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System Restore is allocated a certain amount of space on your hard disk. If that's excessive, you can use less, at the cost of fewer restore points.

Is there anyway to make System Restore use less space if we would like to have the benefit of a restore, but not use up all our space? I just saved half my hard drive by taking System Restore off.

Yes, we can adjust the amount of disk space that System Restore will use.

But that adjustment comes at a price.

First, I need to be very clear about something: System Restore is not a substitute for backing up. System Restore will not restore everything, and in particular, if you lose data files and expect System Restore to recover them, you're likely in for a rude surprise.

System Restore is best thought of as a backup of your System Registry, and maybe a little bit more. While it might save a few more things than just that, that's the safest way to think of it.

"System Restore is best thought of as a backup of your System Registry, and maybe a little bit more."

System Restore works by saving a copy of whatever it is that it saves to some pre-allocated space on disk. Each time a new restore point is created it's placed in this space, and when that space fills up the oldest restore points are removed to create room.

You can adjust that pre-allocated space and make it small, but the price is that your system will then save fewer restore points - you won't be able to restore as far back as you had before the change.

Right click on My Computer, click on Properties, and then click on the System Restore tab. Make sure the Turn off System Restore checkbox is not checked. (Uncheck it if it is, and click on Apply.)

System Restore Settings

Click on your C: drive in the available drives list, and click on Settings...

System Restore Drive Settings

Here you can see, and control, the amount of disk space allocated to System Restore. In my case, a maximum of 12% of my disk space is made available.

If you want System Restore to use less space, then simply drag the Disk space to use slider to the left to whatever amount of space you'd like to allocate.

If you turn System Restore off, then no disk space will be used.

Personally, I run with System Restore off, and rely on my nightly system backups as my safety net.

Article C3633 - January 23, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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12 Comments
Karl Zaremba
January 27, 2009 8:20 AM

It seems that all my System Restore settings are correct but twice I have wanted to use it and no matter what date I choose it coes through the process and tells me that I cannot restore my computer back to that date, No Changes Have Been Made to your computer. I have followed all your instructions and even increased the amount of space for System Restore. What else can I check ?

D.BLake-Knox
January 27, 2009 8:48 AM

This works for XP but not for Vista in vista os system restore size has to be changed using "shadowstorage" and is quite complex. With the size of Hard drives today and the fact that system restore is set for 15% of the size of the hard drive this can become very large.
As you say above, you can zero system restore by turning it off and then on again. Remember to create a new restore point afterward.

Pollyanna
January 27, 2009 10:46 AM

I've had the same issue as Karl.

Dawn Young
January 27, 2009 11:22 AM

I, too, have totally lost all ability to use System Restore. I think I need to re-install XP, but don't have a disk to do it. Any ideas?

Bruce Mandate
January 27, 2009 11:39 AM

I tweaked some registry settings to actually allow more restore points in XP. Recently, I had many restore points created by just one install and I checked dates on the RP'integer' files in System Volume Restore\_restore{*} directory and deleted redundant files. Similarly, I use this measure to save space for earlier restore points not being 'queued out' as available space diminishes. Also it may be that saving one of these RP files on flash or encypting/password protecting it may save someone's bacon, if their system was hacked.

simon pender
January 27, 2009 6:00 PM

I have also just been through the above processes trying to do a System Restore to get a vital program running.
I also had the same message "Your computer cannot be restored to ..".
The answer is to boot in SAFE MODE, just keep tapping F8 when it starts rebooting. Then do your System Restore. Then it will work. Phew.
Incidentally, the program was TNT Express Shipper V5.02 used to create consignment notes to ship goods around.
One day I came in and cranked it up and had the message "ActiveX can't create the object (429)". I spent 6 days looking through forums and asking my IT team.
No luck, and I am no dummy at fixing pooters.
Finally I had to resort to System Restore.
I almost went nuts when I couldn't even do that.
A Google search found one forum that advised to boot in Safe Mode, and then Restore and it WORKED.
Cheers. Si

Carl R. Goodwin
January 27, 2009 7:29 PM

By using "Disc Clean-up", and selecting "More Options", and then deleting the shadow copies, it cleans up a TON of disc space (in Vista).

Mark
January 28, 2009 2:42 AM

I've been using XP for eight years and never once had System Restore running or ever used it.

Adam Dunlop
January 28, 2009 11:59 AM

With regard to Karl's and Polyanna's problem, Sytem Restore will often fail due top Anti Virus programs. Security programs such as Norton and Kaspersky Internet Security, protect their own program files to prevent viruses from attacking them. e.g in Kaspersky, this is known as "self defence". If you turn off this protection in the settings of the secuity program, you will normally find that restore will then work. Don't forget to turn it back on! I have tried using the safe mode method that Simon mentions, but it is not always reliable

kant
January 30, 2009 7:50 PM

check this post to alter the size for system restore in vista
http://tandt-u.blogspot.com/2009/01/change-amount-of-space-used-for-system.html

Steve
August 30, 2009 11:34 AM

I want to reduce the amount of storage space allocated but everything is greyed out any thoughts?

brian grocock
September 27, 2011 2:40 PM

i have 40 gb of c: drive only so it is imperative i use system restore to the best way i can,by deleting some which do not work anyway.
Could you tell me how?
Brian..

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