Windows Vista was rightfully blamed for many missteps Microsoft made after the ultra-successful Windows XP. System Restore wasn’t one of them.
Since Windows Vista, System Restore has been protecting Windows installations all over the world, providing the equivalent of an undo for digital catastrophes. Many, though, find it’s not working on their computers.
Strangely, this issue may appear on the latest and greatest version of Microsoft’s OS: Windows 10. There’s lots of speculation about the origin of the problem. It seems to be a glitch that may show up after upgrading from an older version of Windows. Even if Windows Restore is enabled and working correctly in a previous version of Windows, it can get disabled after an upgrade. It’s even more unfortunate that sometimes it insists on staying that way.
However, no problem’s insurmountable. As we’ll see, it’s even possible to re-enable System Protection from a humble Command Prompt! So, let’s deal with this pesky annoyance, one method at a time.
You Can Still Take a Backup
It’s a catch-22 situation. On the one hand, the in-built Windows 10 solution for system backups isn’t working, so we can’t take a backup. On the other, a misstep can also cause problems, rendering the existence of at least a full-OS backup essential.
Even if System Restore isn’t currently working, you can always turn to something like Clonezilla as a temporary solution. Use it to take a backup of at least your OS partition before trying the solutions we’ll see next.
Note: A backup isn’t really necessary since the methods we’ll see aren’t inherently dangerous. However, you can never be too safe. An OS backup will offer peace of mind and won’t take more than half an hour of your time.
Before We Begin
We’ll see multiple methods you can use to turn on System Protection on Windows 10. Some offer different paths to the same result, but others diverge more.
We suggest you don’t pick a course of action randomly. Instead, start from the first method we’ll see to enable System Protection on your Windows 10 installation. Then, if that doesn’t work, move to the next potential solution.
Method 1: Start At System Settings
Let’s begin with one of the most straightforward ways to enable System Protection on Windows 10. Press Windows Key + X on your keyboard to access Windows 10’s administrative tools quick menu. From there, select System.
The System Settings window will appear on your screen. Turn your attention to the Related settings that appear on the right. If you can’t see them, resize the window horizontally. Click on the fourth entry you’ll see there, System protection.
The System Properties window will show up, with the System Protection tab active. Check the list of Available Drives under Protection Settings. You’ll probably see that their Protection status is Off.
System Restore works individually for every drive. To enable it, select one drive from the list and click on Configure…. We suggest you start with the storage device that hosts your OS.
Under Restore Settings choose Turn on system protection. Also, note the Max Usage bar under Disk Space Usage. Set this to the largest setting you believe you can spare for backups. The higher this setting, the more Restore Points System Protection will be able to create and, thus, the more options you’ll have when you need to revert to one of them in the future.
Click on OK to accept the settings and return to the previous window, where you’ll find Protection enabled for the drive you selected.
Method 2: Search for Restore Points
Why search for the appropriate options to turn on System Protection in Windows 10 when the OS itself can do that for you? Take advantage of the OS’s search function to locate precisely the option required for the task at hand.
Press Windows Key + S to have Windows 10’s search window pop up. There, type “Create a restore point” (without the quotation marks), or even a shorter “restore point”. Windows 10 will find and present the appropriate option.
Repeat the steps we saw in Method 1 to choose a drive and enable System Protection on it.
Method 3: The System Properties Protection Magic Word
Here’s a nifty trick you can use to jump directly to the settings page from where you can enable System Protection on Windows 10: search for precisely that tab!
Start by calling the Search window by pressing Windows Key + S. Then, type “systemproperties” and pause for a second. You’ll see Windows 10 “understood” you want to visit the System Properties window. However, don’t do that yet. Instead, type “protection” right after “systemproperties”. Don’t use any spaces.
When you start typing again, you’ll see that Windows 10 will “lose” the previous System Properties result until you type the whole “protection” after it. And yet, when you complete typing it, Windows will show almost the same entry again. What gives?
You’ve just asked Windows not only to show you the System Properties window but also directly jump to its Protection tab. There you can find the options needed for re-enabling System Protection on Windows 10.
The rest of the process is identical to what we saw in the previous methods.
Method 4: Look in Control Panel
Up to Windows XP, everything you needed to configure every aspect of your computer was neatly categorized in the OS’s Control Panel. Those were simpler times. Windows 10 comes with a theoretically more straightforward but, in practice, more chaotic Settings hub. However, the classic Control Panel is still accessible, although hidden.
To find it, use the OS’s search function as we saw before: press Windows Key + S on your keyboard and type “control panel”. Choose the relevant entry.
Read More: How to Open Control Panel in Windows 10
Change Control Panel’s view mode, from the drop-down menu on the top right (under the search field), from its default “Category” to one of the two “icons” modes (either Large or Small). Locate System among the entries (you can click on any icon and start typing “system” to find it instantly). Double-click on it to select it.
The main area of the window will show you helpful information about your computer and OS. However, what you need is actually on the menu on the left: notice the entry System protection? That’s what you need (to click on).
You’ll see the same window we’ve eventually reached with the previous methods.
Follow the same steps as before to turn on system protection on the drives where you want it active.
