Automated System Recovery and System Restore in Windows XP

Windows XP has more efficient tools for backup and recovery.

In addition to the recovery tools available in Win2K, Windows XP includes yet another feature known as Automated System Recovery (ASR). If Safe Mode Option and Last Known Good aren’t sufficient to do the job, Windows XP offers a two-part ASR recovery option that replaces ERD in Win2K. This tool is available from the Backup Program. The way the Backup program starts in Windows XP is slightly different than with Win2K. You’re forced to start with a wizard but then are given the option to either use the simplified version of this utility or select the Advanced Mode. Click the Advanced Mode when the wizard starts and you’ll see the screen in Figure 1.

Backup Utility Advanced Mode
Figure 1. Backup Utility Advanced Mode is new to Windows XP.

Clicking on Automated System Recovery prompts yet another wizard, the Automated System Recovery Preparation Wizard. It will back up your system state, system services and configuration information about hard disks, such as disk signatures and partitions. The wizard will prompt you for a floppy disk that contains system settings and will be used to restore your computer to a previous state. With the aid of this floppy disk and the backup you create (typically on a hard disk), you can recover from a system crash. See Figure 2 for the option of restoring an ASR backup.

ASR Backup
Figure 2. Restoring via an ASR Backup.

System Restore is another cool recovery feature available in Windows XP. The operating system automatically creates restore points, which allow you to restore your computer’s configuration to a previous state. The automatic restore points created by the system are known as system checkpoints. Data and other important information, such as Internet Explorer favorites, aren’t affected by these checkpoints.

You can also create manual restore points and give them user-friendly names. For example, if you’re about to make some major changes to your computer such as installing a service pack, you should create a system restore point first. If something goes wrong, you can always revert back to this previous restore point. Figure 3 shows a manual restore point.

Manual Restore Point
Figure 3. Some applications create their own installation restore points in Windows XP. In this example, the application was TechNet.

But wait, there’s more! There are additional types of automatic restore points created by applications. These are known as installation restore points. For example, each time you update to the latest version of Microsoft TechNet, Windows XP automatically creates an installation restore point. As Figure 4 shows, there was an installation restore point created automatically when the January edition of TechNet was removed from my computer and another one when the February edition was installed.

Manual Restore Point
Figure 4. Decreasing the amount of disk space reserved for System Restore under XP will limit the number of restore points you can create.

As you can imagine, creating too many restore points will require a lot of disk space. Fortunately, there are a couple of options that allow you to control disk space usage. You can either turn off System Restore completely or use the slider shown in Figure D to increase or decrease the amount of disk space reserved for System Restore. To access System Restore, go to Start | Help and Support Center | Undo changes to your computer with System Restore, located under the section heading “Pick a task.”

About the Author

Zubair Alexander, MCSE, MCT, MCSA and Microsoft MVP is the founder of SeattlePro Enterprises, an IT training and consulting business. His experience covers a wide range of spectrum: trainer, consultant, systems administrator, security architect, network engineer, author, technical editor, college instructor and public speaker. Zubair holds more than 25 technical certifications and Bachelor of Science degrees in Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Information Systems. His Web site,, is dedicated to technical resources for IT professionals. Zubair may be reached at [email protected].


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