System Restore: Will It or Won't It?

By Mr. Modem

Q. I'm confused about System Restore. Can you explain what it will and will not do? I'm always worried that I'm going to lose saved data if I use it. Thanks for being there, Mr. M.

A. Think of System Restore as the Undo command for Windows. While your computer is running, System Restore takes periodic snapshots of your Windows configuration, settings, and program files. These snapshots (called Restore Points), which can also be created manually, are stored on your hard drive so you can go back in time in the event a problem arises. (If only life had such an option.)

System Restore will not remove or modify any personal data files such as word processing documents, spreadsheets, music, photos, bookmarks, email, etc. Files in the Documents folder will never be touched. System Restore will only affect your Windows system settings, protected system files, and recently installed software.

If you are ever unsure if a file will be affected by System Restore, move or copy it to your My Documents folder for safekeeping.

To use System Restore in Windows ME or XP, click Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore. In Vista, go to the Control Panel > Backup and Restore Center. Under "Tasks," on the left side of the screen, you will see your System Restore functions. In Windows 7, click the Start button and in the Search box, type "System Restore."

Select a date to restore to from the calendar that appears. In this way you can turn back the clock, theoretically, to a time prior to the time the problem first reared its ugly head.

Once System Restore begins, walk away and let your computer and System Restore do their thing. It may take awhile, but just let it finish restoring before you resume any computer work. With any luck, when the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared, your system will be restored to normal, pre-problem functioning.

Q. How can I rearrange Start Menu items?

A. You can rearrange items on the Start Menu by dragging them up or down the list of items. If youre feeling particularly frisky, you can even drag them into or out of the Start menu itself.

To accomplish these death-defying digital feats, drag (by holding down the left mouse button) a program's desktop shortcut to the Start button, and hold it there for approximately two seconds. The Start Menu will open. Move the item to any location on the menu and release the left mouse button. The program will be inserted at the selected location.

Using this time-honored technique, you can load up the Start Menu will all kinds of cra -- all kinds of valuable programs, or reduce the list to nothing but the bare-bones basics that came with your computer when it was new.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week:

Its Your Turn
If you like online games, you wont want to miss this site. Here youll find chess, backgammon, Jamble (a word game), checkers, and scores of other games. All moves are remembered by the sites server, so if one game doesnt give you a migraine, you can play five or 10 games at once, which will surely make your head explode. You can play solo, compete with others, or play games with friends, each making moves whenever its convenient. A fast and simple site registration is required. You can play for free or upgrade to an optional paid membership.

Smithsonian Photography Initiative
This photographic treasure-trove provides access to approximately 13 million images. When you arrive on the site, click Search Images to search the Smithsonian's 19 museums and galleries, nine research centers, and the National Zoo.

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