windows 7 file” on the Start Screen and go to Settings to access ‘Windows 7 File Recovery,’ which allows System Image creation. Windows 7 has System Image Recovery as an integrated backup tool.
Users can also create a recovery disc by selecting ‘System and Maintenance’ in the ‘Control Panel.’ The steps to ‘Create a system repair disc’ are provided in the Backup and Restore option.

System Restore Program

System Restore Program

The function is same as the system restoration described above. By choosing a restore point and initiating the process, users can roll-back the system configuration to a specific point. If System Restore program is executed from the System Recovery Options menu, it cannot be undone. If required, users can run the program again and choose another restore point. Alternatively, System Restore program can be accessed directly by typing the term in the Windows button search box. The System Restore window also allows users to create restore points manually.

System Restore Program
Restore Windows on Reboot
Restore Windows on Reboot

Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool

It helps in detecting errors in the device’s memory.

System Restore with Command Prompt

Command Prompt

It can be used by advanced users for various activities ranging from problem diagnosis to system recovery.

System Restore with Command Prompt

Recover and Restore Mac OS

Apple also provides in-built macOS utilities for system recovery and system restoration. MacOS utilities contain the following options:

Restore Mac OS

Reinstall Mac OS

It allows users to download and reinstall the OS afresh. This function is same as the system recovery mentioned above. The OS can be installed from the Mac App Store or macOS Recovery, which can be accessed by press-holding the Command and R keys simultaneously as the device is switched on. Users of OS X El Capitan or later versions get an automatic download and just have to click Install in the notification to install a new version.

Restore Mac OS
Restore From Time Machine Backup
Restore From Time Machine Backup

Restore From Time Machine Backup

Time Machine Backup is the Apple equivalent of system restore program. It helps users restore their Mac from a Time Capsule or external hard drive containing the Time Machine Backup of the Mac. Users need to connect an external drive directly to Mac and select ‘Use as Backup Disk’ to create a backup disc. When required, this disc can be used to restore specific items or everything at once.

System Restore Online Help

Get Help Online

Users can also seek online support on Apple’s support website to find help for their Mac.

System Restore Online Help
System Restore with Disk Utility
System Restore with Disk Utility

Disk Utility

It is used for deleting or repairing startup disc. The need for disk utility can be understood when multiple applications start quitting unexpectedly, access errors occur due to corrupt files, external devices malfunction, or the system does not start altogether.

Reboot to Restore Software

Reboot to Restore Software

System restore and recovery can also be executed through Reboot to restore software like Deep Freeze. It is an instant recovery software based on patented ‘Reboot to Restore’ technology and is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS.

When a Reboot to Restore software is installed and enabled, it allows users to save a particular point of system configuration. The system-level changes that occur afterward are only temporarily saved. When the device is rebooted, the saved configuration is restored and the changes are discarded. Thus, it performs system recovery every time the device is restarted.

In order to retain specific changes (such as a new software that has been installed), users can disable the Reboot to Restore software and make the changes. When the program is enabled again, it saves the current configuration, thus retaining the changes. Rebooting the device restores the system to this new configuration saved by the software.

Reboot to Restore Software

Use Cases

System Recovery at Graphics Conference
System Recovery at Graphics Conference

A major creative graphics conference

A major creative graphics software vendor needed a robust yet simple security solution for its creative conference. The event brings together thousands of creative leaders, designers, photographers and videographers across geographies annually. They get hands-on training at the on-site labs that comprise hundreds of computers with the vendor software suite pre-installed on each. The IT team managing the event gets about 30 minutes to remove unwanted files and make the systems ready for the next session. Since deploying new OS images affects the overall operational efficiency of the labs, the organizer opted for a third-party system restore program to address the issue. Using ‘Reboot to Restore’ technology, the software enabled the IT team to roll-back the systems to their desired original state by simply restarting the device.

System Restore in Automotive Industry

A major automotive assembler and distributor

The onsite IT staff of one of the leading assembler and distributor of a major commercial vehicles brand faced the challenge of restricting unauthorized software installation. The company relied heavily on its 150 computers and 5 servers for operational efficiency. Abolishing the practice of manual periodic inspection of each system, it deployed a system restore software with ‘Reboot to Restore’ capability. The program rolls back the computers and servers to their pristine state with each reboot, removing all unwanted software and files in the process. The members of the IT staff only have to restart the systems to address all concerns.

System Restore in Automotive Industry
Airliner Computer System Recovery
Airliner Computer System Recovery

A North American airliner

A regional airline with an IT infrastructure comprising 700 workstations primarily used for aircraft maintenance was experiencing system failures, partial or complete, which at times was causing aircraft downtime. The airliner’s IT staff had to visit the site to resolve the issue in all such instances. The technology heads at the airlines identified a ‘Reboot to Restore’ oriented system restore program as the solution for the concern. The deployment of the software eliminated the need for a technician visit to troubleshoot the malfunction as all such issues could be resolved by rebooting the workstation.

Reboot to Restore Technology mitigates unwarranted configuration changes and resolves IT issues with a simple yet effective reboot.