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System Protection in Windows 7

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System Protection is a feature available in all Windows 7 editions that helps protect your system and personal files. Eric Geier walks you through the two functions of System Protection and shows you how to use them.
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System Protection is a feature available in all Windows 7 editions that helps protect your system and personal files. It takes snapshots, called Restore Points, of your files. You can then later restore these files if a virus, person, or anything else deletes or damages them.

It’s like going back in time—priceless if your system crashes or if you lost an important document!

Now let’s learn more about the two functions of System Protection and see how to use them.

System Restore

The system files portion of System Protection is referred to as System Restore and has been around since Windows ME and XP. It backs up the system and Windows files, such as programs, settings, drivers, and the registry. Microsoft lists the exact file types that are monitored and backed up. If Windows becomes corrupt or unstable, you can easily restore the system files from an earlier point in time by rolling back to a previous Restore Point.

For example, say you install the software and driver for your mobile phone so you can transfer files between your computers. But after the installation you get the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) every time Windows starts due to an incompatibility with the driver. Because you can’t get into Windows, you can’t do a simple uninstall of the software and driver. However, you can roll back to the Restore Point created before the installation via the Advanced Boot Options menu before Windows starts. Once you’ve rolled back, Windows starts normally and you can contact the vendor about the driver issue.

Previous Versions

The personal files portion of System Protection is referred to as Previous Versions or Shadow Copy. This feature debuted in Windows Vista, but wasn’t fully supported in the Home editions until Windows 7. It backs up your personal files, such as documents, photos, music, videos, and most other files that aren’t included in the System Restore backups. Windows saves previous versions of files that have been modified since the last Restore Point was created.

For example, say you started working on a document Monday night and saved it when you were done. Then a Restore Point was automatically created Tuesday morning. Then you open the document Tuesday night, accidentally delete a portion of the document, and then save it. Without the Previous Versions feature, the portion you deleted would be gone forever. But you can simply right-click the document, click Restore Previous Versions, and open the version of the document saved during the Restore Point created earlier that morning. You could then restore that copy to replace the current one, save it as a new document, or simply copy the portion you deleted and paste it into the current copy.

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