Method 5: The Policy Editor
Does System Restore remain disabled no matter what you’ve tried, the option greyed out? It’s time for more drastic measures, diving into Windows 10’s deeper settings. For that, you can use the Policy Editor.
The Policy Editor is an advanced tool that offers access to the rules that define how the OS, all services, and any installed software should work. And this includes System Protection’s parameters.
To re-enable System Protection on Windows 10 through the Policy Editor, you’ll first have to run it. Press Windows Key + S and use the OS’s search function to locate and run “gpedit.msc” (without the quotation marks). Alternatively, you can seek it with its name by searching for “group policy” (which you might find easier to remember).
Use the tree navigation menu on the left to open the following path:
Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > System Restore
You’ll see two entries on the right of the window:
- Turn off Configuration
- Turn off System Restore
Double-click on the first of them and, from the options on the top left of the new window that appeared, set Turn off Configuration to Disabled.
Also, do the same for the second entry, Turn off System Restore. Strangely, it’s a double-negative: by disabling those two options that disable System Restore, you’re enabling it. Apparently, Microsoft doesn’t like straightforward On/Off switches.
Method 6: Edit the Registry
We’ve used the Policy Editor in the previous method to tweak two pesky variables that can keep System Protection turned off on Windows 10. However, there’s an even more advanced method for doing precisely the same: flicking the switches for those options directly through the Registry.
For that, you’ll have to run the Registry Editor with elevated rights. So, press Windows Key + S to use the Windows 10 search function once more, but this time seek either “regedit.msc” or “Registry Editor” (both without quotation marks).
Use the tree folder menu on the left to navigate to:
You’ll see the same entries we’ve tweaked through the Policy Editor before: DisableSR (short for “Disable System Restore”) and DisableConfig.
You can safely right-click on each of those two entries and Delete it. It’s the simplest way to disable them, and if they’re ever needed, Windows 10 will create them again.
After a restart and a visit to System Protection, you should be able to enable System Restore again.
Method 7: Command PowerShell
Despite the potential to offer the quickest and most straightforward solutions, many people have an aversion to the terminal and typing commands. That’s why we’ve left this method for last. Still, we believe it’s quicker than the rest since it skips the need to search for particular options, menu entries, or semi-hidden parameters.
Press Windows Key + X to access Windows 10’s administrative tools quick menu, and choose the PowerShell entry with elevated rights (the one with “Admin”).
Read More: How to Open PowerShell in Windows 10
Then, to enable System Restore with it, type the following:
Enable-ComputerRestore -Drive "DRIVE_LETTER_ON_WHICH_YOU_WANT_SYSTEM_RESTORE_ENABLED"
For example, if you want System Restore enabled on the default C: drive, the command would look like:
Enable-ComputerRestore -Drive "C:\"
If you decide to disable System Restore in the future, you can replace “Enable” for “Disable” in the above command:
Disable-ComputerRestore -Drive "C:\"
FAQ About System Protection in Windows 10
Question: Do I have to re-enable System Protection on Windows 10 if it’s disabled?
Answer: No, Windows 10 will work perfectly fine with System Protection disabled. However, this feature’s like an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS): it seems useless until you need it. It’s not rare for a Windows Update to come with problems and incompatibilities. Having a System Restore Checkpoint available to revert to can be a lifesaver in such scenarios.
Question: I tried re-enabling System Protection, but it remains greyed-out / turns off again. Is there any solution?
Answer: In some rare scenarios, System Protection seems to turn off on its own each time you try enabling it or insist on staying off. The problem’s cause could be two hard-coded rules that keep System Restore off. Check the 5th and 6th methods above on how to tweak them.
Question: What’s the quickest and easiest way to turn on System Protection on Windows 10?
Answer: Although most people avoid the command prompt, we believe it’s the quickest and easiest way to re-enable System Protection on Windows 10. You only have to fire up a PowerShell with elevated rights and type a single command, “Enable-ComputerRestore -Drive “C:”. That should do it!
Question: Won’t all the backups from System Protection eat up my precious storage space? Why enable it when I could use the same storage space to, say, download torrents?
Answer: As mentioned above, features like System Protection or even plain old backups look useless, but that’s until you need them. They’re like a fire extinguisher, a way to prepare for a disaster that, hopefully, will never come. However, it’s worth noting that you can configure how much space you’ll dedicate to System Protection’s “checkpoint” backups. So, you don’t have to worry about how much space they’ll eat up.
You can always skip it and plug your PC directly into the wall socket if your UPS fails. If your external HDD goes to storage device heaven, you can disconnect it and keep using your PC as if nothing happened. And if System Protection is, for whatever reason, turned off, that also won’t affect the use of your PC.
That is until you need them.
For if you do (need them), and you still haven’t replaced your UPS’s batteries, upgraded your external HDD and taken a new backup, or re-enabled System Restore, you might find yourself locked outside your own PC. Or even worse, seeking the most affordable data recovery services in a last attempt to get your precious data back.
Upgrading your HDD or changing your UPS’s batteries come with a cost. Re-enabling System Protection on Windows 10 doesn’t. It will take mere minutes of your time and takes only a fraction of your storage. You’ll thank yourself for “fixing it” when you, eventually, need to revert to a previous Checkpoint.