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Windows 7 restore points disappear automatically as newer restore points are created. You can't directly control the number of restore points kept.

I am having problems with my system restore points. No matter how many I make or what I do they will disappear after a while. There is no consistency as to when they go, they just go. I have been reading on internet and did a bit of checking and found error 'event 8224, VSS' which I think is associated with this problem, some kind of timeout. I am using Windows 7 Pro with lots of hard disk space. Any ideas or pointers ?.

Event 8224, VSS is a red herring; it's a normal event that indicates that the Volume Shadow Service, a service that System Restore uses, simply has nothing to do right now, and is shutting down until needed.

I can't say what may or may not be going wrong. However, it's also very possible that nothing's going wrong at all, and that System Restore is working completely as expected.

And that, my friend, is one of the single largest reasons that my advice in general is not to rely on System Restore.

Windows 7 Restore Points: Annoying The User Since Windows XP

With something like System Restore, you're immediately faced with a difficult dilemma: how many restore points do you keep?

Keep too many and the hard disk that contains them will fill up, and the user will be annoyed.

"System Restore will not restore your system, but a full backup will."

Keep too few and restore points won't be available when needed, and the user will be annoyed.

In a classic "pass of the buck", the design decision was to allow the user - who'll be annoyed either way - to make the decision of how much to keep.

Assuming of course that the user even realizes that they have this control. Not knowing and finding out later can be ... annoying.

It's The Size, Not The Number, That Matters

Right click on My Computer, click on Properties, click on the Advanced system settings link, click on the System Protection tab, and then click on the Configure button.

That lengthy path of actions should land you at System Protection dialog, similar to the one below:

Windows 7 System Protection configuration

I have mine turned off, as you can see. More on that in a moment.

Note the phrase "You can adjust the maximum disk space used for system protection."

You get to control how many restore points will be kept.

Sort of.

The problem gets even more complicated because you specify how much disk space to use, not how many restore points to keep. And since restore points vary in size depending on many factors, there's no way to really know how many will fit. In fact, since they vary in size over time, what fit in the given space one day might not fit the next.

Frustrating?

What we do know is that when Windows creates a restore point, which it does periodically on its own and in response to user and application requests, will just delete the oldest if there's not enough room. In fact it'll delete as many of the oldest restore points that it needs to to make room.

Option 1: Set Aside More Room

If you're losing restore points too quickly the obvious solution is to give System Restore more disk space. You can adjust the slider on the configuration screen shown above.

Give System Restore a lot of space if you like. That way it'll keep restore points as long as it possibly can.

That can be useful in some cases, I'm sure.

As you can tell, I'm personally not convinced. Hence my alternative approach:

Option 2: Quit Relying on System Restore

As you saw above, I turn it off.

My position is that in most situations System Restore can be completely replaced by a daily backup of your computer.

In fact, it can be more than completely replaced, since a daily backup properly configured backs up everything, which System Restore does not.

Put more bluntly: System Restore will not restore your system, but a full backup will. System Restore only restores select portions of the system, such as the registry, for example.

So ultimately, that's my recommendation: move away from the unpredictable System Restore functionality in Windows, and use instead a backup that includes periodic full and incremental backups to truly backup everything on your machine. However you configure it, you'll know what you have, and can choose how long to keep it.

Article C4600 - November 18, 2010 « »

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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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11 Comments
Simon Brew
November 23, 2010 10:42 AM

Quite apart from Leo's wise comments (as usual!) above, there may be another explanation:

If you have a dual boot XP & Windows 7 setup, then XP may be responsible for loss of your W7 restore points. See this article:
http://social.answers.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7performance/thread/e4dac242-73e1-49fb-8ac9-6f8d14789c76
The easy solution is to use the diskpart command in XP to prevent XP from "seeing" your W7 system drive. The command sequence is roughly:
start/run/cmd
diskpart
list volume
select volume=n (the W7 system volume)
remove letter=x (the letter used by XP for the W7 drive)
exit

You'll then find that XP can't see the drive any more, and your problem will be solved.

Don't panic - there is also an unremove command: assign !

Tom R.
November 23, 2010 11:13 AM

I recently used system restore to go back to a previous restore point. Upon rebooting...nothing happened. Black screen and immobile HD. Oh noes! System restore bricked my system. I steeled myself for reinstalling W7 from the install disk and found an option in repair to undo the system restore. After running the undo operation my system came back online. Whew! Bullet dodged.

I never had a problem with system restore in XP. W7 appears to be different. Lesson learned.

Odelia
November 24, 2010 2:36 AM

Hello,
You recommend Backup.
How is full harddisk backup done in Windows 7?
How to create a bootable cd to operate a backup software program like dixml or todobackup, that need a PE (pre environment) cd?
For XP there is BartPE cd creation. What about Windows 7?
Thank you.

Lynnette
November 24, 2010 4:06 AM

Leo, you recommended: "use instead a backup that includes periodic full and incremental backups
to truly backup everything on your machine." Can you be more specific and tell us some programs that do this and where to get them? I would love to find something that would do this simply and automatically. Thanks!

Actually if you search this site for "backup" you'll find a number of articles on the topic. One program I use is Acronis (which you can also search for here for my recommendation).
Leo
24-Nov-2010

Lester
November 24, 2010 8:54 AM

Yes and no. I do automatic full system backups. But when I'm trying out something new or doing registry hacking, it seems overkill to do a full backup. Really what you want then is a settings and registry backup, which System Restore is great for. The problem is that people use SR for jobs it isn't intended for. I did have a problem with Win 7 deleting all restore points older than today's. Juggling with the settings, like you show above fixed that.

Rene LeBlanc
November 24, 2010 4:13 PM

I learned today (from "The Missing Manual" on Windows 7 by David Pogue Page 701) "Note: Here's a warning to anyone who dual-boots between Windows 7 and Windows XP: For some extremely technical and extremely unfortunate reasons, starting up in Windows XP deletes all yur shadow copies and restore points.

mur_phy
November 24, 2010 6:30 PM

while what you say Leo may be useful for many astute computer users, the usual suspects simply don't have the info for doing images of their systems. Heck, unfortunately, most users don't do any BU of their data and I always recommend BU BU BU. One BU should also be kept off premises.

Thus, system restore is very important for the regular user to have and as you said, more space can be allocated to system restore. I believe Windows allocates 15% by default and this is generally way too much unless the HDD has been partitioned or just a small HDD. By default, system restore drops old restore points and if the user is losing all restore points randomly, it is likely there are other issues with the system and some scans are required.

Bryan
November 29, 2010 1:57 PM

An unhealthy System Restore may indicate a bigger issue. On healthy systems we have found the default Windows 7 RegistrySizeLimit to be a cause of unexpected System Restore functionality,among other things. We use a GIS database product, which makes heavy use of the registry and have had to raise the RegistrySizeLimit on all our Windows 7 machines.

J.D.
August 10, 2011 5:55 PM

Very interesting but it doesn't tell us how to get back at least one or two older than 10 minutes ago dated restore points????

Doug
March 24, 2012 2:48 PM

I tried to use the steps you outlined and there is no MYCOMPUTER on my version of windows 7. Where is it?

connie
March 24, 2012 5:23 PM

@Doug,
Seems like Microsoft is always renaming and moving things!

Click on > Start button, and in the right column you will (hopefully) find > "Computer." That's it.

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